A few years ago, I came across a YouTube video that stuck with me. Rich Roll, attorney and at one time not-so-healthy turned plant-based eater and ultramarathoner and now podcaster and entrepreneur was giving a talk on the concept of “hacks”. Particularly, his distaste of the word as it applies to approaching life’s challenges.
At some point later that year, I came across this word, “kaizen”. I liked the simplicity of it, that it began with a “K”, just like my name, that it spoke to what has always been a strong value of mine: deliberate, consistent work over time. Reading and saying the word made me feel calmer.
Yesssssssss, I thought. These were moments where I felt like I was being spoken to directly.
As a physiotherapist, someone who really just wants to be as helpful as possible, I have long struggled under what I perceive to be the pressures and expectations of patient care. Folks come in hurting, not moving in their desired way, not able to get after the tasks and activities they are so inclined to participate in, and understandably, want to feel better. As quickly as possible. And in Manhattan, right in Midtown with about a zillion corporate offices in a stone’s throw of our clinic, this improvement needs to happen now. Better yet, yesterday. Never mind that the issue at hand has been brewing for months, and often, years.
One of the great privileges and challenges of my work is the collaboration, the alliance created between me and the client sitting across from me. When we nail that, our chances of productive work go up significantly. When I miss the mark, it’s an uphill battle that can go either way.
What will I bring to the table on this journey together? Everything I’ve got. Care. Respect. A solid assessment. Hands on-and hands-off interventions aimed to reduce threat to the nervous system/ human system, and a systematic and measured return to the building blocks necessary to expand and strengthen capacity and build resiliency for optimal function. This looks different for each client.
What’s ideal for the client to bring to the table? Everything they’ve got. An open outlook. Patience. Commitment. Consistency. Curiosity. Perseverance. Assertiveness.
Together, the client as the star of the show, and me/us providers as allies/coaches/guides, we navigate the twisty-turvy, winding road that is often incremental growth and improvement. There are sometimes super simple solutions, break throughs. There are setbacks and pivots.
We can’t hack our way to every destination point. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who tends to overcomplicate and overthink life, when I come across a piece of advice that takes what would have been a 4-hour task were I to attempt it solo, down to 20 minute with the help of some simple steps, I’m all in.
Often times though, the sweet victories come with practices of kaizen. Seemingly little behaviors, key habits, mundane movement patterns repeated with intention and consistency over time that after a while, produce growth.
One of my favorite movies of all time is “A League Of Their Own.” One of the best lines is what I’ll end with here, aside from, “Why am I the only person on this bus?!?!” as the women come scrambling out of the house with luggage and Stillwell Angel in tow, is this:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”
– Jimmy Dugan (aka Tom Hanks…so good)
Steady as we go, fam, with sweet breakthroughs along the way.