It’d be really nice if you could snap your fingers and get what you wanted, just like that—get in shape, land a promotion, finish 20 books.
However, as life goes, it doesn’t work this way. Change takes time and energy—getting in shape means a lifetime commitment to changing your diet and exercise, getting a promotion requires diligent work and commitment, and finishing 20 books requires, well, actually sitting down and reading.
When we consider the “time” factor it starts to freak us out. We get eager, binge on our habit for a week maybe, and give up when it gets too hard and there doesn’t appear to be any enhancements.
So, how about we change our mindset? I’m not suggesting we give up the hope of ever reaching those big goals. I’m merely stating that we become more patient in how we build up our habits.
James Altucher, author and investor, posted a pretty awesome perspective to this on Quora.
His advice? Just do 1% better every day:
What does 1% a day mean? Nothing really. It just means get a little better each day. It’s hard to quantify. But the important thing to know is this: 1% better each day, compounded, is 3800% better each year. 1% worse each day, compounded, means you lose 97% of value each year.
3,800% better? When you put it like that, doesn’t that roll out those little improvements appear to be quite a lot more important? Actually, it appears to be almost too good to be true that putting in minimal effort on a daily basis can result in such a huge output. But when you break it down, it’s really not.
So, as he asks, what precisely does it look like to improve every day? Well, let’s think about that promotion. Maybe tomorrow you grab coffee with someone above you and you talk about a process that seems to be moving slowly, so the next day you brainstorm a new project that could streamline it. The next day you ask a co-worker for feedback on your idea. And so on and so forth.
Sure, that effort might take months, even most of the year, to be recognized. But it makes it possible for you to see a major improvement that didn’t seem all that labor-intensive to get to.
Instead of focusing on the end goal, or the time it takes to get there, let’s start focusing on the little percentages we add every day.
Not just because this is 10 times easier than the alternative, but because in the long run we’ll have made that much more of a difference for ourselves—as long as we stick to it.