3 ways to bring Kaizen into our life

While attending my Product Management class at HAAS School of Business at UC Berkeley, I participated in a discussion on Robert Maurer- author of “One small step can change your life”. We were assigned to our teams and asked to present group book reviews, in a way of summarizing the key learnings to an audience. During one such presentation, I received this opportunity.

Well, my initial thought was, “The title is quite obvious!”, “How is that relevant to a Product Management class?”. Truth be told, there were enough motivational Rap songs on taking small steps in life towards our goals, so I wasn’t excited by the title all that much.

But I was taken by surprise by the content in the book that was brought to light. Although I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, here is a teaser to the contents I was informed of and some of my own personal effective methodologies. The line of thought can be taken in a philosophical and organizational sense.

1. Don’t fight your instinct!

A cup of coffee
Watching this is keeping me awake at this late hour!

Amygdala — this a part of the brain that is responsible for flight or fight response. What that means is, every time we are confronted by a situation outside the set pattern or comfort zone, we panic. Well, everyone biologically does. Our adrenaline boosts briefly and our brain sends out signals to prepare for a fight or make a run from where we are. This is an evolutionary faculty that stayed on from the time we hunted or were being hunted.

Fighting against this instinct is a one-sided battle. We must instead tease it every time we want to make progress. For example, Let’s assume you are addicted to coffee. Stopping yourself for the entire day or for a week is nothing short of a punishment. A easier way to tease your brain would be to reduce the quantity you drink by 10~20ml each week. Your body will not see this descent as a threat and this will also not bring mood swings to ruin your days.

Several people claim this technique comes very handy in building healthy habits.

2. Who said comfort zone is wrong?

A man resting on the chair with his legs comfortably on a stool
I love that pose, do you?

Whoever said comfort zone is wrong clearly doesn’t have a good bed at home! Well, this zone is an important goal for us all in life. We make money, slog, travel away from our countries, and sometimes spend sleepless nights to bring that sense of comfort for ourselves. An Entrepreneur will look for comfort in his product and mission, a teacher in her student’s performance, a techie in his work-life balance, and everyone together commonly in the money they make or in the higher meaning of life as such.

So yes, you need comfort zones. It’s important to use them for motivation and also to bring that smile and sense of security for yourself. For example, my comfort zone is food. For my body type, I put on some fat once in a while by eating what I crave for and that keeps me happy and comfortable. I always do go back to a gym and burn it in a month or two. So, that’s a happy and comfortable cycle I’ve created for myself without stressing about looking fit but rather BEING fit.

3. Romance yourself!

hugging an image of a heart
You are the most romantic relationship there must be.

Well, your life is nothing but the equation you have with yourself. How do you take care of yourself when you make mistakes? Do you take yourself too seriously? Do you forgive yourself in a nice way? Do you encourage and motivate yourself? Ultimately, this determines how we perceive others too.

It’s important for us to reward ourselves for the things we do good as a way of stimulating our way forward in the right direction. It could be as simple as praising yourself like your parents would “There you go! Good boy/girl!”.

Ultimately, we all need to take care of ourselves, and the more love we give ourselves in this process, we are capable of giving and not bothering about how and from whom we receive validation.

So, here is what I did for my graduation day — I gifted myself a pair of wireless earphones. So every time I cross a milestone in my day or career, I continue to buy useful things or simply take that walk or eat that dish I’ve been waiting to eat all week, while I watch Netflix. I tag them along as a reward for being productive and it helps me go a long way forward.

You might still ask how all this is relevant to product management? Agile methods like Scrum and weekly Sprints are nothing different from the philosophy of making slow yet steady progress towards the desired feature goal that is defined by your client.

As an aspiring product manager, I see a definite need for smoothly fighting resistance to change, respecting comfort zones, and setting rewards for each short term goal.

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Venkat Raju P

Venkat Raju P

Passion for Products, Data Science, Entrepreneurship, Physics and Photography. Driven by people psychology & human-centered thinking.