Want to reach your career goals more deliberately, with fewer roadblocks? Look to the principles of Kaizen: small steps toward continuous improvement. An excellent book on this topic is: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
The author, psychologist Dr. Robert Maurer, has proven that Kaizen can help people achieve career and life goals in a gentle, non-fearful way: “Rooted in the two thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching-’The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’- Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments.”
While working as a corporate consultant in the mid-1980s, Dr. Maurer became intrigued with Kaizen principles. When he saw how successfully Kaizen worked in business settings, he felt confident that he could adapt Kaizen principles to help his private clients who had trouble reaching their personal and professional goals.
Dr. Maurer saw Kaizen as a way for his clients to reach goals by getting past their natural fear of change, creativity and success. He concluded that his clients’ struggles were due to simple brain physiology, specifically the amygdala of the brain cortex, which controls the “fight or flight” instinct. Typically, when people begin a new goal or project, the amygdala automatically sets off an alarm which triggers fear, shuts down the “thinking part” of the brain cortex, and prevents forward progress.
According to Dr. Maurer, the key to using Kaizen effectively is to “tiptoe past the amygdala” and “keep it asleep” by breaking down a large goal into small, comfortable steps. By taking small steps, the brain’s cortex continues to work and starts to create “software” for desired changes which constructs new nerve pathways, builds new habits, weakens resistance, and speeds goal attainment.
To further understand this model, look to the diagram below, from page 25 of the book:
Large goal >> fear >> access to cortex restricted >> failure
Small goal >> fear bypassed >> cortex engaged >> success
For example, if you cringe at the idea of networking for job search and career purposes, start with one small step: write down the name of just one person to contact: someone who would take your call, no matter what. Next steps could be lifting the phone, dialing the number, and saying “hi” when your contact says “hello.” Most likely, since you already have a good rapport with this contact, your chat will go well, which will help you be less fearful of making your next call.
Kaizen has worked for dozens of Dr. Maurer’s clients. One compelling case study he cites is a stressed, single working mom who needed to exercise for health reasons; but she was resistant and fearful of it, besides being time-crunched with family and professional obligations. By first agreeing to march in place for 60 seconds in front of the TV every night, she joyfully expanded to full aerobic workouts within a few months.
Dr. Maurer describes six ways to implement Kaizen in chapters 2-7. One is “taking small actions” which are tiny and almost trivial. Using the networking example, think of how it can be divided into even smaller steps, i.e., picking up a pen. Another is “asking small questions.” With the same example, a small question could be: “Why is networking so scary for me?”
© 2010 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin. The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author:
Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin is a career coach in private practice, who works with executives, managers, and professionals who are ready to make a change in their employment situation, but don’t know what that change looks like or what their next steps should be. She uses a proven, 8-module career coaching program to help her clients identify and land ideal career positions much faster than they ever could on their own. Joellyn will be happy to discuss your situation on a free call. Contact her at 508-459-2854, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.career-success-coach.com to learn more.