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  • Writer's pictureKralingen

Creative Health: Kaizen and a thousand steps

Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement. Kai stands for ‘Change’ and Zen for ‘Good’. We often hear it to describe a common theme in Japan's business practice; a lot of small steps will lead to big changes. Yet, it is much more. It’s the perfect analogy for how to get out of artistic anxieties, writer's block, creative resistance, and even when you are (creatively) burned out. You take a thousand tiny steps to reach that one big goal. One small step at a time.

Artists and creatives often dream big. It's part of who we are. But when expectations run too high, doubt creeps in, resulting in downward momentum. From frayed nerves to writer's block to even substance abuse, we lose focus. In those moments, we tend to feel like we should be going even bigger, as a counterweight, an offset to the low vibration moment we are in. Yet choosing that course almost always results in the downward momentum getting worse, simply because the bar is raise to high.

I cannot begin to count how many times I have been asked by artists and creatives, but also entrepreneurs and chefs and the like, what to do in such a moment. And my answer is always the same: "Work five minutes a day on the project."

It's a Jedi mind trick really: by committing to only five minutes a day, all the pressure is all of a sudden gone. And the kicker is: you'll feel good after those five minutes. You'll actually feel accomplished. And before you know it, you're stretching that into 50 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks...

Why is this? It's simple really: all creatives love to work. But we hate to start.

Our creative projects mean so much to us, that starting on them fills us with all kinds of dread. We inadvertently put huge amounts of pressure on ourselves, especially on that starting moment. This pressure is what stops us from working on it. We fear the start itself. When you take that pressure away, and give it only a measly 5 minutes... you've effectively started. And all the resistance is gone.

That's what embracing the idea of Kaizen is. By taking a large amount of very small steps that help you feel better and improve small parts of your project. And I also recommend using it to maintain good family, career and love life endeavors even. It has the added advantage of also lowering expectations, which is always a good thing to do. It's an excellent technique to tap into the right amount of universal creative energy. This way you don't fight it, you embrace the anxiety and use it.

Quite a while after my own creative dark night of the soul, I still use this Japanese work philosophy to its fullest. I do many ‘big’ projects like writing books, making albums and creating films. The bar always seems to be very high with those activities. However by taking a lot of smaller steps everyday towards those goals, life becomes manageable, stress is greatly reduced and the end result gets within reach. It’s a great way to live and work in general. And it will bring you closer to flow.

Love, as always,



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