Principles of Kaizen Life

Our principles are the springs of our actions; our actions, the springs of our happiness or misery. Too much care, therefore, cannot be taken in forming our principles.
-Philip Skelton 

It took me a few years and hundreds of books to break down my principles into seven easy to digest headings. Here is what I got so far. By following these principles, I have broken through plateaus and reached a place in my life when I can genuinely say I am the happiest I have ever been. I will be going into each of these principles in the upcoming months, providing stories, strategies, and exercises to kickstart your own journey (I hope).

1. Overcome Inertia

Some tasks are just unbearably difficult to start. The project with the looming deadline. The dishes piling in the sink. Hell, even getting up when the alarm goes off is a struggle at times. We are in a state of inertia, where a body at rest will remain at rest unless some external force is applied.

There are a few strategies that I have learned to deal with this activation energy, including ways to trick your brain into shifting gears. Inertia also has a second axiom: objects in motion tend to remain in motion. This is what I call flow. I will share my methods of achieving flow and staying in it for as long as possible.

2. Prioritize Habit Formation

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Will Durant (on Aristotle)

Learning to efficiently create good habits is one of the most important things that we must learn to do. Even small improvements, when applied consistently, can lead to unbelievable growth over time.

I have a lot to share about habits: how they are formed, how to analyze and organize them, the nature of keystone habits, and most importantly, how to create and improve our habits to lead to massive personal growth.

3. Understand the Mind-Body Connection

A lot of the information I will share for this principle stems from the lessons I’ve learned on my road to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. What if I told you there was a drug available to you that would solve almost all of your health problems? What if that drug made you feel younger, lose weight, improved your immune system, boosted your mood…how much would you pay for that?

Well, the drug is called exercise, and you can get it for the low,low  price of a few gallons of sweat and a whole lot of discipline.

Physical fitness is an immense boon to your personal growth, even if you have your mind set on less active endeavors. Exercise has been shown to improve energy levels during the day, as well as improve sleep quality and retention of learned tasks. My goal in this area of improvement is to provide you with easy to follow exercises and routines that will future proof your body and mind. I will also talk about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

4. Focus on High Yield Learning

I am a big believer in the Pareto Principle, which states that 80 percent of our outputs come from 20 percent of our inputs. My goal is to help you identify and focus on the fundamental 20%  of a skill that is responsible for 80% of performance. This can be achieved by seeking out high yield education through books, techniques, or mentors.

I will also touch on the importance of gaining good feedback by interviewing professionals on specific, focused practice methods that have been found to accelerate gains in a number of varied fields.

5. Consider Context

This principle states that “Why should I care?” is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. Actions are meaningless without context, wherein we can derive meaning and understanding in a more effective way. As a specific example, a focus on context is of utmost importance in the field of Physical Therapy, where the benefit of any exercise or technique is dependent on the unique presentation of a patient. Thankfully, learning to identify context is a continuum–you can utilize the strategies I have gathered from evaluating patients to other fields of endeavor.

Additionally, context can improve enjoyment, which can improve retention and build passion for a subject. Learning the context of a song demystifies its meaning, consequentially increasing your enjoyment of the song. I will talk a little bit about the context of things that I find enjoyable to demonstrate how understanding the “why” can lead to gains in your bottom line.

6. Control Your Narrative

I am obsessed with stories. I love to hear them, share them, and relive them in my mind. There is a power to stories that is deeply ingrained in the human experience–none more powerful than the narrative that we create for ourselves. Everyone is the hero of their own story, as the saying goes. I want to share the lessons I learned about crafting effective stories, and how we can use these stories to improve our perspective and attitude. 

Poor perspective and a lack of a locus of control (the idea that you have control over your own life) can lead to poor self esteem, depression, and feelings of hopelessness that hold us back from reaching our potential. I will share techniques that I have learned to improve your frame of mind and regain a locus of control. I want you to understand that you are the author of your own story. I want you to realize that many of the limits we face are artificial constructs created by our faulty perspectives.

7. Love the Journey

The last principle is perhaps the most important. When I first started this quest of self improvement, my goals consisted of specific dollar amounts I wanted to earn, specific places I wanted to go, and specific experiences I wanted to enjoy. But as I began to check those off, I noticed something that troubled me greatly. While there was a definite rush after achieving these goals, the elation I would feel after “succeeding” was short and evanescent. I also noticed that I was doing things that I loathed just so that I could reach these superficial goals–and that is when I flipped the script.

Rather than shoot for specific superficial goals, I made improvement the goal. I began to compete with myself, pushing myself past the artificial limits I had perceived previously. I began to love the grind. Work was no longer work–it was an opportunity to work towards personal growth, a chance to go to sleep knowing that I was a better person than when i woke up that morning. My goal became absurdly simple: To be better every day. It is unattainable because it is a moving goal post. And yet, I achieve it every day. It is a perpetual motion machine that keeps me moving forward, always looking to see what I can improve next.

I want to help you love your journey as well. I will share stories from colleagues and other professionals on how they found what they love to do.

At the end of all our paths, we all face the same thing–death. It may sound morbid, but honestly, remembering that you will one day die is the best motivator you have for not wasting any of your finite time on unimportant things. We cannot predict where this crazy world will take us; ultimately, we have little control on the pitfalls that cause us to stumble, the chance encounters that change our paths, or the successes and failures that we will one day realize. What we can control is our enjoyment of the journey, our love of the grind.

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