Improvement thinking – its not new

Talking to someone about improvements is still to this day not easy. It often gets met with the raising of the eyebrows.  It’s the look of “are you just about to make my life more difficult, give me more work or are you just telling me that the way I am doing things is not the best!” And why is suggesting improvements at work becoming the norm, but suggesting improvements to ourselves about our own lives is met with more resistance than redundancies?

‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvements day by day’ – Epictetus, Discourses, 3.5.14

Lean, Design Thinking and Lean UX, to just name a few, are applying some of the best known creative and systematic ways to drive improvements from new product design to driving operational excellence. And yet how many of us have actually stopped and applied the approaches to our lives.

How many of us are time starved, exhausted or frustrated? Dealing with competing priorities that stop us from a work life balance? Playing in the park with kids while on the phone to the boss?

Should we not be putting the same attention into our lives?

One of the key points to remember is that so many people do not seem to spend enough time on figuring out what actually makes them tick?

What is important to you. What gives you pleasure? Understanding what drives you and what is your purpose is the beginning of the value creation process. You are your own customer.

People seem scared to commit.  Its as if by committing to something today, they will be stuck with that for the next 30 years. Everything is continually changing. And just like the idea of iteration in lean startup thinking, you will not get it right first time anyway. What is important is simply to begin.

There is one exercise in the “The Achievement Habit” that can really help in taking the first steps.

The Questions:

Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose?

Ask yourself each of these questions repeatedly and respond with whatever comes to mind. You can write out your answers in a journal or notebook, or just say them to yourself. Don’t overthink; just answer the questions.

You should take around 5 to 10 mins on each question and honestly, its best not to worry about grammar, accuracy and making it look good. Its an MVP.

Focusing on how to improve your life is more important than figuring out how to improve processes at work. In fact, I believe the former drives the latter. If you have the balance right, if you are always making progress towards your own goals then work is just part of the overall puzzle.

Work and life is no longer a zero sum game in conflict with each other.


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