What you will get from this article:
- Learn the definition of continuous improvement in business and personal development
- Discover how to continuously improve in all areas of your life
- Understand how to handle plateaus on your road to continuous improvement
- Learn about resources to help you succeed, like coaching
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement means always striving to be the best you can be. It means you’re always identifying areas for improvement, developing and implementing solutions and then making those solutions part of your everyday processes. It can apply to everything from losing weight to improving your relationships or accelerating your career.
Committing to developing your continuous improvement skills means you recognize that life is a journey, not a race. It’s about more than getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. When you take the time to uncover what you really want in life and build a plan to get there, you’ll find that you’ve won the race and enjoyed the journey.
Continuous improvement is often used in reference to growing a business – there’s even a term for it. Kaizen continuous improvement, in general, can refer to a culture of progress in a company, but it’s also a specific set of business processes. It involves holding events at which specific business goals are discussed and all employees participate in suggesting improvements and developing a plan. Kaizen aims to make all employees feel valued in order to develop a culture of continuous improvement – and it’s what every business owner must strive for.
So what is continuous improvement? It’s the key to becoming your best self in every area of your life. Here we’ll cover what happens in your mind when you face a setback and how you can keep improving yourself and your organization.
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The phases of the continual improvement process
If you’ve ever decided to take on a new endeavor, you know that progress isn’t linear. When you start learning or doing something new, you see major results in little time. You’re growing and growing and then, suddenly – BAM – you plateau. What happens after that is where the real continuous improvement begins. Many of us give up, but if you understand the four phases of the continual improvement process, you’ll know how to channel setbacks to push you further along.
1. A strong start
When you start something new, it feels exciting. Sure, you’re working long hours, but you’re gaining customers, improving efficiencies and learning the lay of the business land. You’re even having fun! Everything you do feels like continuous improvement. You’ve shot up in capacity and can’t wait to scale your business or improve your skills, right?
In relationships, this is the honeymoon phase. If you’re learning a new skill, this is when you go from beginner to intermediate. At this point in the continual improvement process, your brain is running on adrenaline. It’s an exciting time, and you feel like you’re invincible.
In this first phase, it’s essential to be honest with yourself. If you don’t truly understand where you are, you won’t know where you need to go. That’s why continuous improvement always requires honesty with yourself. Tony teaches that the three steps to transforming your life are:
- See it as it is – but not worse than it is.
- See it how you want it to be.
- Make it that way.
Continuous improvement helps you implement number three – but it all begins with seeing it as it is. When we stop sugarcoating our lives, we stop giving ourselves excuses not to act.
2. Plateaus and setbacks
While you’re working on your continuous improvement skills, you’ll experience the training effect firsthand. Progress is never linear. You’ll get off to a strong start, but inevitably you’ll run into an obstacle in your path. Your progress will plateau and you’ll find it hard to keep going. Instead of rapid progress, it feels like you’ll never get better. You might even start getting worse. You dropped 15 pounds but can’t get rid of the next 10. You’ve got a solid forehand on the tennis court, but you can never get your backhand to work quite right.
Frustrating, isn’t it? You can’t help but wonder what happened to those early, exciting feelings. What’s happening in your brain now? Humans tend toward dichotomous thinking. It’s an “all or nothing” way of looking at the world. When we succeed, we often celebrate; when we fail, we start to question everything.
This type of thinking gets us in trouble. Instead of quitting, remember that plateaus are part of the training process. Do you think that professional athletes or the top entrepreneurs have never had this happen to them? Of course, they have. But they recognize this stage as just another stop along their upward trajectory – and they keep going.
When you hit a plateau, remember what Tony says: “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” Recognize that success isn’t a place at which we arrive; it is an ongoing process and we must embrace every stage of the journey, not just the peaks.
3. Recommitment to continuous improvement
A setback can be the stimulus to re-energize your commitment to your ultimate goal. It can be what helps you identify a new opportunity or a new area for improvement. But you must be able to leverage the pain and frustration to make you work harder. Setting a goal and navigating your path to obtain it are two different things, and you need to be prepared for unexpected bumps in the road along the way.
But getting back on track is tough. That’s why you need something or someone to break your pattern and get you back on track. A Business Mastery event or a business coach will remind you of your goals and get you back in the game. Having a skilled coach on your side is also an effective tool for learning to recognize limiting beliefs so that you control your thoughts and emotions instead of letting them control you.
Whether you meet with a coach, attend an event or read up on business strategy online, you must identify new areas for continuous improvement. Can you upgrade your product or your customer service experience? Are there ways to streamline your processes to save time or money? Perhaps it’s just time to recommit to a philosophy of Kaizen continuous improvement in your company culture.
In personal development, continuous improvement might mean you need to switch up your weight loss strategy with a new workout routine. Enhance your relationship by ensuring you’re putting your partner’s needs first and that you’re keeping the spark alive. Learning a new skill will require you to have the resilience to push through the plateau and train even harder.
4. Study the results
Now, recommitted to your goal, you can once again become immersed and dedicated. You’ll experience renewed energy because you’ve learned to see plateaus as a kind of resting point. As you learn to rest at the plateau before using it as a catapult for continued progress, your new surge will once again cultivate huge growth. Those pounds fall away, that backhand now surpasses your forehand shot and your business is growing like crazy.
But now is not the time to get complacent. Studying your results to see what works best is an essential part of the continual improvement process. Because you’re going to hit another plateau. But when you know what works, you’ll be ready for it. Analyzing the impacts of your solutions is vital to Kaizen continuous improvement because in business, you must know the financial implications of every action you take.
You can apply this phase of the process to personal development, too. The mental tricks you learned to perfect your backhand can be used for your serve, too. The resilience you developed to lose those last five pounds will help you keep them off.
So when that little voice tells you it’s time to give up, you can reply that you’re already at a higher level than the last time. You can reply that you have the solution, because you’ve studied the problem. If you think of your progress as a graph, even though there are some valleys, the peaks continue to get higher and higher with each passing plateau. Believe this, and you’ll always see continuous improvement.
How to implement continuous improvement
Implementing the continual improvement process is about more than willpower. You’ll need to dedicate yourself to your desired outcome, but you’ll also need to give yourself the tools and support you need to achieve it.
Get into a growth mindset
A growth mindset means that you believe you have the ability to change. Our beliefs create our world and affect everything we do in life. That’s why the continual improvement process must start from a place of strong belief that you can learn new things, create new habits and transform your life. If you have more of a fixed mindset, don’t worry. You can develop a growth mindset with a few strategies.
Identify your goal
We all have areas of our lives where we can apply continuous improvement. The trick is to be specific. Rather than saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 20 pounds by New Year’s.” Even better, connect your goal back to your ultimate vision for your life: “I want to feel energized and healthy by losing 20 pounds by New Year’s.”
Create smaller tasks
Goals need to be specific so that you can make them actionable – but they also need to be realistic. Break down your fitness goal into losing one pound per week. Then create a plan. If you’re eating 3,500 calories per day, aim to reduce it by 100 calories per week. If you’re not exercising at all, add 10 minutes of exercise each day.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress is essential to not only hold yourself accountable, but also to be able to see how far you’ve come. Keep a journal where you write down your accomplishments and setbacks each day. Or use Tony’s Rapid Planning Method, where you can easily connect your small tasks to your big-picture vision and track your progress.
Celebrate small wins
Most people go about self-improvement like diving into the deep end: They set unrealistic goals, like running a 10-minute mile in a week, and when they don’t reach them, they give up. Continuous improvement skills are all about incremental change. You’re always making more progress than someone who isn’t trying. Celebrating small wins is a way to remind yourself of that.
Build on success
The more you do something, the more you succeed. And the more you succeed, the more addictive it becomes. When you start seeing steady improvement, you’ll be inspired to push harder, surpass your goals – and create an even bigger vision for your life.
Get the support you need
Just like with physical training, the more you repeat the continual improvement process, the better you get. Think of it as building dedication muscles. Since you’ve done this before, you know you can do it again – especially with the help of a great coach for inspiration to keep going when things get tough. As you overcome each setback, your confidence grows, and you know that you’ll continue to improve. Coaching can help you build these muscles, getting you back on track and immersed once again.
It’s important to see continuous improvement as an ongoing process – a journey more than a destination. While you may not see instant results, you will see much more progress over time than you would without making these gradual changes. What goal do you want to achieve? What skill have you been meaning to master? By understanding the 3 Pillars of Progress and the continual improvement process, you’ll be ready to take on whatever challenge you choose.
Ready to master more continuous improvement skills?
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