Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring

Lean Life


Today I realized that I have never had an idea that was complete. Never had an idea that was finished. Never had an idea that would never change.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? (I am not talking about values but rather ideas.)

There are good ideas and not so good ideas. Even good ideas can be improved upon. It is not only the poor ones that could use the help.

Ideas linger. Good ones and not so good. They tend to have long lives whose increasing rigidity over time constricts our life in the same way that our arteries harden as we age. There is a component of “being temporary” that I have discovered when it comes to ideas as well as our lives that is vital to their evolution.

I have become a student (over the last five years) of the Japanese model perfected by Toyota called lean manufacturing. This discipline believes deeply that there can only be improvement (not perfection) and that with more understanding even more improvement will become clear. Through many techniques and tools they look to better understand a workplace, make improvements, measure their effect, and then start over.

They use countermeasures to identify “ideas” that will help now but may need revision later as more understanding unfolds. There is no idea of “permanence” in their thinking.

This makes some sense as our understanding and circumstances change over our lifetime. Wouldn’t you agree?¬†How different are we and our lives today than we were 20 years ago? 10 years ago? 5 years ago?

I find that sometimes it takes me time to grasp and absorb something. To understand its depth and see its imperfections. Sometimes it’s not that simple to understand why someone decided to tell me this or that. This took me a long time to understand and accept.

Applying lean manufacturing thinking to an individual life is a connection that has only become recently evident during my life journey. I will use the term “lean life” to describe this connection.

We are not talking about weight loss or slim fit clothing. Our life situations, whether difficult or abundant, many times are more temporary than we think. Our approaches, thinking, and solutions are many times more imperfect than we think.

As I have stated before, our understanding needs to grow and change for our lives to do the same. Ideas and thoughts are the by-product of living our lives each day. Besides simple activity, our ideas and thoughts give us direction in our lives.

When they are pointed in a poor direction or are scattered, ideas provide little direction. Our lives become filled with disappointment, despair, and a sense of helplessness.

To change direction, I have found it necessary to seek out new learning that leads to new understanding. What happens then? Ideas that we felt strongly about now seem weak. Solutions that we thought were effective need improvement through change to make them better. Situations we thought were beneficial now seem dull and ineffective.

It is not an instant fix but a continual process. To implement the thinking of a lean life requires thoughtful practice to step back, reflect and figure out where to take the next new small step. Focus on small improvement not drastic change. That is the essence of thinking when considering what a perspective of a lean life includes. You will change things much quicker this way in your lives even though it seems counter-intuitive.

I find that my ideas are never complete. They can always be improved. They always need work because there is so much that I do not know. There are things that I fail to see.

We are more similar than you think.

Lean life thinking gives me a hope that both you and I can continue to improve, evolve, grow and change. Given that many of our situations are temporary — with discipline and practice we can take small next steps to improve our lives beginning today.

Surprises, new beginnings, as well as new destinations sometimes appear. All of them will point to everything that is real, passionate, and alive within you over your lifetime.

Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring


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