Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Small Change is Changing My Life


Somehow I came across this book title months ago and put it on reserve at the library. I picked it up this week and read right through this little book. Dr. Maurer takes the concept of "kaizen" (continuous improvement) which is an important part of the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing in general, and applies it to non-manufacturing settings.

I suppose we've all heard that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, but I have never been able to apply that idea when it comes to the daily issues I face. And most of the "big" issues I have tend to feel overwhelming to me.

Major learning points from this book:

**Our brains are designed to respond with fear when faced with change and the amygdala is the brain part that controls the fight-or-flight response.
**We typically respond to the need for change by using "innovation," which is the drastic process of change. I don't know about you, but when I need to start exercising after a period of sedentary inactivity, I do NOT start by walking 16 steps down the street and back (or whatever the doctor tells you about starting slowly). I do a TOUGH WOMAN'S workout and do a two-mile run/walk no matter how long it has been since I have exercised. I ignore the aching feet and muscles and pretend like my heartrate is just fine.
**The alternative to innovation is "kaizen," which means small continuous changes.

How this works in my life:

I usually have 500-600 (exaggeration maybe) huge things I must make decisions about -- anything from what to cook for dinner (very huge issue) to whether or not one of my kids should do a certain activity to how in the world to fit in a date night this week to wondering if I will ever get Kepler off the bedtime ice-water bottle he loves. ETC. My amygdala seems to be PARTICULARLY adept at the "flight" part of fight-or-flight so whenever I am faced with a decision, I almost immediately get overwhelmed and get the heck OUT of there.
(Isn't she cute?)

I learned TWO things that made this a really FINE week.

1. Tiptoe past fear by contemplating small changes that allow the amygdala to stay in its happy state of hibernation.
2. Ask small questions that also bypass the whole fight-or-flight nightmare.

Examples of #1.

I have six dining room chairs that need to be re-upholstered (backs and seats, separately), and really look pretty dirty and ratty. I believe the idea of reupholstering probably came to me about 1 year ago, and I got the fabric at about the same time. But the thought of all the work involved, and the unknowns of the process, and getting the chairs to my mom's for her pneumatic stapler, and buying the foam and the right amount of foam, and, well you get the picture. When I contemplate all that, a bag of Lime Chips and a nap usually get me calmed down.

This week I asked myself: What is one step I could take to getting my chairs reupholstered? Answer: Reupholster the back of one chair. Did I do it? Yes. Do I feel like I really accomplished something -- I sure do.

Another example was looking at cooking dinner but using the kaizen method. Usually, I experience a doomdart when I remember ain't nothin' going to be on the table unless I put it there, and then I realize that I need to go to the grocery, and remember I do not ever feel like I am on top of having a good inventory of food, and oh no, I haven't given the kids any vegetables for five days unless ketchup counts, and the reason I'm overweight is because I don't have a meal plan, and well you probably get the picture again. Again, a bag of Lime chips and a nap help, but I usually have to add in a handful of chocolate chips too.

This week I asked myself: What is one dinner that sounds good to me? Answer: chicken cordon bleu, rice, salad, sliced peaches and a nice loaf of bread. Did I cook this for dinner on Thursday? I did. Do I feel like I really accomplished something -- I sure do.

And there are many other examples from this week of how I applied and used this idea in my life.

I feel a lot less like this:































and a lot more like this:

3 comments:

Stephanie M said...

I learned something from your post! Amygdala is a part of the brain, and not Anakin's love interest in Star Wars. Thanks! Oh, and good work at your Kaizen too. I like that. Lean manufacturing (doing only what needs to be done at any point in time) instead of conventional manufacturing (doing more than needs to be done and getting overwhelmed).

SiouxsieQ said...

man, you are so smart, stephanie m.

Stephanie M said...

not so much, my pet, - just regurgitating what you said - trying to do some active listening, processing information, and making it my own. ;) I really DO like the concept as I hadn't thought/heard of it before.