One Small Step Can Change Your Life (2004) is a practical self-help guide inspired by the concept of kaizen – change through small steps. It suggests a variety of simple techniques that can help anyone improve their lives and make lasting changes, one small step at a time.
“Kaizen is an effective, enjoyable way to achieve a specific goal, but it also extends a more profound challenge: to meet life’s constant demands for change by seeking out continual—but always small—improvement.” – Robert Maurer Ph.D.
What is kaizen?
A Japanese practice of taking small steps to continuously improve a process or product.
Why is kaizen an effective personal development strategy?
“Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.” – Robert Maurer Ph.D.
Setting a big goal is exciting. But it’s also scary. The larger the change we want to make, the more fear we experience (fear of the unknown and fear of failure). When a region of the brain called the amygdala detects fear, it triggers our fight-or-flight response in the body. When our fight-or-flight response is active, we instinctively seek out comfort and find it hard to concentrate on our long-term goals.
About the author
Table of Contents
Video and Podcast
However, when we use kaizen and take embarrassingly small steps towards a goal, we tiptoe past the amygdala’s fear detection system and avoid activating the flight-or-fight response. These small steps eliminate a fear of failure and remove the urge to distract ourselves. The smaller the steps we take, the quicker we lay new neural networks in the brain and develop positive habits.
Dr. Maurer says with kaizen “your resistance to change begins to weaken. Where once you might have been daunted by change, your new mental software will have you moving toward your ultimate goal at a pace that may well exceed your expectations.”
Take large steps towards change –> Feel fear –> Activate fight-or-flight response –> Seek short-term relief/comfort –> Failure
Take very small steps –> Bypass fear –> Reduce the urge for immediate comfort –> Take action and build constructive habits –> Success
Two counterintuitive ways to use Kaizen to achieve large goals
Ask small questions
“Your brain loves questions and won’t reject them . . . unless the question is so big it triggers fear. Questions such as ‘How am I going to get thin (or rich, or married) by the end of the year?’ or ‘What new product will bring in a million more dollars for the company?’ are awfully big and frightening.’” – Robert Maurer Ph.D.
If you’ve ever tackled a big creative project, like writing a speech, you’ve experienced the destructive power of a BIG question. By asking: “How can I write a speech that leaves my audience spellbound?” you start feeling the pressure to perform. You fidget, you check Facebook, you grab another cup of coffee…every time you attempt to start writing you draw a blank.
Now imagine you asked yourself: “What’s one idea I could share?” or “What’s one story I could share?” or “What’s one thing I want my audience to do differently as a result of this speech?” After asking yourself these questions over and over again you’d come up with ideas. Soon the words would start pouring out! Without the fear of a big question your brain is eager to come up with creative ways to make progress.
“If you are trying to reach a specific goal, ask yourself every day: What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal? Consider writing your question on a Post-it note and then sticking it onto your nightstand (or dashboard, or coffeepot).” – Robert Maurer Ph.D.
Focus on small intermediate rewards
When Karan Pryor, author of ‘Don’t shoot the dog,’ was attending graduate school, she found it hard to get to class after a long day of work. Going to class required a one hour commute, three hour lecture and another long hour back home in the cold. Thinking of going to school everyday to get her Ph.D. filled her with anxiety.
“Instead (of focusing on the entire trip), Pryor broke her journey down into a series of distinct segments—walking to the subway station, changing trains, taking the stairs to her classroom. Each time she completed a segment, she allowed herself a square of chocolate. In this way she was training herself to associate each segment of the journey with pleasure. ‘In a few weeks,’ she says, ‘I was able to get all the way to class without either the chocolate or the internal struggle.'”– Robert Maurer Ph.D.
“Small rewards are the perfect encouragement. Not only are they inexpensive and convenient, but they also stimulate the internal motivation required for lasting change.” – Robert Maurer Ph.D.
To achieve an audacious goal simply focus on the smallest step you can take to make progress. While the steps you take may be small, the change you’ll experience won’t be.
“Improve by 1% a day, and in 70 days you’re twice as good.” – Alan Weiss, Ph.D.
About the author
Robert Maurer, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist on the faculty of the UCLA and the University of Washington Schools of Medicine. He is the founder of the Science of Excellence, a consulting firm, and travels extensively presenting seminars and consulting on kaizen to diverse organizations, including corporations, hospital staffs, universities— even the U.S. Navy. Dr. Maurer lives in Spokane, Washington.
Robert Maurer is a clinical psychologist at UCLA and the University of Washington School of Medicine. He organizes regular lectures and seminars on kaizen and is the author of The Spirit of Kaizen and Mastering Fear.
Business Culture, Motivational, Management, Leadership, Success Self-Help, Personal Development, Psychology, Productivity, Philosophy, Business Skills, Self-Improvement, Self-Esteem
Table of Contents
Preface: One Small Step
Chapter 1: Why Kaizen Works
Chapter 2: Ask Small Questions
Chapter 3: Think Small Thoughts
Chapter 4: Take Small Actions
Chapter 5: Solve Small Problems
Chapter 6: Bestow Small Rewards
Chapter 7: Identify Small Moments
Chapter 8: Kaizen for Life
About the Author
Improve your life fearlessly with this essential guide to kaizen—the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady steps.
The philosophy is simple: Great change is made through small steps. And the science is irrefutable: Small steps circumvent the brain’s built-in resistance to new behavior.
No matter what the goal—losing weight, quitting smoking, writing a novel, starting an exercise program, or meeting the love of your life—the powerful technique of kaizen is the way to achieve it. Written by psychologist and kaizen expert Dr. Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life is the simple but potent guide to easing into new habits—and turning your life around. Learn how to overcome fear and procrastination with his 7 Small Steps—including how to Think Small Thoughts, Take Small Actions, and Solve Small Problems—to steadily build your confidence and make insurmountable-seeming goals suddenly feel doable.
Dr. Maurer also shows how to visualize virtual change so that real change can come more easily. Why small rewards lead to big returns. And how great discoveries are made by paying attention to the little details most of us overlook. His simple regiment is your path to continuous improvement for anything from losing weight to quitting smoking, paying off debt, or conquering shyness and meeting new people. Rooted in the two-thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching—“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”—here is the way to change your life without fear, without failure, and start on a new path of easy, continuous improvement.
Unleash the potent force of kaizen, the Japanese technique of achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps. Whether the goal is as specific as getting more sleep or as broad as meeting the love of your life, kaizen works because it melts away resistance in particular, the “fight-or-flight” brain chemistry behind people s underlying fear of change.
An expert on the art of success, Dr. Robert Maurer has helped countless people and businesses use kaizen to reach their objectives and maintain excellence. Distilling its secrets, Dr. Maurer shows not only how and why kaizen works, but how to make it work for you how to position yourself for change and make your life more effective, whether at home or in the office; how to address personal changes and career changes; how to realize ambitions by sidestepping any impediments.
As one client succinctly put it, “the steps [are] so small I couldn t fail.” And as far as being too busy to solve a problem, learn a new skill, overcome a fear, or curb a bad habit, forget it who doesn’t have the 30 seconds it takes to get started?
The road to a life of continuous improvement begins with a single step.
Unleash the potent force of kaizen, the Japanese technique of achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps. Whether the goal is as specific as getting more sleep or as broad as meeting the love of your life, kaizen works because it melts away resistance—in particular, the “fight-or-flight” brain chemistry behind people’s underlying fear of change.
An expert on the art of success, Dr. Robert Maurer has helped countless people and businesses use kaizen to reach their objectives and maintain excellence. Distilling its secrets, Dr. Maurer shows not only how and why kaizen works, but how to make it work for you—how to position yourself for change and make your life more effective, whether at home or in the office; how to address personal changes and career changes; how to realize ambitions by sidestepping any impediments.
As one client succinctly put it, “the steps [are] so small I couldn’t fail.” And as far as being too busy to solve a problem, learn a new skill, overcome a fear, or curb a bad habit, forget it—who doesn’t have the 30 seconds it takes to get started?
The road to a life of continuous improvement begins with a single step.
“A peaceful and simple way of handling all the difficulties in our lives. You will breathe a sign of relief as you read it!” —Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
“This is a wonderful, very readable book that describes a peaceful and simple way of handling all the difficulties in our lives. You will breathe a sigh of relief as you read it.” —Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway