One small step can change your life...
What a title! That is what I thought about it when I heard it from my brother-in-law last year at dinner. He was speaking about the book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Dr. Robert Maurer. It is one of those small size hardcover books. How could this tiny book be so power packed? Maybe it isn't I thought. I was wrong. Dr. Maurer, a psychologist from UCLA does a fantastic job explaining the art of the Kaizen way. Kaizen way finds its humble roots in the two-thousand year old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments. It is a mindfulness that centers around another familiar philosophy of slow and steady wins the race.
When you look under the hood of this tiny book you will learn that the power of change is in your hands. It will teach you that good and lasting change does not come from quick diets, crash courses, or any other shortcut. Over time the winds of change can carve any mountian of resistance. Kaizen is about small steps of success that will lead to successful life long change. For example, say I want to get in shape. Instead of setting a goal to run for 30 hours a day, the Kaizen method would say just stand on the treadmill for one minute a day. The goal is so simple, you can't fail at it. Even if you had forgotten to do your minute today and you are brushing your teeth before bed, you know you have time for 1 minute to stand on the treadmill. This is guaranteed success! One thing his research has unveiled is the power of a successful loop. Once you are successful you are so much more likely to continue at that goal.
Now, you might be thinking, what will one minute on a treadmill do? At first glance you would say... Nothing. However, in reality it is about the change in your attitude and disposition. When you are standing on the treadmill for a minute, you will naturally challenge yourself to run for a few minutes. In the end, most days you will do far more than that minute. Unlike a new years resolution that can be such a radical shift you have only committed to one minute on the treadmill. This means that even when you are tired, sick, or just plain old lazy you can still meet your goal. It is this psychological trigger of sustained success that helps us with our goals.
The Kaizen way can create such positive change in so many areas of our lives. Being a teacher, right after reading this book, I instantly turned to my classroom and students and thought about how to use this with them. I created the "Power of 30" as a result of this book. The Power of 30 is about setting micro goals for 30 days and encouraging each other to reach them. This club is open to the entire middle school, even other teachers, and we have seen tremendous results. Students are challenged themselves to raise their hands more, do pushups, learn new software, practice their music, learn the guitar. Over the two years doing Kaizen with students I am a true believer. I think it is so cool how students gain confidence from month to month. Most all of them still use the skills they have gained in previous months. This is huge, students with the help of the Kaizen way are building lifelong habits of success. I just had to share this post with you in the hopes that you read this book, or at least take away the idea from here to talk with your students about creating change one step at a time.
With the rise in brain based research, growth mindset and even George Couros's Innovators Mindset the importance in understanding how to create change and growth is so very important. The message that Robert Maurer and his explanation of the Kaizen Way will turn the inspirational messages of these other new and important movements of growth and innovation into a reality for ourselves and our students. As with any great journey, we need to know where to start, how to become or harness a growth/innovator mindset. One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Dr. Robert Maurer is just the right bite size serving we need to begin our transformation.
It is simple for me to see the application of this book to game inspired course desgin. The Kaizen way is about creating positive loops to encourage action and create growth while gamification, is also about creating positive feedback loops in order for players to make informed decisions. These two ideas together to make such a powerful classroom. Consider adding both to your next design. Now go on your Way and start to make a change in your class.