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

By Robert Maurer. 221 pages.
NOTE: Whenever I read a nonfiction book, I like to summarize the ‘meat’ of it, the parts that really had value to me (I copied the idea from Derek Sivers). So, fair warning: this is less a book summary and more a ‘points I liked in a book’ summary.

A beautiful, practical little book. I loved it. The core message: think smaller, then act.

Ask yourself: What extremely small step can I take to improve the process or product?

  • Take large steps towards change: You feel fear, which activates the fight-or-flight response, which causes you to seek short-term relief/comfort, leading to…failure.
  • Take very small steps: You bypass fear, thereby reducing the urge for immediate comfort, so you can take action and build constructive habits, leading to…success.

How stress affects the brain

When we are stressed/anxious/afraid, the part of the brain called the amygdala activates our “fight or flight” response. When that happens, we stop thinking rationally and start looking for the quickest way to relieve the stress/anxiety/fear. In ancient times, this would mean to run, jump, attack, etc. In modern times, that means distracting ourselves with food/drugs/procrastination/something else.

Do this

The answer? Kaizen. Large steps activate the amygdala; small steps “sneak” past the amygdala without activating the fight or flight response. So:

  1. Ask smaller questions, like “what’s the next step?” or “what’s one small step I can take to get started”.
  2. Think small thoughts: Use “mind sculpture” to totally imagine yourself performing the skill/activity–visualize completely, with all the senses.
  3. Take small actions: Maybe not ‘read the book’, but ‘read one page’. Not ‘run a mile’, but ‘put out my running shoes every night’. One small step.
  4. Solve small problems: Train yourself to see and address small problems before they become big ones.
  5. Focus on smaller rewards.

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