The power of tiny gains

The power of tiny gains

Underestimating the power of tiny gains that accumulate over time is surprisingly easy. But why? We all appreciate the benefit of compound interest, and this is precisely the same concept.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, explains that by aligning your goals to your daily habits you have a greater chance of achieving success. A habit is a mental shortcut that allows you to solve a problem without a lot of mental energy – like an autopilot. By building lasting habits our behaviour changes and through this change we are able to reach our goals.

Setting yourself up to succeed

Clear believes that “you do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems”. So, by effectively setting up your systems to create habits, you are more likely to achieve your goals. He suggests the following:

Arrange your physical environment

Set up your living environment (your systems) so that you are more likely to do things that will achieve the way you want to live (your goals). If you want to spend less time on your phone, put the charger at the front door. If you want to eat more fruit, put a fruit bowl in an obvious place in your living area. Or if you want to watch less TV, remove it from the central position in your house. So, walk around your home or your office and look at what you have and where it is. Then ask yourself whether this supports what you want to achieve.

Make a commitment

Make a choice that locks in future habits. You’re less likely to press snooze on the alarm that wakes you up for an early morning walk if you’ve arranged to meet a friend. If you want to start
saving, set up a monthly debit order.

Start off easy

Begin with baby steps. If you want to start reading more, don’t aim to read a book in a week; start with a small goal of reading 3 pages each night. You’ll soon find it easy to increase the number of pages.

Make it satisfying

Appreciate your progress. Get a one-page year planner where you can mark an X whenever you complete a goal. You’ll be motivated to keep the chain of Xs going. And don’t break the chain! Have a philosophy of ‘never miss twice’ so that you can prevent missing a goal from becoming the new habit.

The exponential improvement from the power of a tiny gain

If the expert opinion isn’t enough to convince you of the power of tiny gains, just look at the graph. A goal of 1% better every day leads to becoming 37 times better over the course of a year. Now, doesn’t that small 1% effort seem worth it?

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