Improvement Baby Steps

The fifth cultural concept explored also comes from Japan.

Kaizen is a very new term that is the practice of continuous improvement.  Continuous steps are taken to improve individuals or organizations.


Kaizen is another Japanese concept, one that means “continuous improvement,” and could be taken to mean the opposite of wabi-sabi (though as you’ll see, it depends on the interpretation).

It’s a very new idea, only coined in 1986, and generally used in business circumstances.

As this tutorial details, “Kaizen is a system that involves every employee, from upper management to the cleaning crew.

Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis.


This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It is continuous.

Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented.”

These are regular, small improvements, not major changes.

Applied to your own life, it could mean daily or weekly check-ins about goals, as opposed to making New Year’s resolutions, or a more organized path based on small changes toward weight loss, a personal project or a hobby.


Dear friends of ours have their own way of doing this. At least once a year they examine their lives, individually and as a couple, in seven areas and determine what they need to do to improve.

They’ve been happily married for almost 40 years, so it’s working for them. 🙂

Accepting Life’s Toll on Us

The fourth cultural concept explored comes from Japan.

Wabi-sabi is the honoring of the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. A tradition of things modest and humble.


Wabi-sabi is the Japanese idea of embracing the imperfect, of celebrating the worn, the cracked, the patinaed, both as a decorative concept and a spiritual one — it’s an acceptance of the toll that life takes on us all.


As I wrote about it earlier this year, “If we can learn to love the things that already exist, for all their chips and cracks, their patinas, their crooked lines or tactile evidence of being made by someone’s hands instead of a machine, from being made from natural materials that vary rather than perfect plastic, we wouldn’t need to make new stuff, reducing our consumption (and its concurrent energy use and inevitable waste), cutting our budgets, and saving some great stories for future generations.”

We might also be less stressed, and more attentive to the details, which are the keys to mindfulness.


My favorite line from this:

It’s an acceptance of the toll that life takes on us all.

I would say not only an acceptance but also an embracing of all that has helped make us who we distinctly are…