What is the smallest step you can take to improvement? This question is the essence of Kaizen, a Japanese word for a concept coined by Americans during WW2. It means "good change".
The idea is based on psychology; it is a way of conquering our fear of change and uncertainty in order to promote continuous, incremental improvement. Kaizen is a hack for tricking our psyche. It gives us techniques to creep past fear, doubt and procrastination as a cat might slink past a slumbering dog.
It is these fears that prevent us from starting things; prevent us from achieving those things we so dearly wish we could achieve. The point at which most of us start from is so far away from where we want to get to, our primal instincts kick in and we give up. The task is too big - too scary.
So we must break things down into the tiniest steps we can. This is how we improve. This is Kaizen.
In taking tiny steps, we become accustomed to the change. We get used to it little by little. As time goes on, we increase our exposure to the change. Habits form, routines solidify, and, as if by magic, we find we've grown. We've made progress. This is how we defeat the fear. We practice. We do something so easy it seems stupid. That's the trick.
This is how I am approaching the 30DWC. The challenge is to write every day. Not to write something good every day, but just to sit and write something. Now, if I were to try and force myself to write 500 words every day, I think I would fail. That feels like too much. Forcing myself to write doesn't sound like much fun. Five hundred words is not a lot by the measure of a seasoned writer, but for me - someone who struggles to write regularly even though I get a great deal of satisfaction out of doing it - it seems like a lot.
So what is the smallest thing I can do?
Five minutes of writing per day, perhaps? That sounds reasonable. How about one sentence? That's pretty Kaizen. Or a tweet's worth? Ideal. So I'll aim to write just a tweet's worth of something every day for 30 days. A paragraph, maybe. Or just a sentence or two. It'll take around five minutes at most. Each day I'll cross off a day on Marc's calendar and I won't break the chain.
If I feel like it, I can keep going, as I've done here. As I type this I'm already over 2500 characters; that's approaching 500 words. Not bad when you consider I only set out to write 140 characters!
It'll be interesting to see how I feel after 30 days; it'll be interesting to see what I've written, what has emerged from this process, and to see how my habits have changed. I don't hope to have produced a great canon of literary genius - I simply hope to have improved and conquered my fears, if only a little.
If you'd like to learn more about Kaizen, including how it can be applied to dealing with difficult people, health and wellbeing, company culture and more, I recommend the excellent The Spirit of Kaizen by Robert Maurer.