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The Japanese Secret That Will Help You Achieve Your Creative Goals.

by Helen Aldous

Do you ever feel just OVERWHELMED by what you are trying to achieve?

I’m currently trying to learn a new and complex creative skill which will take my art in a radically different direction over the next few years. At the moment I am in “depressing beginners phase” where each piece of work is “wrong” in some way, knowledge is guarded and hard to find and it feels like I will never be able to climb the precipitous learning curve to achieve the sweet upper slopes of mastery before retirement age. Great!

However, one thought keeps me going. The Japanese concept of KAIZEN or “continuous improvement”.

Kaizen – 改善

Kaizen – Japanese for “improvement”, or “change for the better” refers to philosophy or manufacturing practices that focus upon a continuous, never ending commitment to consistently increase the quality of products in every aspect of the business – every single day.
 

Sounds pretty dry and business oriented eh? But basically it means “getting better at stuff every day and not stopping getting better at stuff every day”

Well, that’s my take on it and Kaizen is not just for business. It is important in all aspects of life…

If you have heard of Kaizen before, like me you may have thought that it was originally an age old Japanese concept. Well interestingly, I just discovered that Kaizen was actually introduced to the Japanese by an American quality-control expert called Dr W Edwards Deming. He was brought to Japan after the second world war to try and help rebuild the war ravaged industry of the country. After the war, inflation, shortages and unemployment in all areas of Japan seemed overwhelming but by introducting the concept of Kaizen and continuous improvement every day, the Japanese people were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems to pull themselves out of the mire and become economically prosperous in a relatively short space of time.

Kaizen, creativity and your big plan…

When creating, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of a task.

  • Perhaps you want to create monumental sculptures.
  • Maybe you want to create art works with collaboration on a global scale.
  • Possibly you want to learn a new and difficult creative skill.
  • Maybe you want to earn a living from your art in the next few years.

Whatever your big plan, utilizing Kaizen in your beliefs will help you achieve it.

In order to succeed you must have a long term focus. The beliefs you hold control your decisions and therefore your future. If you can hold on to the belief that you can constantly improve every day, each step forward takes you nearer your goal.

Persistance, trial and error and the zillions of tiny improvements you make along the way are what success is built on in the end.

Monitor your progress

At the end of each day, in order to monitor progress, ask yourself three questions…

  • What did I learn today?
  • What did I enjoy?
  • What/where/how did I improve?

The answers will allow you to take charge of your progress and to enjoy the fact that you are constantly moving forward, even when it seems little progress is being made. You will get there in the end.

I will leave the final word to my hero Thomas Edison

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”

 

Have you used Kaizen to improve your work or achieve a goal? Do you think it will work for you? Let us know in the comments.

Post image by Nimbu under creative commons licence

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen Aldous February 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Thanks. I have written this to remind myself as much as anything ;-) We do often forget each step is a step forward…

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Alyson B. Stanfield February 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I love this, Helen! It’s so true. We get caught up in wanting immediate gratification or instant success. We forget that each action counts toward achieving our goals. Thank you for putting it so poetically.
Alyson B. Stanfield recently posted..Tongue tied? Return to Pictures to Tell Your Story

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Natalie Timmons February 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm

It’s good to hear that other artists, no matter how accomplished, feel this way as they stretch their vision of their art and skills.

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