The Success Principles are more than a collection of good ideas. They are principles used by successful people throughout history. I have studied these success principles for more than 30 years and have applied them to my own life. The success I now enjoy is the result of applying these principles day in and day out since I began to learn them in 1968. Today I’d like to share with you one of them in particular—one that will help you along your own personal road to success: making a commitment to constant and never-ending improvement.
In Japan, the word for constant and never-ending improvement is kaizen. Not only is this an operating philosophy for modern Japanese businesses, it is also the age-old philosophy of warriors, too—and it’s becoming the personal mantra of millions of successful people. Achievers—whether in business, sports or the arts—are committed to continual improvement. If you want to be more successful, you need to learn to ask yourself:
- How can I make this better?
- How can I do it more efficiently?
- How can I do this more profitably?
- How can we do this with greater love?
The Mind-Numbing Pace of Change
In today’s world, a certain amount of improvement is necessary just to keep up with the rapid pace of change. New technologies are announced nearly every month. New manufacturing techniques are discovered even more often. New words come into use anytime a trend or fad catches on. And what we learn about ourselves, about our health and about our capacity for human thought, continues unabated.
Improving is necessary simply to survive. But to thrive, as successful people do, a more dedicated approach to improvement in small increments. Whenever you set out to improve your skills, change your behavior or better your family life or business, beginning in small, manageable steps gives you a greater chance of long-term success.
Doing too much too fast not only overwhelms you (or anyone else involved in the improvement), it can doom the effort to failure—thereby reinforcing the belief that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to succeed. When you start with small, achievable steps you can easily master, it reinforces your belief that you can easily improve.
Decide What to Improve On
At work, your goal might be for your company to improve the quality of your product or service, your customer service program or your advertising. Professionally, you might want to improve your computer skills, your typing speed, your sales skills or your negotiating skills. At home, you might want to improve your parenting skills, communication skills or cooking skills. You could also focus on improving your health and fitness, your knowledge of investing and money management or your piano playing. Or perhaps you want to develop greater inner peace through meditation, yoga and prayer.
Whatever your goal, decide where you want to improve and what steps you’ll need to take to achieve that improvement. Is it learning a new skill? Perhaps you can find that in a night class at the local community college. If it’s improving your service to the community, perhaps you can find a way to spend an extra hour per week volunteering.
To keep yourself focused on constant and never-ending improvement, ask yourself every day:
- How can I improve today?
- What can I do better than before?
- Where can I learn a new skill or develop a new competency?
If you do, you’ll embark on a lifelong journey of improvement that will ensure your success.
You Can’t Skip Steps
One of life’s realities is that major improvements take time. They don’t happen overnight. But because so many of today’s products and services promise overnight perfection, we’ve come to expect instant gratification—and we become discouraged when it doesn’t happen. However, if you make a commitment to learn something new every day, getting just a little bit better every day, then eventually—over time—you will reach your goals.
Becoming a master takes time. You have to practice, practice, practice! You have to hone your skills through constant use and refinement. It takes years to have the depth and breadth of experience that produces expertise, insight and wisdom. Every book you read, every class you take, every experience you have is another building block in your career and your life. Don’t shortchange yourself by not being ready when your big break appears.
Make sure you have done your homework and honed your craft. Actors usually have to do a lot of preparation—acting classes, community theater, off-Broadway plays, bit parts in movies and television, more acting classes, voice lessons, accent training, dancing lessons, martial arts training, learning to ride a horse, more bit parts—until one day they are ready for the dream part that is ready for them. Successful basketball players learn to shoot with their opposite hand, improve their free-throw shooting, and work on their three-point shots. Artists experiment with different media. Airline pilots train for every kind of emergency in a flight simulator. Doctors go back to school to learn more procedures and obtain advanced certifications. They are all engaged in a process of constant and never-ending improvement.
Make a commitment to keep getting better and better every day in every way. If you do, you’ll enjoy the feelings of increased self-esteem and self-confidence that come with self-improvement, as well as the ultimate success that will inevitably follow.
This article is taken from The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Copyright ©2005 Jack Canfield. All rights reserved. Published by HarperCollins.
This article was originally published in 2008 and has since been updated for accuracy and freshness.
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