BALANCE_DECEMBER_2019 - 26

STEP
BY STEP
Changing your life needn't be diffcult. That's where the Kaizen theory comes in,
making the smallest changes can lead to the biggest difference
WO R D S

S

S A R A H

eptember 2017, dragging two cases of clothes and
toiletries (at least 50 per cent more than what
I needed) through Heathrow Airport. Feeling bogged
down by the endless political bad news and stuck in
London living, I quit my job, left my flat and booked a one-way
ticket to Tokyo. I needed to go somewhere completely
different. I wanted it to help me to gain perspective and to
change some of my bad habits. I had no sort of exercise routine
whatsoever, suffered from insomnia and I was incapable of
having money and not spending it. Dropping a life-bomb was
the right move.
Tokyo felt calm and ordered, despite the fact it had
an even larger population than London. As soon as
I arrived though, I immediately felt less anxious. There
I was, on the other side of the world, without my support
network of friends and family around me, and starting
a freelance career with a nine-hour time difference. I also had
to think carefully about how I would spend my time, energy
and money as, unbeknown to me, I'd chosen to move to one of
the most expensive cities in the world.
One day, while working on my computer in a Tokyo coffee
shop, I found an online article about Kaizen. Roughly
translating as "change for the better", Kaizen is a method for
incrementally improving your habits. Rather than making
drastic lifestyle alterations or following strict regimes, it's
about interrogating your existing behaviours, then making
very small steps towards changing them for the better.
As somebody who has always struggled to sustain new
habits, I loved the idea of taking small measures over dramatic
course corrections.

26

H A RV E Y

The philosophy of Kaizen came from a business theory
conceived by an American engineer, professor and
management consultant, William Edwards Deming, to
improve wartime production. After World War II, Deming
was sent to Japan to help with the country's reconstruction
efforts. Its implementation is credited with influencing the
success of Japanese companies in the late 20th century.
Rather than employees receiving instructions about how to do
their jobs, everybody in the company (from factory foreman
to canteen worker) was encouraged to suggest small changes
to improve business operations.
Kaizen is also good for helping you to adopt better habits in
everyday living. In the same way that each person on the
production line in a Japanese factory might think of
improvements to business efficiency, you are encouraged to
assess your own behaviours and think of small steps towards
achieving your goals. For example, if you frequently end the
day dehydrated, have a glass of water every time that you get
up to go to the toilet.
Kaizen focuses on such minor, additional changes that you
barely notice it. The process doesn't require a total overhaul or
a new routine, so you have much more chance of sustaining
positive behaviour in the long run. I have now returned from a
transformative time in Japan and managed to adopt some
amazing positive habits. I exercise regularly, save a portion of
my salary and sometimes I even make my food for work instead
of buying it. Kaizen starts with small steps - but the long-term
result can be life-changing.
Kaizen by Sarah Harvey is available to buy now
(Bluebird, £9.99)



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