Kaizen is a Japanese technique of achieving lasting success through a series of small, steady steps. This process of continual improvement was first adopted on the eve of America's entry into World War II and was aimed at enhancing manufacturing quality in factories. Kaizen also has roots in Taoism, as evidenced by the following advice: "Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts."

Richard Maurer is an Associate Clinical Professor at the ULCA School of Medicine, a behavioral health instructor at the Canyon Ranch Health Spa in Tucson, Arizona, and head of The Science of Excellence, his own consulting firm. He lays out the six strategies behind Kaizen:

1. Asking small questions to dispel fear and inspire creativity
2. Thinking small thoughts to develop new skills and habits
3. Taking small actions that guarantee success
4. Solving small problems, even when you are faced with an overwhelming crisis
5. Bestowing small rewards to yourself or others to produce the best results, and
6. Recognizing the small but crucial moments that everyone else ignores.

Maurer believes that this philosophy is enhanced by what he calls "mind sculpture," which goes beyond guided imagery by training the brain in small increments to develop new sets of skills. The author applies kaizen to overspending, beginning an exercise program, managing stress, and keeping the house clean. In each case, the tasks are tiny, and there is no risk of failure or disappointment.

While reading this self-help book, we were reminded of the practice of the little by Therese of Lisieux. She always sought to serve God and her neighbor through small acts of kindness and mercy. Maurer quotes Harriet Beecher Stowe: "To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization." Drawing out the most of every little moment is a noble way of living and a deeply spiritual one as well.