I’m forever driving my family and my employees crazy because I’m constantly changing how we do things both at Goat Milk Stuff and just for the family. Sometimes these changes are really big – “I know, let’s build a new building and start selling goat milk food products like caramel candy and cheese.” And sometimes these changes are small – “Instead of canning tomato sauce we’ve made from the garden, we’re going to freeze it this year.”
But it’s still change.
Some people in my family are very resistant to change and some people embrace it and it hardly affects them. I’ve always worked on the children that are change-resistant to learn to accept it without negative emotions even if they’re not quite ready to embrace the change.
There’s a concept that I bring up a lot with the family called “kaizen”. Kaizen is a Japanese word that embodies the spirit of making continuous, small changes, usually in a business environment, to constantly improve the way things operate.
I’ve definitely used the concept with Goat Milk Stuff, but I find that it applies to our personal and family lives as well. There’s a book that is currently on my wishlist – One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way* by Robert Maurer. I haven’t read it yet, because I’ve got about 30 books on my bookshelf that are waiting for my attention. But it’s the next book I’m going to purchase once I’m caught up. Normally, I would wait to write a blog post until after I’ve read the book, but I had a Bible verse come to my attention that has had me thinking about this concept a lot.
In the book of Zechariah, chapter 4, verse 10 begins like this, “Who dares despise the day of small things?” (NIV)
That phrase – “small things” is translated that same way “small things” in all the translations I looked at. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the “small things” that I do in my life.
- I read something to “improve” myself every day
- I read something of no redeeming value other than I find it enjoyable every day
- I take five minutes to walk 500 steps multiple times a day (for a total of 10,000+ each day)
- At random times throughout the day I stop and do squats or jumping jacks or burpees – just something for about 60 seconds
- I try to look each of my children in the eye and tell them something nice every day
- I try to spend at least five minutes alone time with Jim every day
- I eat something fresh out of the garden every day
- I try to make something on the Goat Milk Stuff website a little bit better every day
Those are just the first things that came to mind. And do I actually do all of those every single day? Nope, but I do them on most days because they don’t take very much time at all, so it’s easy to make them happen.
I know so many people who feel “trapped” by the circumstances in their lives. Most of them remain that way for years because they don’t want to make the big changes that they feel are necessary.
But you don’t have to make big changes. You can make continuous, small changes and they will add up overtime.
I once got criticized on my podcast by somebody who thought that my suggestion of doing 10 squats every time you took a bathroom break was ridiculous. I found that rather sad that somebody wasn’t willing to take a few moments out of her day to make a small change. Adding new good habits to your life is really hard to do if you go from never doing the habit to trying to devote an hour of your day to it. Adding new good habits is a lot easier (and more likely to stay) if instead you baby step your way by just doing a little bit at a time. And if you can anchor those small things to something you already do – like going to the bathroom – it makes it even more likely that you will succeed.
Another example is gardening. I have a lot of people who want to start gardening, but are intimidated when they see the size of my garden.
I would never recommend that somebody start gardening on a large scale. Start with a a couple of plants – whatever it is that you would enjoy eating straight from the garden – cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas. Perhaps some basil if you like to cook with it. That’s it. Just start small. Do something you can maintain. You don’t have to start by planting enough tomatoes that you can put them up for the winter. Just have enough to enjoy them. Nothing sets us up for failure like biting off way more than we can chew because we think we “should” do it.
So let me encourage you – if there is something that you don’t like about your life or something you want to change. Think about the “small thing” that you can start to do. If you want to pay off your mortgage – start with an extra $5 whenever you can. If you want to improve your friendships, start by reaching out to one person a week. It can be something simple like a text or a small handwritten note (yes, people still love to receive notes in the mail). If you want to become closer to your spouse, try to say one positive thing to him or her everyday without expecting anything in return.
It’s ok to start small. It’s just important that you start.
After all, don’t be the one “who dares to despise the day of small things!”
Oh – and if you get the book I mentioned and read it, please let me know what you think of it!