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Our Favorite Book of the Month: KAIZEN

The author of this book, Sarah Harvey, decided to quit her job with a London publisher as she was feeling out of control, burnt out and anxious and and relocated to Japan. After living in Japan for six months she noticed how her habits had changed and became fascinated by how small and incremental changes were given so much importance in Japanese daily life. Since small details matter in Japanese culture, she researched this aspect of Japanese life and discovered the philosophy and practice of Kaizen. Meaning 'great change' or 'improvement', Kaizen is not about change for change's sake but about identifying particular goals and taking small manageable steps to achieve those goals. Rather than forcing one to make big dramatic changes, Kaizen lays emphasis on doing things incrementally. Kaizen gives us insight as to why we find it hard to give up bad habits and offers a clear structural framework for going about change. Better known as a business methodology, it has benefits for your personal development also. Back in London, Harvey felt transformed into a more creative, relaxed and focused human being.   However, this book won't transform you although it has that potential, but it will help you understand why you abandon certain new habits and lose motivation halfway through in picking up new habits. It will help you keep track of your progress and make you practice self-compassion along the way.

The idea of Kaizen as continuous improvement was first tried in the United States during WWII when businesses were struggling to innovate to keep up with supplies for the war effort. The US government initiated a series of programs called Training Within Industries which aimed at stimulating business  by making the existing work force come up with improvements instead of waiting for orders from above.

The program was a huge success and it was copied by the Japanese who were decimated by the war. Kaizen was a singular success with Japanese companies so much so that there was a huge growth in the economy. The stress was on lean processes, reduction in work, improvement in quality and encouraging workers to come up with suggestions,

In Kaizen the emphasis is on making small incremental changes to your routine that can cover work, children or social commitments. You should be looking at changes that are so small as to seem insignificant. It is to add one fruit or vegetable to your shopping cart or take off and meditate for five minutes every Saturday morning. Once you have made one small change to your habits you can step up with and incorporate more changes in your routine.

The remainder of this book includes chapters  on the most important areas of life and the habits people want to change. The author explores other Japanese concepts that can transform your habits or the way you think about life. The idea behind Kaizen is to make changes so incrementally that it is difficult to give them up entirely.   

This book is a useful guide to popular Japanese culture and practice. It will appeal especially to the Westerner bombarded as he is by air and and noise pollution, the media and other modern evils. The tips on good habits are useful and handy. Literally, there is some Eastern knowledge for everybody. It is worthwhile to consult this book when you feel your life is out of control. It will give you a new perspective on how to lead the good life.

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