Kaizen: Constant and Never-ending Improvement
As horse trainers we are constantly improving the quality of our work and lives with our horses and we and our horses are constantly growing and expanding our skills. It’s a pity as somebody comes along who immediately assess you and your horse as an ‘end-result’ and doesn’t see you and your horses growth.
Horse training is about continuous and never-ending improvement. In Japan, they understand this principle well and in business and relationships they use a word that is used for ‘constant improvement’ and ‘change for the better’.
This word is Kaizen (改善). “Kai” means change and “zen” means make good or make better.
So change is good .
Gradual improvement and simple improvements
Kaizen is a daily process and people who use this word are constantly looking at how to improve in several areas based on the principle of gradual improvement and simple improvements:
Tiny refinements made daily begin to create compounded enhancements over the long term.
What do you think: Is it possible for you to increase the quality of your riding by a mere 1 percent?
“Small improvements are believable and therefore achievable!”
This way you can reach a level most riders would never dream of!
It’s like the beautiful Grand Canyon, which is caused by millions of years of gradual change as the Colorado River have continually chiseled the rock to create one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Japanese have also another saying:
“If a man has not been seen for three days, his friends should take a god look at him and see what changes have befallen him”.
Riders and Kaizen
As riders and horse trainers we can use this Japanese business concept of Kaizen. We can make small incremental improvements daily:
- in our relationship with our horse,
- in our knowledge,
- in our skills,
- in our way of teaching,
- in our ability to enjoy our life with our horses
- and in many other areas
If we do that then horse training is a great adventure in which we can experience new levels all the time!
Don’t worry about maintaining or loosing your level, because the only constant thing in life is change. Every single day you can improve yourself in some way and use the certainty that you can always learn, you can always expand, and that you can always grow.
If you face challenges along the way then remember: you can only improve something if you realize that it’s not quite right or at the level it should be. Because of continuous and never-ending improvement you will discover problems in the making and handle them before they become crises by changing your approach. The best time to kill a “Gremlin” is when it’s little .
A good way to focus on continuous and never-ending improvement and to integrate “Kaizen” in your daily horse training is to ask yourself three questions at the end of each day:
1. What have I learned today?
2. What did I improve or contribute?
3. What did I enjoy?
If you define your success as a ‘journey’ or progression, rather than an end-destination or end-result, you can take comfort in the fact that growth and satisfaction can come from Kaizen!