3 Steps to Improve Yourself Forever
Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time. — Albert Einstein
By John Millen
Think about a time you’ve tried to achieve change, perhaps to lose weight, exercise more often, increase sales, or develop new skills at work.
Most of us want to improve our business or personal lives. So we often set big goals, and start strong with great effort and enthusiasm. Over time we plateau, we back off the effort, and we may even reduce or abandon the goal.
Here are three steps to improve yourself forever.
1. Start with a small habit change
The secret to long-term change, it turns out, is small, sometimes imperceptible, changes of habit.
As John Wooden, the late Hall of Fame college basketball coach, said, “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning.
“Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts,” Wooden said.
James Clear argues for the power of small changes in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. This is one of my five favorite books for habit change.
Clear calls habits “the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.”
2. Improve by one-percent
Clear cites the effects of simply improving one percent every day. If you were to improve at an activity one percent, you would improve results by thirty-seven times in a year!
Think about that in the context of what you’re trying to improve: one more sales call per day, one healthy meal per day, one short walk per day. A one percent consistent, positive movement can improve your results by thirty-seven times over the next year.
“This can be a difficult concept to appreciate in daily life. We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment,” Clear writes. “It is only when looking back over two, five or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
3. Practice continuous improvement
I have a client, the CEO of a Fortune 500, who is leading a massive change initiative. He often refers to Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement.
He asks his leaders and associates to take personal responsibility for change by improving their own work and skills every day, which will contribute to the whole company’s success.
It’s bringing our attention to the micro, to the incremental, that creates lasting change.
I learned the power of consistent improvement when I trained for a marathon some years ago. While I’ve had a life-long devotion to fitness, 26.2 miles at once seemed daunting.
But as I followed a training plan that slowly added mileage each week, I soon found myself happily crossing the finish line of my first marathon.
Nowadays, I walk or run at least 10,000 steps a day. Until you do the math, you don't realize the compounding effect of this daily action.
If you walk 10,000 steps for one hundred days, a little over three months, you've walked one million steps!
This is the secret to long-term, sustainable change. Develop a simple habit or process that you can repeat every day.
What can you improve one percent every day that will improve results in your life or business by thirty-seven percent after a year?
If you have thoughts, feedback or questions for me, visit my contact page to connect with me directly.