It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of our goals and underestimate the value of our daily actions. Instant gratification somehow convinces us that accomplishing enormous success requires enormous efforts. If we need to lose weight, build a business, write a book, learn a language, win a competition, or achieve any of our goals, we often jump the gun and aim to win the race with no idea how to get out of the blocks effectively and run with the most efficient technique. We go for it; it’s an all or nothing approach these days!
Imagine you’re an animal roaming the plains of Africa. On any given day your decisions have an immediate impact. You’re thinking about what to eat, where to sleep, or how to avoid getting eaten by a predator. You’re constantly focused on the present or the very near future. You live in what scientists call an immediate-return environment because your actions instantly deliver clear and immediate outcomes.
Now switch back to your human life. In our modern society, many of your daily choices will not benefit you immediately. If you exercise today, perhaps you won’t be overweight next year. If you do an excellent job at work, you’ll get a paycheck in a few weeks. If you can save money now, maybe you’ll have enough for retirement in the future. You live in what scientists call a delayed-return environment because you can work at a particular goal for years before your actions deliver the intended payoff.
Stop looking for immediate returns and start thinking about the delayed returns
What if you only needed to improve by 1% each day? Most of us don’t consider the impacts of small behaviour changes because it's not something that will get you noticed. 1% isn’t even noticeable; how can 1% get you Instagram or Facebook likes? There is no instant gratification and no short-term payoff. However, this insignificant 1% can be far more meaningful in the larger game of life.
As the saying goes, "From little things, big things grow", and if you plant the tiny seed, and take good care of it, over time, you will cultivate enormous growth. If you can accomplish a 1% improvement each day for one year, you’ll be thirty-seven times better than you are today! On the flip side, if you get 1% worse each day for one year, you decline rather quickly. A mix of good and bad behaviours will see you move nowhere. Those who use physical activity as an excuse to eat a poor diet are a testament to this; they never reach their goals. What starts as a small behaviour change for the positive, or the negative, can quickly accumulate into something far more significant.
Top level performance is all about the 1%ers
Elite performers will often quantify, measure and track their progress in various ways. Each little measurement provides feedback on whether they are making progress or if they need to change course. The margin between good and great is narrower than it seems, even 1% can be the difference between success and failure.
Small differences in performance can lead to unequal distributions when repeated over time. When it comes to building successful habits, feedback is often delayed. You must be patient and willing to invest both time and effort. Habits are the compounding interest of self-improvement, the same way your bank account multiplies through compound interest. The small daily interest won’t seem to make much of a difference, but over the months and the years, the value can be enormous. It’s only when you look back 5 or even 10 years later that you realise the impact of the right habits and the cost of the bad ones. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
What you eat today will have a direct impact on your health and longevity in the future
Your physical activity levels today will dictate your strength, fitness and energy levels in the future
You stress and anxiety today will impact your health, performance and mood in the future
Your social connections, your sleeping routine, your work/life balance, your alcohol consumption, etc.. Every single decision has a REAL IMPACT..
This is a complicated concept for many to grasp and we often dismiss the idea of small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much at the moment.
If you go to the gym three days in a row, you’re still out of shape.
If you eat only real whole foods for 5-days in a row, you still don’t have a six-pack
If you meditate for 20minutes every day for a week, you still feel anxious and stressed.
If results are not instantaneous we seem to be able to ignore the impacts of our regular routines and continue to dream about our goals. Habit formation is a long race and no matter your goals and motivation a sustainable day-to-day action plan must be followed.
If you eat an unhealthy meal today, the scale won’t move much.
If you stay up later and get less sleep, you can always catch up on the weekend.
If you work late and ignore your family, they will forgive you.
A single decision is easy to ignore. For every 1% of errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, repeating small mistakes, and rationalising excuses, our small choices compound into harmful results. A 1% decline here and there in diet, sleep, physical activity, social interactions, and/or stress management can lead to poor health, poor performance and even a decrease in your life expectancy.
A 1% change in your daily habits can take your life in a very different direction. Making your day 1% better or 1% worse may seem insignificant at the moment, but over a lifetime every single choice determines the difference between who you are are, and who you could be. Your success in life is a product of your daily habits and not a once of accomplishment.
Your trajectory should be far more concerning than your current level of results. If you have a million dollars in the bank, but you are spending more than you are earning each month, then you're on a bad trajectory. If you’re broke and you manage to save a little money each month, you’re on a path towards financial freedom. Your outcomes are measured by the daily habits you put into practice.
Your net worth is a measure of your saving and spending habits.
Your weight is a measure of your eating habits.
Your clutter is a measure of your cleaning habits.
Your sleep is a measure of your sleeping habits.
Are you eating more healthy or unhealthy meals each month?
Are you spending more than you are earning each month?
Are you training and resting enough to achieve your strength and fitness goals?
Are you spending time with the people you care about?
Are you managing your feelings anxiety and stressed with mindfulness activities?
Your daily habits are a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut you down just as easily good habits can build you up. Time will multiply whatever you feed it.
Good habits make time your friend. Bad habits make time your enemy. How you choose to invest your time will directly impact your performance, health and longevity in the future. There are times when you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as the positive 1% outnumber the negative 1% then you are heading in the right direction, how fast you move depends on the ratio of positive and negative per cent.