Kaizen: The Philosophy of Progression

Kaizen: The Philosophy of Progression

The term Kaizen like many modern ideas in the West is one imported from the Eastern traditions of philosophy. More specifically from the business world of post-WWII Japan. Kaizen, loosely translating to "change for better" is a business principle for the most part and has been applied to industry as a means of improving the efficiency of the given modes of production at the time. One might draw a correlation between this and the American father of industry, Henry Ford, who revolutionised the manufacturing of cars through introducing mechanised production lines of his factory floor. You would be right to make such a comparison, but Kaizen means much more than creating efficient production lines but creating positive attitudes and intern creating more productive workers. It means more about the individual in some sense. At the core of this idea though is a principle that resonates throughout the Eastern philosophical tradition in general though. From the Daoshi of ancient northern China and the Bhikkhu of Tibet, to the Zen Roshi of Japan, and the Sannyasas of Hinduism is this rejection of the idea that there is a true self and that one must also strive to be someone better. 

We tend to have this idea in the west about the good life being something akin to looking within to find your true authentic self. Once you have discovered that true self, the project of living a good life is to be as sincere to that authentic self as possible. As wise as this advice comes across, digging only a few layers deep you begin to reveal it is about as useful as being told after a break up by a friend that "it just wasn't meant to be." A sort of pseudo-profundity if you will. But the idea is once you find that self then you will be able to live your life on your terms and while you may not control what happens to you, at least you stayed true to your authentic self.   

To look inward and find the inner self and to be authentic to that self-has been a misinterpretation of the principle we know as mindfulness. A principle that was gifted to the world by the eastern traditions of philosophy from the great minds of Laozi and Confucius who are the most notable.

What Laozi and Confucius teach is a notion of flourishing that is very different. They teach that rather than looking inward to find our true self; which leads to thinking that your patterns of behaviour at that time of thinking are your true self, we should be "outro-spective" and look at how we can construct the world around us that not only help us flourish, but to help others create that too. One can think of this at the immediate level, that being your friends and family or on a greater social level. It is by being aware of your patterns of behaviour and being open to believing that you can reform them and move through a constant transition, or to follow the age of Kaizen. So the good life at Kaizen age is only achieved for us when we can maximise the ability for others to flourish. 

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