Wednesday 2 May 2018

Book Review: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

Book Review: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

Review Written By Casey Douglass

One Small Step Can Change Your Life Cover

Change can be a pain in the backside. The changes we really want to make can elude us like a magical unicorn that farts doughnuts, yet stuff that we don’t seek finds us with all the accuracy of a tactical strike. Robert Maurer’s One Small Step Can Change Your Life introduces the reader to the concept of Kaizen, a concept that when used well, can almost effortlessly create the change we want.

Kaizen is rooted in the ancient Tao Te Ching line: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Anyone who has any experience with trying to create change or think up goals for themselves will likely have come across the idea of breaking things down into small, manageable chunks. It seems less scary that way. Kaizen goes one step smaller, and encourages the person to make tiny steps, steps so small that they almost feel like nothing.

So what do tiny steps look like? Well, an example that comes up a few times in the book is of someone wanting to lose weight or eat more healthily. Many people will plump for a restricted diet of some kind, anything from cutting out whole heaps of food, to lower extremes, such as avoiding sugary drinks. These changes are fine if they work and stick, but often they won’t last very long. The Kaizen way might be to begin by throwing away one fry from each meal.

Yes. One fry. That sounds so inconsequential, even though logically, we might think “Hmm, it’s certainly trimming a calorie or two!” The trick is to throw away this solitary fry for a period of time, to get the mind used to doing it. Then you might want to escalate things and throw away two fries each time you eat. This seems to be the essence of Kaizen, that making tiny changes gets past anything that might get our mind resisting something. The change needs to be small enough to require as close to zero effort as possible. Over time, this tiny effort each day primes the mind for thinking in different ways, and with patience, you might one day find yourself preferring not to eat fries at all. Don’t begin this process by throwing away other people’s fries though, as that is usually frowned upon.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life does go into other areas of life besides diets, such as relationships, work and creativity, so there are plenty of examples that let you get your head around the book’s elegant message. Myths about change are debunked, such as it being hard and that big changes are more effective than small ones, and exercises are given that help the reader practice different ways to utilize Kaizen in their lives. It’s also a really interesting book.

I didn’t know that the notion of Kaizen was first used in 1940’s America. Due to wartime pressures, the U.S government created management courses called Training Within Industries and offered them to various corporations. One course held the idea of striving for continual improvement, getting people to look for the tiny things that could be changed rather than trying to reshape the big things. This opened up the avenues for staff at any level being able to offer ideas for improvement, such as by using Suggestion Boxes. The small steps that this process improved ended up contributing to America’s increased manufacturing capacity and quality, something that helped the Allies win the war. This same concept was taught to Japanese industry after the war to help the Japanese economy, and after it was embraced, the Japanese called it Kaizen. It then came back to the West under this name.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life is a pacey read, managing to give just enough examples and tips without lingering too long on any one thing. I very much like the notion of making tiny changes and the way that this can bypass a lot of the strife our own resistance to things can cause. With my own mental health issues, tiny, non-threatening change is probably all I can aim for anyway, so reading a book that actually says “This is okay!” is actually quite heartening. So a big thumbs up from me! It's a book well worth picking up if you find yourself stalling with the things you’d like to change.

Author: Robert Maurer
Publisher: Workman Publishing
ISBN: 9780761181347