Kaizen is a Japanese and Chinese word about “continuous improvement”. I learned in business school that efforts to improve the business every day results in making more money in the long run. A year ago, I had an epiphany that if I applied the idea of Kaizen to my life, then I will become a better person over time. Since, I have come up with a list of things to do every day, and shortcuts for everyday decisions.

Doing a certain task every day means getting better at that task. Also, if that task aims to better myself, then I will grow every day.

My mama says that stupid is as stupid does who I am is what I do. By deciding what I will do every day for the foreseeable future, I am deciding who I will become.

As to shortcuts, it takes mental effort to make mundane decisions. For example, when at a restaurant, one must choose which dish to order. I love food, and it makes me happy. But I’ve noticed that the bigger the menu, the more silent the table gets. When I’m at a restaurant, I often don’t care what food I’m eating as much as I care about who I’m with. Why would I stare at a menu for a minute when I could be staring at my date’s beautiful eyes for that whole minute? Whenever I’m at a restuarant, I order the big salad with protein if they have it. It has meat, veggies, and a variety of other flavors and textures. If I wanted good food, I would cook it myself.

Another aspect of Kaizen is changing my personal environment. My morning alarm used to be the 2005 commencement speech by Steve Jobs mixed into a chillstep song (Rous L.I.F.E). It reminded me that if I don’t like what I’m gonna do that day for too many days in a row, I should change something. Listening to the same thing every day for a year will change you. Since a month ago, I’m listening to Will Smith talking about work ethic when I wake up. Some words need time to sink in. “If we get on the treadmill, either you get off first or I’m gonna die!” I’m essentially brainwashing myself into being more disciplined.

Here’s my daily Kaizen checklist:

Each item on this list may be small but over a lifetime, these small actions add up to a significant amount.

improve each day * every day = improve life

It’s a changing list. And sometimes I put in some things I shouldn’t do. Some of my friends have such rules too. One friend vowed never to get a Netflix subscription. The time that would be spent on entertainment would be too much.

We fit to the mould that we carve. So we must be careful to consider what this mould should be for our plastic minds to conform. Our self-identity is based on our actions, our personal environment and our physical body.

Arnold Schwarzenegger did not get his humongous body overnight. Barack Obama did not become a charismatic leader on a whim, either. We are born into this world with nothing but the potential to become more. Arnold built his body and President Obama rigorously trained to lead a great nation. Really, to grow and to change is all we can do. One small thing at a time. Motivation is for a moment, but discipline is for life.