Kaizen means to continuously improve for the better.
Although it technically represents any improvement, large or small, it strives for improvement that is continuous and sustained … which means small and incremental. As a result, over the long haul you are making drastic changes for the better but not at the expense of unreasonably or unfairly overwhelming yourself in the process.
Milo the Wrestler
To understand Kaizen I want to tell you the story of Milo. Nearly 2,500 years ago the most accomplished wrestler of that time was an Italian man named Milo. He was incredibly strong and athletic. So much so that he won the title of Periodonikes, which was the rare title given to those who won the Olympics, the Pythians, the Isthmian, and the Nemean games in the same year. He won it 5 times.
So how did Milo get so dang strong?
When he was younger, a newborn calf was born near his home. One day, he decided to lift the small calf up, carry it on his shoulders, and walk it up a hill to good grazing ground. The next day, he returned and did the same. Milo continued this habit everyday for the next four years; hoisting the calf onto his shoulders each day as it grew. Before long he was no longer lifting a calf, but a four-year-old bull.
Kaizen & Physical Wellness
Kaizen applies perfectly to the pursuit of physical wellness. You need to consistently look for ways to improve you physical make-up to get to a point of physical wellness and then experiment, adjust, and adapt as time takes its toll on your body.
Kaizen applies whether you are already fit and healthy or not. If you are already fit and healthy, you can use the idea of Kaizen to always find ways to improve or learn to adapt as you get older and your body is not what it used to be.
If you are not already fit and healthy, you need to start small and build up, consistently over time. Sounds pretty straight forward…
…but people are often unfair to themselves. They think they can and should be able to change their behaviors, lose a ton of weight, and go from couch potato to fit in a few weeks or months.
If I asked you to squat 600-lbs today you would look at me like I’m crazy. There is no way. You would correctly assume that, just like Milo and the bull, it would take years of strength exercise to squat 600-lbs. He didn’t start by lifting a 4-year old bull up a hill. He started with a tiny, light calf. And everyday that calf was just a little bit heavier than the day before, so Milo got just a little stronger in response.
Just like your muscles, your healthy habits and behaviors need to be grown and developed over time. You can’t just change ingrained behaviors that have been there for years with a 30 day nutrition challenge or a juice cleanse … and it is unfair to ask yourself to. Sure you can lose some weight doing the most current fad diet but after 2 weeks or 30 days, your old eating habits will be right there waiting for you to hop off the bandwagon.
The point is, it takes a while to get to a point of physical wellness, especially if you have not done much over the past few (or many) years to obtain it. But patiently applying Kaizen will get you there.
Obtaining Physical Wellness is not Always Physical
Kaizen, as applied to physical wellness, is not just about gaining the physical abilities necessary to improve but also the knowledge. When you got your high school, college or masters degree you didn’t show up day one and ask to take the test. No! You had a teacher, you studied the material, you learned from practice and failure. Ultimately, when you did need to apply the material to the test questions, you knew how.
Physical wellness is no different. If you do not know what healthy nutrition is, what a proper serving size is, what the healthy fat options are, or have a good teacher to guide you, then you will not be capable of succeeding.
Therefore Kaizen, as applied to physical wellness, is educating yourself on all the things you need to know to be physically well, then applying it, incrementally over time…consistently.
It won’t take you a lifetime to achieve physical wellness but it will take a bit of time. The key is to consistently pursue improvement every day, even in the smallest form. Before you know it, you will have achieved all the goals you ever wanted and have a foundational habit of improvement (aka Kaizen) to achieve the goals you never dreamed of.
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