Apply the Japanese method of Kaizen to help you reach your goals this year.
For a long time each year, my New Year’s resolution was to do the splits. I never actually got there, and now that I’m older and wiser I’m determined to make resolutions that I can fulfil without breaking a limb and change the way I feel in our world. Most resolution-setters put in place plans to change their current situation: lose weight, walk more, forgo the nicotine, eat more greens, produce less food waste and only buy shoes once every other month. And while positive intentions account for some progress, according to US research, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
This year, I set a resolution I know will make my heart full and my spirit sing, a resolution sustainable enough to see out the year’s end, and perhaps the next, too – spending more one-on-one time with each of my children to savour those precious moments that fill my cup.
The principals of Kaizen
Sarah Harvey, author of Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time, says that Kaizen is a great way to stick to your goals.
“Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning ‘good change’”, says Sarah, “and the innovative idea about the approach is that it encourages you to initially focus on the smallest possible step towards your goal. The idea is to make the step so small that you hardly notice a difference in your routine. This has been shown to make it more likely that you will stick to your goal in the long term.”
Applying this idea to my resolution of spending more time with my kids individually, Sarah’s advice is to commit to one activity for an hour per week or even per fortnight. That is, take your end goal and make it bite-sized so that it’s easier to incorporate into your life.
How to manage multiple resolutions
While spending time with my kids is my first goal, I’ve also been trying to make time for a regular meditation practice. Does using the Kaizen approach mean I can attack several goals at once?
Sarah’s advice is to take it one resolution at a time. “Once you have got to grips with the method and are making progress towards that one goal, you will then have the self-belief and confidence to set yourself a challenge in another area. Be kind to yourself and remember that it is inevitable that life will sometimes get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve.”
How to perform a new year ritual
Yoga teacher and doula Dini Martinez has outlined a New Year’s rose ritual you can create for yourself.
- Create a quiet space that feels special. Invite all the Vedic elements: earth, water, ﬁre, air and ether by collecting objects like flowers, a water bowl with rose petals, a candle and some frankincense incense.
- Close your eyes and take a moment to reﬂect and give gratitude to the past year’s rose. First, think about the petal moments – the beautiful joys and treasures. Then, consider the thorn moments – the ones that at ﬁrst sight brought pain and suﬀering, but often led to the stem: that is, the moments that brought insight and growth.
- Turn your heart’s focus to the future. What are your soul needs? Do you need more recognition or greater intellectual challenges? More time and space to connect with your inner beauty? More self-acceptance and self-love to feel complete from within?
- Keep asking until you are ready to write your true wishes down on a piece of paper.
- Burn the paper and spend another moment with your eyes closed, inviting the feeling that you think you might have when all those petals start to blossom. Make them already a reality on the inside, from this moment on.
- Close the ritual by acknowledging Mother Earth and the great spirits of the universe.