Kaizen” is a Japanese term that in the past few decades has become popular within certain fields of business. Fundamentally, the concept of “kaizen” deals with finding ways to improve a specific process by making small changes to the process itself. During my studies at university, I was introduced to the term in my supply chain management class. I quickly noticed that my business professor was very keen on the idea of “kaizen” and how it was applied to such things as value stream mapping and six sigma calculations. I didn’t really share his keenness, though. I was honestly keener on imagining “kaizen” to be a martial arts move straight out of Kung Fu Panda that would K.O. my textbook in half.

However, these days the concept of “kaizen” is making somewhat of a comeback in my mind. Dr. Gio Valiante, a man who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and is a rising name within the sports psychology community, has covered the Japanese concept in some of his more recent literature. In his book, Fearless Golf, he writes:

“Kaizen is the idea of continual, measured improvement, regardless of performance. [In kaizen], improvement is a constant goal, yet it happens not simply because it is a goal, but because the focus on the process allows it to happen.” (p. 53, 2005)

Essentially, understanding how shifting one’s focus from performance and improvement to the underlying process is what is important. Performance still matters, but it’s just the outcome. Once the dust settles, performance is simply the final output and one must live with that. No point in discussing what that output will be – no one knows for sure. So, why not find enjoyment in the journey one has with their individual process?

What I find to be an important input into anything I do is positive energy. Therefore, my “kaizen” involves the process of becoming energized. My improvement comes from positive energy. And I’ve never had as much positive energy as I have now.

Perhaps this energy comes from having good relationships with the people I care most about. For example, having my brother visit from the U.S. is always great, as is meeting someone new I really care about.

Perhaps my energy is directly influenced by the energy that many of the guys in my army unit bring with them. Albert “Hippu” Eckhardt is a perfect example of such a guy in the army. Now there’s a man with a lot of positivity, laughter, and energy. He’s a guy that brings positive energy to every golf practice and makes for a fantastic practice partner. He just has so much of, well, you guessed it – energy! In this cold, dark, and often depressing weather, it’s what you need.

Irrespective if you’re a golfer or not, what is it that you seek to improve? What is your “kaizen?” Where do you get your energy?