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Kaizen & "How Easy Can I Make It?"

One of the things I love about Fruitful Living is the concept of Kaizen. This practice encourages you to take tiny steps toward change that will cumulate in big change with little pain and lots of gain.

This goes against common practice where we tend to make sweeping decisions about how we want to change. We start off going full speed and quickly lose momentum often to the point of no longer working towards the change we wanted. New Years resolutions anyone? “This year I’m going to work out for an hour each day.” “By the end of the month I’m going to have decluttered the entire house, the garage and the attic.” This year I’m going to go vegan.”

We rarely think through how we will make these changes as simple as possible. Kaizen says dream big, visualize your goal, but instead of thinking you will do all the change at one time, set up minute changes. Michel Le Gribble-Dates, founder of the Fruitful Living community encourages us to ask a simple question – “How easy can I make it?”

When I started Fruitful Living over a year ago, I was not exercising regularly. I would sporadically take a yoga class or walk for 45 minutes, but rarely in the same week. I knew movement was important. I sit at a desk most of the day and while I do get up to move around the church I work in often, it was not nearly enough.

With Ritual 4: Breath Body Practice we explore how to incorporate more movement into our day. Fitting in regular movement seemed impossible (did I mention that I hate to exercise?). I was lacking motivation and time. I was at the church by 7:45 each morning, often the first person there even though I don’t have set office hours, at least not set by anyone but me. It was totally draining. The morning was a marathon getting my son ready so my husband could walk him to school before I quickly jumped in the shower, made breakfast and lunch to eat at the church before making my 20-minute commute. I desperately needed change in my morning routine.

The first thing I did was talk to my boss to ask if I could come in at 9:00. He was totally supportive of it. It was all in my head that I had to be there so early.

Next, during a one-on-one conversation with Michel we talked through some possible steps to take to incorporate movement into my morning. My husband was already walking our son to school each morning. I decided to join them before coming home to get a shower. This gave me the motivation to get dressed and get out the door. I had accountability and support, plus it was fun! It gave my husband and I a few minutes on the walk home to connect before fully engaging in our days. Already dressed and out it was easy to add in an additional 15 minutes walking around our neighborhood giving me about a 25 to 30-minute walk 5 days a week. It was simple and painless.

Now, even on those days that I just don’t want to walk (let's face it we all have them, right?) getting on my movement clothes and walking my son to school gets me going and my feet almost naturally take me past our house to continue my walk.

The hard part for me was getting dressed and getting out the door. By establishing a trigger (getting Alden to school) and not asking myself if I want to do it, just doing it, I have built consistent movement into my day in a way that is painless.

This is what Kaizen is all about. Asking yourself “how simple can I make this?” What am I already doing that I can attach this new step to that will lead towards change? You may not have the built-in motivation of walking your son to school. So how can you get moving in the morning?

Can you walk to the end of your drive way each morning before you have your coffee?

Can you do one sun salutation before you sit down to breakfast?

Start small, it might seem like you are not even doing anything, but after you have established the ritual of walking to the end of the driveway so that you don’t even think about it, walk a little further, don’t stop at your driveway, walk to the end of the street. Once that is a natural part of your day, walk around the block and slowly small step by small step you

will find yourself walking 20 or 30 minutes each day. Don’t tell yourself that it has to be accomplished by the end of the month. You don’t move on to the next step until the first one is automatic - you do it without even thinking about it.

And it doesn’t have to be walking, pick a movement that you like to do. There are members of the Fruitful Living community who dance in the morning for their movement. Maybe you decide to lift weights or do some stretching. Or perhaps you have a totally different change you want to make in your life. Maybe you do want to declutter the house or become vegan. It doesn’t matter what your change is. What matters is that you start off slowly, building as you go. You will reach your goal and it will be sustainable and provide lasting change. This is the gift of Kaizen.

So, what small step can you take today to move towards your goal?

How easy can you make it?

Wishing you growth and movement towards your goal,

Elizabeth Snelbaker

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