the kaizen way book summary

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph. D.

Summarized by Vishal Kataria

The Book in One Paragraph

It’s a myth that any change in our lives has to be painful, instantaneous, and demand steely self-discipline. Often, change is a result of consistently taking the right action, even when we don’t see results for a long time. To complete a thousand-mile journey, we just have to put one foot in front of the other.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way Book Summary

This is my book summary of The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer Ph. D. It’s a collection of quotes from the book and my own thoughts. This summary includes key lessons and takeaways from the book.

  • Change — whether personal or in business — is hard. But it doesn’t have to be painful. Nor does it have to be a result of scare tactics to shock ourselves or others into meaningful action.
  • Sustainable change often occurs through kaizen, an ancient philosophy that has two definitions:

    • Using tiny steps to improve a habit, process, or behavior.
    • Using tiny moments to inspire new products and inventions.
  • Radical change is like charging upstream. You may run out of wind before you reach the top, or the sheer thought of the work ahead will make you give up even before you begin. Or you could experience short-term results but revert to old habits quickly.

  • A learning driver first practices in an empty parking lot, first sitting in the car and trying out the equipment, and then driving a few minutes at a time. Likewise, we can use small steps to usher change in a non-threatening environment.

  • The amygdala is the part of our brain associated with the fight-or-flight response. It keeps us safe from danger, thus enabling our survival. But when we get pushed outside our comfort zone, the amygdala starts ringing alarm bells, sabotaging our effort to change. This is why change is difficult. The most effective way to overcome this challenge is to take steps so tiny that they don’t wake the amygdala.

  • The most successful people don’t rely on terms like stress, anxiety, and nervousness when they feel afraid. Instead, they gaze at the fear and speak openly about being frightened by their responsibilities and challenges.

  • When life gets scary or difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places that are easy or familiar. We avoid the dark and uncomfortable places where the real solutions lie.

  • If you expect fear instead of avoiding it and trying to be on top of everything, you can approach fear with compassion and do what’s important in spite of it.

  • When you face a roadblock or obstacle, asking big questions triggers fear in the brain, while asking small ones create a mental environment that welcomes playfulness and creativity.

  • Mind sculpting is the simple technique of imagining yourself performing what you want to or the skills you want to possess. Research shows that it’s immensely powerful in helping you achieve your goals.

  • How to engage in mind sculpting: Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine yourself inside a movie theater facing the screen. Now visualize yourself on the screen performing with perfection and confidence the skills you want to improve at. Pretend you’re engaged in the action, not just seeing it but also hearing, smelling, and touching.

  • Mind sculpting can also be used to overcome traumatic emotions of the past. If you have recurring nightmares, relive the dream but with a happy ending.

  • Small actions cost little time and money and are acceptable even to those who don’t have bulk supplies of willpower. Examples include committing to learning one new word a day if we want to learn a new language, removing one item from the shopping cart before checking out if we want to stop overspending, and putting the phone away for one minute if we want to reduce the time we spend on it.

  • People struggle with kaizen not because the steps are hard but because they’re too easy. They can’t overcome the cultural training that change has to be immediate and painful, and it demands the discipline of a monk.

  • Kaizen asks us to be patient, to have faith that the small steps will help the brain overcome the initial resistance and build momentum that compounds in the long term to yield amazing results.

  • If you feel frustrated or restless because the pace of change is slow, ask yourself: “Isn’t slow change better than what I was experiencing before… which is no change at all?”

  • Solving small problems immediately can prevent crises later. Between 2001 and 2007, British Petroleum ignored 356 “small” problems before the 2010 disaster, where it spilled 200 million gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Happiness doesn’t lie in a new smartphone or the latest addition to your wardrobe. It lies in small moments of change. So when you’re bored while following a change plan (exercise, diet, learning a new skill, etc.), look for tiny hidden moments of joy.

  • If you’ve ever struggled to sustain a good habit or initiative despite starting off enthusiastically, this small book will resonate with you. And it could just change your life.

About The Author

Vishal Kataria is a writer and podcaster who shares lessons he has learned about productivity, learning new skills, and self-improvement.

Click here to learn more →

Get book summaries of powerful titles directly in your inbox. They include quotes, my notes, and takeaways so you get the main learnings even without reading the book. Simply enter your email address and click “I’m In!”