I recently came across a small book titled One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. The author, Robert Maurer, didn’t really tell me anything new, but he did reinforce beautifully what I already knew. And in an extremely simple way.
As it is a small book, One Small Step was also pretty easy to just … well, read, all the way through. The interesting thing is how (given how much I read) it has stuck with me.
I’m always preaching the wisdom of writing for just 15 minutes. Robert Maurer breaks that down even further. How about five minutes? Still can’t get yourself to do it? How about one minute? What if you just thought about the change, deliberately, intentionally, for a few seconds every day at a given time?
“The little steps of kaizen are a kind of stealth solution….Instead of spending years in counseling to understand why you’re afraid of looking great or achieving your professional goals, you can use kaizen to go around or under these fears.”
One Small Step includes the story of a working, single mother Maurer encouraged to walk in place for one minute, during a commercial break of a TV show she liked to watch after her kids were in bed. For a writer who wants to start a journal habit, but has been unable to, Maurer suggests sitting with the notebook open, pen at hand, for a minute. A minute! He addresses a lot of subjects — test anxiety, relationships, business goals — and in every case, he suggests the smallest possible components toward building a solution.
Of course the beauty of writing for fifteen minutes isn’t because, over a span of days, the minutes will begin to add up, but that dedicating a little thought, a little willingness to go in the direction you want to go, tends to create more of the same. The science of it has to do with building new nerve pathways. But you don’t need to understand the science to know that it works.
I don’t know why we feel so much resistance to doing what we in fact want very badly to do (be healthy, get in shape, write a book, travel, fill-in-the-blank-for-yourself), and I have been told that there are people who in fact don’t feel the resistance; they just do it. But if you’re like me, you could begin by brainstorming how to break down what you want to achieve into its smallest conceivable component — this morning or in your life (or both). Then, just do that one small thing.
I won’t go into full-lecture mode about “repeat daily.” But how can you say no? One minute!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.