We believe the world can be a better place for everyone and everything it contains. We can collectively achieve this goal but we have to start somewhere. Why not begin today? In fact, why not begin right now? Of course, no change comes about overnight so we have to take an approach that will work. An approach that is doable and sustainable. That approach is Kaizen (改善).
It is a Japanese word that means "change for better". The word kaizen began as a business improvement philosophy. However, over the years, it has come to be associated with self-improvement. The word kaizen itself is made up of two characters, kai (改) which means "change" and zen (善) which means "good".
The two characters can be further broken down. Kai is composed of the characters for the word "self" and "whip" resembling the expression "whip oneself into shape". Similarly, zen is composed of characters for the words "sheep/lamb" and "altar" referring to sacrificing a lamb on an altar. The resulting meaning of the combination of these words leads to the idea of an individual who makes sacrifices in pursuit of improvement.
We believe that "change for better" does not need to be limited to the self. We should strive to seek this change both inside and outside ourselves. When looking to improve inside, we should strive to be a better version of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. When looking to improve that which is outside us, we should think about those around us (our relationships and communities), our environment, and the world in general.
However, no change comes about without action and sacrifice. Often we wonder, "What can I do to change things? I am but one person" and while that may be true, every little action and sacrifice has a result and does indeed impact the world. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves:
- Have I been physically active enough? The benefits of regular exercise are well documented and include improved mood and confidence, weight loss, and better sleep.
- Have I been looking after my mental health? Negative effects of being under stress can cause headaches, lead to a weakened immune system, and even increase the risk of heart attacks.
- Have I expressed my appreciation for those that care for me? You shouldn't expect anyone to do anything for you, but when they do, the simple act of acknowledging and appreciating it reinforces their behaviour of being caring and your relationship improves.
- Have I truly forgiven and forgotten? Dwelling on the past makes it harder to move forward with your relationship.
- Can I work from home and ditch the commute? You save time, money, and prevent emissions into the environment.
- Can I get a reusable mug for my morning coffee? We prevent waste from going into the environment.
- Can I switch to a vegetarian/vegan diet or at least try more of it? Production of vegetarian/vegan food releases far fewer greenhouse gases when compared to non-vegetarian food.
We all strive for a better world but our hopes and wishes will remain a dream unless action is taken and sacrifices are made. These sacrifices don't necessarily have to be big. Small sustainable sacrifices made over time will yield far greater results than deciding to implement one big drastic change. If you've always wanted to go vegetarian but have been unable to, deciding to switch overnight might seem next to impossible to do. Instead, try 1 day out of 7 in a week where you will stick to a vegetarian meal. Try an even smaller goal of just 1 meal in a week. Then increase that to 2 meals in a week. At 3 meals a week, you are practically going vegetarian for 1 day out of 7. These small and achievable increments feed the cycle of success you experience and will push you toward your end goal. Of course, with kaizen, there truly is no end goal. There is only the journey of never ending success. You won't go back to being non-vegetarian after you've achieved 7 days a week of vegetarian meals. You will continue your new diet forever.
This is the essence of kaizen and this technique can be applied to any facet of your life. This is what we stand for and what we strive for. The world can be made a better place for everyone if we all take that small step to "change for better".