Kaizen: Becoming a Stronger Mountaineer

Today, I was attending a Webinar on “Keeping the Continuous in Continuous Improvement”, which focused on how to sustain Kaizen in the Healthcare setting through constant small improvements. Work is defined as equally doing work and improving the work. Suddenly, it dawned on me that here might be a way to tackle one of my persistent challenges in mountaineering.

What is that challenge? I have only been peak climbing and mountaineering for three years. Living on the somewhat shorter spectrum of humanity at 5’5″ (165 cm), I found to keep up with more experienced peak climbers I have to compensate by being stronger & fitter on top of the endurance I have to build anyway. Due to my often crazy work demands and intermittent health issues, both of which impact my energy level, I have been struggling with sticking to a consistent workout routine beyond 6 months at a time. It is very frustrating to feel on top of my game and then, suddenly, work or health derails me and I find myself completely off track, with great difficulties to get back in the groove. Clearly, a better approach is needed.

I found a door into a different way of thinking a few months ago, when someone spoke of turning a goal into a quest. Goals have a pass/fail association with it, whereas one of the characteristics of a quest is the setbacks that will inevitably occur and have to be overcome. Making temporary, short-term failures an expected, indeed necessary, part of the process is already taking the edge off my internal habit of being very judgmental and harsh with myself, offering me kindness and acceptance instead. Which, ultimately, enables me to get back on track more easily after a temporary failure, increasing the chance for long-term success.

Now, combine this with Kaizen, continuous improvement. Kaizen means to accept that a process is never perfect, never will be, but the path of improving the process to adapt to the needs of the present work is what ultimately counts. To apply this concept to my goal of becoming a stronger mountaineer speaks to me. Yes, I will still set goals. For 2012, they are:

  1. Climb 10 Class 3 mountains
  2. Train for a 10k swim race at the beginning of June
  3. Lean archery with the goal of being able to shoot the King Mountain Archer’s outdoor course

Yes, these goals are ambitious, and if I get an 80% completion rate I will consider myself successful (100% would mean I did not reach high enough in setting goals). But now the important part, how to get there. This is where I am bringing in the Kaizen approach. In addition to the big picture, I commit myself everyday to not only do the work, but improve the work. I will strive to make little decisions, as many as I can, that each bring me a tiny step closer to my ultimate goal. Those baby steps can be as small as challenging myself to have lunch outside to get some sunshine in winter, or as large as participating in the 1-hour postal swim in January. As long as I make at least one decision resulting in a better choice of action towards my goal each day, I will count my day as success. I trust the cumulative interest will make the difference for me to become a stronger mountaineer.

My commitment to you, reader, will be to report regularly in this forum how my “Kaizen to Become a Stronger Mountaineer” approach is working.

Finally, some inspirational reading from a recently discovered blog that initiated me sitting down tonight to write this post:

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/the-tower/

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8 Responses to Kaizen: Becoming a Stronger Mountaineer

  1. Please do keep posting on this – it will be interesting to read on the progress of your quest. I feel like I’ve had a similar history – always training and trying to keep up with others, but then either my job or getting sick puts me so far behind I think I’ll never catch up. I work at a desk for 40 hours a week and it feels impossible to overcome so much time SITTING.

    If you think you might be interested, please check out my blog. After feeling like my ‘average’ lifestyle was derailing my health & all attempts at climbing, I’ve decided to quit my normal job and go on a climbing road trip with my husband. We leave January 7th and will be posting on the planning and the process. Hopefully it’ll be some fun times and good reading!

    • Susan,
      thank you for your comment and support. I look forward to following your story & adventures on the road and on the rock. Let me know if you happen to travel through the San Francisco Bay area!

      Sonja

  2. Marissa says:

    Cotopaxi is on “Mickey’s List”! Let’s do it!!!

    Hugs from Marissa

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  4. Aaron S. says:

    Be gentle with yourself! ❤

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