If there’s one thing I can say I’ve been pretty damn successful at, it’s getting up and doing what I know how to do, to the best of my ability, every day.
A 14-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army went a long way toward strengthening the discipline required to wake up and show up to life every day. But the groundwork for how I do every day was laid long before that time—at age 10, when I began martial arts training.
From then to today, martial arts and military training have been tantamount in helping me develop what I call “Jimshido,” based on the Japanese word “bushido,” which was the code of conduct the ancient samurai followed in their daily lives.
Jimshido is based on five principles that cycle over the course of my day. Here is the normal flow I try for daily, along with examples of usage.
Roughly translated, kensho means “true self.” It’s seeing your true nature, the very essence of what it means to be human, to be you. And though I’ve had years of almost daily guided and self-meditation, I’ve discovered I often learn the best things about me while I’m sleeping.
I read a neat trick long ago about another way of living day-to-day that has stuck with me, and has since made a distinct positive difference in my life. Instead of counting the start of my day when I wake up, I count the start of my day the night before, right when I go to sleep. Kensho fits perfectly with this, in that when I start my “day” with a relaxing rest, and allow my conscious mind to get out of my way, my subconscious mind goes to work, showing me (via dreams) my true self, my hopes and fears, and things I often don’t realize during my awake hours.
There’s a unique form of daily success to be found seeking kensho with this tactic: it never fails. I keep a pen and notepad beside my bed, so I can quickly transfer anything I can remember into physical form right when I wake up. And even if I don’t remember anything, I still wake up with a feeling of already having accomplished something successfully, even though I don’t always know right away what it was. That’s powerful.
Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.” While it mainly applies to employees, business, and industry, “improvement” can also be applied to our very personal every day lives.
Kensho shows me my true self, the nature of who, and what I am. Long ago, I was a jerk, a moron, and certainly not someone you’d want to associate with. Kensho led me into the ways of kaizen, of realizing how different the person I was being was from the person I wanted to be. Kaizen not only helped me realize my faults, it also spurred and inspired me to seek out ways to correct them.
Of course, I still make mistakes. Kaizen is a process of continual improvement, not something that can be done and finished in a single day. The next day is another day, after all, not the same day. I make mistakes, but as long as I’m working to improve, those mistakes don’t make me a failure. Only quitting can do that. Kaizen helped me realize that, as well.
Shoshin means “beginner’s mind.” It means being eager and open to learning and experiencing something new.
Each day is a new day. Kensho has already started my day with a positive success. Kaizen has given me goals and tasks that I earnestly wish to accomplish and continue. And when I wake up, Shoshin says I have a brand new set amount of time to do what I do, to be what I am.
Shoshin is also a philosophy I seek to use throughout my day, by way of learning something new. Most of the time, it happens without any control on my part, such as during my daily reading. But I also love to make it a point to learn something specific, such as a new recipe, a new book author, a new tactic in a video game, or the name of that lovely and tall blonde woman who works at the coffee shop down on the corner. Shoshin is the beginning of things, the mentality that keeps us interested, and interesting, in and to ourselves, and each other.
Zanshin is the “aware mind.” It’s the mental state of knowing that we exist in the present moment, and helps us decide which things that show up in shoshin are the ones we really want to experience, or pass by.
Shoshin is fantastic when it comes to being open-minded to the experiences that arise each day. But, as much as I’d love to, I just simply can’t try to learn them all. I have to be disciplined in what I learn, based on kensho and kaizen. Zanshin is the discipline that allows me to focus on those things, to constantly be aware of the present moment, and of the things in life that could work for or against me.
Zanshin is what keeps me from buying, eating, or drinking unhealthily. Being unhealthy doesn’t fit into my kensho, or kaizen. Since zanshin allows me to be aware of that at all times, I can easily sense those cravings when they happen, know them for what they are, and disregard them. Zanshin will also help me when I go ask tall blonde coffee girl her name. Instead of being the misogynistic creep I used to be, I can be aware of my words, and use them to talk to her in the respectful and honorable manner she deserves.
I know the present moment is the only moment I have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Because I care about life, which fits directly into my kensho, kaizen, and shoshin, there’s no excuse for not paying attention to the presence of my present.
Another rough translation, heijoshin means “peace of mind.” It means being able to have a mind that is calm and steady at all times, to remain calm physically and mentally in severe situations, and to return to a calm mental state at will.
So, after I’ve gone through my day, I come to the end of it and begin to slow down my mind and body. I’ll sit at my desk and note if, when, and how I was able to practice each of the above principles. Recalling my successful daily actions brings me heijoshin, the peace of mind at having been true to myself and others, at having improved myself in some way, at having learned something new, and at having been aware of all these principles, this day.
I have a few grand things I want to accomplish during my life here, things that society at large would consider a success. But it’s my belief that success is made day-by-day in the little things, as long as I keep doing what I know how to do. That’s how, and why, I do every day.
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