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The word “Kaizen” originated in Japan and has a history in lean management circles as a process for improvement within a company or organization but it can also be used as a model for individuals to make positive improvements in daily life.
The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, simply translated as “change for the better,” is a method for taking small, meaningful and rewarding steps toward progress.
Kai = Change
Zen = Good
Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of human nature is the lack of patience everyone experiences at one time or another. Whether it’s learning to play the piano, graduating from college or learning to stay sober after treatment, success is not automatic.
It’s the small choices made along the way, taking another lesson, studying for the next exam or avoiding troublesome people in our lives that lead to overall peace and success.
Continuous improvement is a key aspect of Kaizen. For instance, daily meditation comes with an array of physical and mental benefits. Perhaps the most important of these is relief from anxiety and stress. Incorporating kaizen into the process might mean learning to meditate for one minute a day.
The likelihood of success is much higher than starting out with half hour sessions of meditation. With continued practice, one minute leads to five and five to ten. Kaizen removes the pressure of immediate proficiency.
Important Elements for Practicing Kaizen
- Set laughably simple goals and don’t judge them. Over time, small accomplishments grow more complex. Start simple
- Accept failure as a teachable moment and resolve to not to be disappointed about it
- Remember that Kaizen is the practice of getting better at getting better
Often employed in a business and management setting, Kaizen is a poignant philosophy for those in recovery. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that, in many cases, is incredibly difficult to overcome.
Individuals who aren’t afflicted with the disease often don’t understand why someone struggling with substance abuse and dependence can’t just stop and “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”
Anyone who’s received treatment for addiction and has a fair amount of sobriety under their belt can attest to the fact that it’s just not that simple. Mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, often have a huge role in a person’s ability to stay clean. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a third of all people diagnosed with mental health disorders also suffer from substance abuse.
Left untreated, the painful symptoms of these issues drive people to medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol. On the other side, untreated addiction potentially leads to mental health disorder. Treatment for both diagnoses is necessary.
No matter where a person is in the process of addiction recovery, adopting the principles of Kaizen will lighten the burden of immediate success. Healing comes one tiny victory at a time.