1 Percent Better

by Daryl Daughtry, Publisher

How do you go about changing your life for the better? Do you do it 100 percent overnight? The answer is obviously a resounding “no!” However, you can change the direction of your life overnight in several areas. You can accomplish this by deciding to take action in the form of tiny steps that get you 1 percent better and produce measurable results over time.

Changing even a single aspect of your life takes time, dedication, and effort. Humans are creatures of habit, and once our habits have become deeply ingrained into our psyche, we do them over and over again without even having to think about it. This is a mental and physical phenomenon that plays out in your life each and every day.

And yet despite many of us knowing all this intuitively, we still seem to think that we can make huge changes to our lives on a whim. If you’ve ever told yourself that you’re going to lose weight and get into shape or you’re going to get out of debt and start saving or you’re going to sit down and write that best-selling book you’ve been dreaming about … well then you’re guilty.

Those good intentions are great, but there is a better solution to making them a reality. One where you make tiny improvements or take tiny steps toward the goal that you want to see happen. As the old saying goes: even the longest journey starts with a single step. You can absolutely change your life for the better by starting with just a single step and by adding another one and another one until you eventually arrive at your destination. You only have to get 1 percent better every day.

The approach many of us impulsively make towards self-betterment is to try and change everything all at once. The only problem is that this kind of approach completely misunderstands human psychology, and the reality of our busy and ingrained lifestyles.

As though this wasn’t already enough of a challenge, what you probably don’t realize is just how much your headspace is working against you in a situation like this. Our brains are highly plastic. That means they are adaptable to change and can physically restructure themselves according to our behavior or our actions.

You might think that would be good news when trying to form new habits or lose old ones. But in fact, it also works against us. That’s because the brain adapts hard to repeated stimuli. The brain adapts and changes shape according to a very simple rule because neurons that fire together, wire together.

So, if you repeatedly do one thing followed by another, then those two experiences become linked together in the brain over time. Then each time you do those things together you further reinforce and strengthen that link. The connections become insulated and signals travel faster down them. They grow more nodes at the connection points and it eventually gets to the point where you no longer have to think about the association of doing thing A to automatically trigger thing B.

Changing this takes a huge amount of work, and in some cases its nearly impossible. So, to attempt to make this kind of wholesale change across multiple different habits all in one go… well it’s somewhat futile.

At this point, you might now be wondering how this happens. When you lay it all out like that, it appears obvious that making gigantic changes to your routine would never be effective. If that’s true then, why do we still spend our time determining that we’re going to “change our lives starting tomorrow.”

Well, there are a few reasons for that. The first is that it’s simply that much more appealing. Nobody likes the prospect of hard work or of something taking a huge amount of time. On the other hand, the idea that “everything can change” in a single day sounds to us like instant gratification. And so it should come as no huge surprise that we can get caught up in this notion.

Again, the better concept is to make tiny changes to our routine that over time add up to big differences in our overall productivity, happiness, and performance.

An example of this might be to write a page of a book every day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you consider that an average book might have 300 pages… well then you could easily write the whole thing in a year!

Or, what if you were to switch to drinking water and unsweetened beverages instead of drinking sugary drinks every day? That’s not a radical diet change, but it will have a positive impact on your health. And once it becomes a new habit, you’ll be shocked at how you no longer even like the taste of those sugary drinks.

Again, this “1 percent better” principle is about the way in which a single small deviation can have huge benefits when it’s amplified by time. What do I mean by that?

If an airplane took off from Los Angeles headed towards New York City and its direction coordinates were 1 percent or 1 degree off, it would eventually end up on the other side of the country about 180 miles off course. That small deviation in direction would make a big difference over time and distance.

The further we go being off by 1 percent, the bigger the gap to our desired destination or goal becomes. On the other hand, if you started your journey already off your desired path and re-directed yourself each day by 1 percent towards your goal, you will eventually end up arriving at that desired destination.

Life is exactly like this. You might do something only very slightly different every day to get 1 percent better, but over time that will add up to a greater and greater positive effect.

As I often point out, anything that is perceived as difficult, uncertain or strenuous by your brain is mentally categorized as pain. Your brain then attempts to spare you from that perceived pain and signals you to avoid it. This, by the way, is the mother of procrastination.

The good news is that when attempting to get 1 percent better each day by using micro-commitments or baby steps your brain doesn’t resist you. You pass underneath its pain radar and proceed inching closer and closer towards your target.

Over time, these small actions will actually become new habits and routines. Your brain will eventually begin to automatically initiate your baby steps because you’ve trained it to do so. Your brain simply wants to please you and protect you. Your job is to be intentional in telling it exactly what you want so it doesn’t have to guess anymore.

No, you can’t change 100 percent of your life in a day, but you can get 1 percent better on a daily basis by using consistent small steps in the direction your goals. Ask yourself this question… “Are my actions today taking me closer to or further from where I want to go?”