Take on a new challenge and reconnect with the pleasure of being an excited beginner.
I’ve been a gardener for years. I grow vegetables, have a few fruit dwarf fruit trees and putter around with some flowers. It relaxes me, gives me pleasure and feeds both my belly and my spirit.
When I think of myself as a gardener, I don’t think myself an expert or even particularly experienced. Instead, I think of the Japanese term kaizen, which means continuous improvement.
The literal translation of kaizen is “change for the better,” and it is cited in business circles in Japan as well as being used a principle for personal growth. The implication that this type of growth and change is ongoing and perpetual is deeply appealing to me both in the garden and in the rest of my life.
Past a certain age, opportunities to learn new skills feel fewer and farther between. In my garden life, I seek out ways to experience a beginner’s mindset, learning a new skill and getting the opportunity to improve slowly, incrementally but continuously every day.
This year, I’ve stepped up my flower game. Morning glory seeds went into the soil at various points around the house. A climbing mandevilla is winding its way up a hand-painted trellis. And a parade of patio pots hold all my flowering experiments in an ever-shifting array of bloom, dead-heading, water management and—as they grow—relocation.
In my way, I feel I am continuously improving not just my garden but my positive outlook. Kaizen doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect—not to put too fine a point on it, but if we were perfect, then how could we possibly continue to improve? But what it does capture is the goal of positive living, the aim to continue to seek out and strive toward more peace, more love, more joy and more success—however you define that.
What can you approach in your life with this mindset? It could be an entirely new skill, like learning a foreign language or it could be something you’ve been doing for years but are ready to embrace with renewed commitment to continuous, steady, imperfect, satisfying improvement. Even old pastimes becomes new again when you infuse them with this uplifting, forward-looking view.