If you have failed in the past at trying to make big changes in your life, try again now, one tiny step at a time
Every year it's the same. As December comes to an end, you think about the new year and all the ways you want to improve your life. But as you start to write down your hopes for the new year, your think about last year. You excitedly wrote down all the changes you were going to make, but by the end of January those idea got lost in your crowded, hectic life.
Here's suggestion: Forget the overreaching, hard-to-achieve goals. Just think small. "We have this extreme-makeover culture that thinks you've got to do everything in big steps, even though the evidence is overwhelming [that] it doesn't work," says psychologist Robert Maurer, who recently published One Small Step Can Change Your Life. "What we try to do is break down to a step so small that people couldn't possibly resist or have and excuse not to do it."
The technique is called kaizen, a Japanese word for an American business philosophy adapted to change behavior and attitudes. During World War II, American factory managers increased productivity by trying small, continuous improvements rather than sudden radical change. After the war, U.S. occupation forces brought that philosophy to a rebuilding Japan, which made it a cornerstone of the country's amazing economic rebound. The Japanese called it kaizen, which means "improvement."
Maurer, who teaches at the UCLA and University of Washington medical schools, say he began studying whether the idea could help people who couldn't tackle big challengers. "Some of it is psychological, and some of it is just their overwhelmed lifestyles," he says. "They don't have the time to go to the gym and do all those other things we know are good for us. So kaizen seemed a logical thing to experiment with."