The Art of Continuous Self-Development

The art of continuous self-development can be summed up in a single word. Change.  The Japanese have added goodness to this simple concept through their term Kaizen. Kaizen literally means the following:

“To become good through change.”

As such, Kaizen is a great practice for improving your personal workflow and exercising self-development.

Kaizen was introduced to the world shortly after World War II as a means of improving the workplace and boosting corporate personnel productivity.  Though the practice of Kaizen involved getting every individual working for the company engaged in that said company’s improvement, the principles implied could be utilized in your efforts of continuous self-development.

The principals of Kaizen are simple. They are timeless. They are principles and truths that can easily be applied to your life in order to bring great and lasting change. But not too quickly.  Let’s look at the three major Kaizen principles and how they integrate with personal self-development.

1. Self-development with personal Kaizen is a slow process that we commit ourselves to for the long run.

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. ” Doug Firebaugh

The art of kaizen in self-development is not to make huge upheavals in your life. You do not want to make major and drastic changes in a moment. Practicing Kaizen is about the slow and steady method of growing and slowly integrating those changes into your current way of doing things.

All you need to do to begin practicing your personal Kaizen is to choose one area in which to make improvements.  Evaluate the changes to be made by asking yourself what could be done better or more quickly. Then practice making only one change at a time. After having perfected the one change, you can move on and practice changing something else while continuing to operate with the other changes that you’ve made. This practice has a lasting and exponential effect on self-development.  Kaizen is a slow and steady process. You do not need — or want — to change everything at once.

2. Self-development with personal Kaizen is about eliminating waste.

“If you have an hour, will you not improve that hour, instead of idling it away?” – Lord Chesterfield

When Kaizen was first developed for the corporate world, eliminating waste meant removing unnecessary employee movement and useless expenditures of energy without results. It had to do with creating more by spending less. Would it not be awesome to go through your day without wasting your time and energy on useless tasks?  Ask yourself what ways you could eliminate such waste when developing the slow and steady changes that you want to make with continuous self-development and Kaizen.

In addition, the waste you are trying to eliminate could also include wasted thoughts. So don’t forget to evaluate your thinking processes. How much time do you spend in “MOCUS” (Mentally Off Cruising Uncharted Space)? How often do you have to figure out the last place that you put something? Do you ever find yourself returning from an interruption only to have forgotten where you were in your report? Your personal Kaizen and self-development should include improvements to your mental workflow as much as its physical counterpart.

3. Self-development with personal Kaizen is about the standardization of best practices.

“It is always safe to assume, not that the old way is wrong, but that there may be a better way.” – Henry F. Harrower

If you are a software developer or coder, you understand exactly what best practices are. Working with best practices means performing tasks in a manner that brings sanity to chaos and clarity to something that would otherwise be blurred. Best practices are implemented in every aspect of a task.  As you travel down the road of Kaizen and continue in your self-development process, you will learn short cuts and quicker methods to perform your daily responsibilities. The Kaizen principle of standardization writes a little note within your mind that these methods or “best practices” should be carried into every aspect of these activities. It is allowing the practices themselves to become automatic and instinctive. That way when things get out of hand you will have procedures and habits to support you.

Self-development through the practice of personal Kaizen can be very rewarding if you allow the process to move forward. Two self-development pitfalls to watch out for in developing your own personal Kaizen are:

  • You believe you have reached your goal and no longer need to grow.
  • You try to make large changes quickly and all at once, instead of allowing the changes to happen naturally.

Remember when practicing your personal Kaizen that you must embrace change. Allow the change to bear its own fruit. Kaizen is about slowly introducing improvements to your personal workflow. It is supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult. Personal Kaizen should never be another set of rules you have to live under. Personal Kaizen is a gentle taskmaster, allowing for mistakes and time.

Here are a few tips to get you started with your own personal Kaizen:

  • Evaluate your workflow and make a list of possible improvements — this will be your self development plan.
  • Choose one item from your list and write down the actions required to make the change.
  • Practice that one action for a week — or even a month.
  • Once perfected, move on to the next action on your list continuing to operate with the other changes that you’ve made.
  • Evaluate your progress often. Reward and recognize your self-development and review your shortcomings.

“If you can do one thing you thought was utterly impossible, it causes you to rethink your beliefs.” –  Tony Robbins

Remember that continuous self-development through personal Kaizen is not about frustrating yourself by living in your difficulties. You practice self-development through abiding in the solution and accepting progress as it comes.  Be disciplined in your efforts and they will be greatly rewarded.

(Image courtesy of bbsc30 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)

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Joshua Riddle from and is a freelance web developer and contributing author. His writing specializes in time management, productivity strategies, technology based tutorials, and work-flow. His development specialties are Web 2.0 style interactive PHP / MySQL database applications.


  1. Kimberly Beaven on the 10th November

    This was a truly timely and wonderful article. It is at this time of year, as I start thinking about what to put in place for the upcoming year, that a reflection of practices, changes and goals are at the forefront. I know that I expect a lot from myself and sometimes do not allow the grace for mistakes and time to allow for transitions. Maybe I am not alone 🙂 I really appreciate the insight into “Kaizen” – really gives some great fodder for the approach for how I put the pieces in place. Well done.

  2. Steven on the 10th November

    Excellent post. Studied Kaizen in College as part of a Quality Management course. What I learned most is that all of the tools applied to business can and should be applied to personal endeavors.

    • Joshua Riddle on the 10th November

      I agree.I have also learned over the years to run my life a little more business minded and to run my business a little more life minded!

  3. Bryce Christiansen on the 10th November

    Continuous self development is an excellent topic and you treated it well in this post.

    Another Kaizen practice I’d recommend is building the teams that will accelerate your change. If you want to learn guitar you get a teacher, if you want to be good at basketball you play on a team.

    Making significant change can be greatly increased if you surround yourself with a team that can help you.

    • Joshua Riddle on the 10th November

      A solid team of supportive an knowledgeable people is definatley imperitive in the self develoment process. Thanks for the addition.

  4. Raven on the 10th November

    Thank you for this post. I’m going through a phase of change and this helps.

  5. Gabriele Maidecchi on the 11th November

    They are very good tips, but despite the fact I never really heard of Kaizen before few weeks ago, I have practiced these tips for years, as they make very much sense overall.

    The principle of splitting hard tasks in sub tasks and taking one at a time, in the most efficient way, and never think you don’t have anything else to learn or no better way to do things, it’s at the root of what a good manager should do in his everyday working life. Most important in my case, it’s what it works for me.

  6. Erik on the 11th November

    I was introduced to Kaizen, while doing a training (Lean Six Sigma). One of the most important parts that was told during that training was that Kaizen improvements are quick wins. So don’t think in too big steps, but apply changes for the short term, see if they improve your work or personal life and take them further…
    Most of the Kaizen improvements were the things that almost everybody in the organization recognized and had a ‘of course’ reaction about. But still most of the people where not applying them. It is good to be in a team or family that is aware of the changes so that it can keep you on track.

  7. Self Development Courses on the 14th December

    This is a great to start your Self development. In the past I've done so much work on myself. If you are trying to live up to others' expectations of you rather than to your identity.This article would give you the list of topics that are of great importance. could you help me to do self development in a right way?

  8. gain self confidence on the 18th December

    Self development are what people are seeking for. There are great books out there and it would help you and me in lots of ways. Just want to ask if you have any recommendations on what are the good books to read about self improvement.

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