Self-Improvement in One Minute

I once used the “one minute principle” for self-improvement with my five-year-old, without even knowing it. My son had developed the habit of sleeping in bed with me, and I felt he was old enough to sleep in his own bed. So, when I tucked him in I said, “Just stay in your bed for one minute. I’ll set the microwave timer. After you hear it beep, then you can go into my bed.” After one minute, it beeped, and there he was.

We continued that each night. But over time I started increasing the timer by one minute at a time. Eventually, it got up to many minutes, and my son would fall asleep before it beeped. By then, he was usually sleeping so soundly that he stayed in his own bed all night. And that became his new habit.


Later, I heard about the “one minute principle” which is put forth as a part of kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word which literally means “change for the better.” The closest word in English is improvement. I learned that Masaaki Imai introduced the concepts of big improvements made by small actions over time in his best-selling book, Kaizen, after he was already an expert in helping businesses like Toyota to improve their production. Additionally, the website for the institute he founded says, “The Kaizen™ methodology has been gradually developed over many decades. It was publically and officially introduced to the world in the 1980’s as a systematic methodology through [Imai’s book, Kaizen].”


The “one minute principle” is not just for businesses. Where do you wish to apply self-improvement? Do you want to improve your fitness? Learn a new skill? Practice a skill you’ve learned? Find more balance by pursuing something you enjoy? Adopt a hobby? You can use the “one minute principle” for many of these things. All you do is do that thing, for one minute. And commit to doing it regularly (like daily). Scheduling it in (even in your mind) for the same time every day will help too.


The theory behind the “one minute principle” is that small steps are easier to actually accomplish. Then, over time, as you become better at the thing you’ve been doing for one minute, you will want to increase your time. As Kaicho says, “The more you do it, the better you get. The better you get, the more you like it. The more you like it, the more you do it. The more you do it, the better you get…(etc.)”


This “one minute principle” is behind the mini workouts that we have done in my classes for many months now. This is why we do a series of the same calisthenics for around four or five minutes in classes for six to eight weeks. We are encouraged to also do the mini workout at home on days that we don’t have class. (I invite the students to do them on their own at home, and that encourages me to do the same.)


In case you want to join in, I will end with a description of the last three-minute workout which consists of: 1) five jumping jacks, five push-ups, five crunches, 2) five prisoner squats, five push-ups, five crunches, 3) six lunges, five push-ups, five crunches, and 4) repeat set 1. We brainstormed and designated this the the Fabulous Five. Over the weeks, students have helped remind me at the end of some warm-ups that we needed to do our Fabulous Five. You, too, can use this bite-sized workout to help plant the seed for fitness self-improvement.

By Jenifer Tull-Gauger  





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