Original Concepts: Kaizen Opportunity, and Post-Interaction Kaizen Appraisal
One famous quote attributed to Socrates is: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I think it is possible to attribute differing meanings to this quote; as a matter of fact, what I “get out of it” might be far afield from its original meaning. However, to me Socrate’s purported statement implies the idea that it is only through actively making decisions regarding our own fate, that we can achieve some semblance of freedom.
Another concept that has made a big impact on my life is the Japanese management philosophy of Kaizen, which in essence means “continual improvement.”
Combining these two concepts together, I have created a new guiding principle that I utilize in my day-to-day life. I call this concept a “Kaizen Opportunity”, which I am defining as an opportunity to improve some aspect of our daily life, or a better way to perform some routine action.
Framing my experience in terms of Kaizen Opportunities has changed how I interpret my life experience. It does this because it causes me to become focused on continual improvement, while also freeing me from “beating myself up” for not being perfect; instead, it allows me to see everything as part of a process of getting better and more refined.
I have noticed that I tend to second guess myself a lot; I think this has to do with an over-active inner dialog, which causes a tendency to ruminate on things. (As a consequence of my recent attempts to raise my day-to-day consciousness quotient, I have started to become more aware of my own inner dialog.) So one strategy I have started to use to deal with my over-active inner critic is to re-frame my thinking in terms of Kaizen Opportunities — always looking for ways to do things better the next time. This is a subtle, but important shift.
Another related concept is a “Post-Interaction Kaizen Appraisal“, which is what I do immediately after interacting with someone. In the immediate aftermath of an interaction — when the whole thing is fresh in my mind — I always ask myself: “What could I have done to make that interaction better?”
Taking the time to reflect on each interaction in this manor is helping me to become less of an automaton engaging in stereotypical and repetitive behavioral patterns. Instead, it is helping to me “actively reprogram myself” by performing continual self-tuning. Additionally, I feel reflecting in this way helps us to own our role in our interactions with others, and to understand the fact our reactions to things is ultimately the only thing that we are able to control.
In conclusion, I have found that examining our life by continually reflecting on ways to improve our own behaviors and interactions is a vital first step towards making life worth living again.