James Clear explains one of the most powerful success principles in his best-selling book Atomic Habits. With his 1% rule of improvement, he explains how the math works to create a 37.78-times improvement over a year when the gain happens daily. That’s a 37.78 multiplier of effort for small incremental gains. His lesson explains, from a mathematical perspective, the power of compounding returns. Let’s discuss how this principle of success works.
Image Credit: @JamesClear
People are unable to stay with new good habits because they don’t see results fast enough, and they also don’t have a clear understanding of how success works. The 1% rule shows that huge success can come in small steps that lead to huge gains. Whether in finance, investing, trading, business, sports, weight, fitness, publishing, social media, or any other field that requires consistent improvement, some version of this model will create eventual long-term results based on your goals. Of course, the 1% gain is used as an example, and the consistency of compounding is only to show this model; every endeavor and system user will have different inputs and results. However, this clearly shows the power of just 1% daily gains with a 3778% improvement in one year. Few people would have guessed that math.
The point is if you improve just a little every day, consistently over time, you can create massive success. Few people look at the power of small consistent daily improvement as most want the instant gratification of big sudden success. That’s rarely how anything works, as success must be built over time and be structured with the proper habits to last.
Make time to create new habits
Improving and creating new habits is much easier when you replace bad habits with new good ones. If you plan it right, eating a healthy breakfast shouldn’t take any longer than eating an unhealthy breakfast. You get better when you change your habits incrementally overtime—every day being a little better than the previous day. On day one, you may only eat a healthy breakfast; on day two, you may add drinking one glass of water; over time, you snowball these small changes to overall success. Insert good habits into your life where they take no more time than bad habits to get started.
Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower
The way to overcome the difficult first steps is to start at whatever level you can do today and then do a little better tomorrow. The important thing is to start on the path to your goals, do one pushup, save one dollar, drink one glass of water, read one page of a book, or meditate for one minute. You can begin at whatever incremental level you can do today, then do a little more tomorrow and the next day, etc. Taking the first step is more important than the quantity or magnitude of it. The power comes from consistent daily improvement and growth; whatever that level is will add up to a big change over time.
Design your environment to make success easier
Set yourself up today for your new habit tomorrow. Buy healthy foods, get an exercise mat, skip spending money so you can save some, and put your jogging shoes by the door; whatever your next step is tomorrow, prepare for it today. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to keep improving on your desired growth through habits. Remove as much friction as possible from your path to doing what you need to do tomorrow.
Get back on track if you break your good habits
When you keep your chain of unbroken incremental improvements going for days, weeks, and months, it can be a fun game that starts to show results; however, breaking the chain of improvement and actions by missing a day can hurt you mentally. The key is to understand that one day doesn’t change all your other improvement, and you are just one action from getting back on track today. You don’t need to give up or feel like you are starting all over again from the start at zero. Just get back on track immediately and keep going in the right direction. Start your chain of gains back where you left off, like the one missed day was an anomaly. Remember your original goal, write it down, and don’t give up on it.
How to break out to high levels of success
The biggest barrier to success is that you must do so much work for so long with little results before you finally get the big wins. Most rational people don’t see the value and quit early in the journey because, at that point, the benefits are not worth the effort. They are right at that moment, but it’s the people that stubbornly keep going and focused on their own vision are the ones that eventually break through. Losing weight, getting in shape, and reading consistently can be huge challenges to most people; it’s no wonder few succeed in much more difficult pursuits like business, investing, academics, and professional careers.
Another secret to success through habits is to create a system for success through consistent quantified actions inside a framework designed to accomplish specific goals. You are focusing on the long-term execution of that system with an edge and not the short-term daily results, which can be variable over time. It is crucial for players in sports to keep their eyes on the field and not the scoreboard during the game, and sticking to the strategy for improved habits is no different. Success is following your daily habit improvement strategy, not on that day’s results of success or failure. Focus on execution; then, results will take care of themselves over time. To the outside world, what you did will look easy, but you will know the power was in the process and the math.
I highly recommend James Clear’s book Atomic Habits to anyone interested in self-improvement and success; it can change your life. It’s one of the top ten books I have read out of over 1,500 nonfiction books over the past 30 years. Its consistent sales rank reflects my opinion.
Focus on your current trajectory, not your current results.
1% better every day. pic.twitter.com/S6g7ENhqEH
— James Clear (@JamesClear) January 1, 2020