Why does it seem so natural to think we can or should make big changes to our lives (our habits, personalities, behaviors, achievements, circumstances, etc.) in one fell swoop? The evidence clearly indicates that those kinds of changes take time, commitment and dedication, and tackling smaller goals that will lead up to the big aspirations. Baby steps, right? We squirm, then crawl, then stand, then walk, and then practicing walking, then run, and so on. There is a progression toward excellence.
Most parents wouldn’t push for their child to walk before he had gone through those other stages first. Why, then, as adults do we insist on greatness without first experiencing smaller accomplishments and some bumps and bruises along the way? As adults, we seem to have two conflicting desires: to achieve a level of excellence we intrinsically know we are capable of and to avoid the discomfort of the change that would be required to grow. I’m always looking for the ways through this dilemma of a desire to evolve but simultaneous resistance to it.
I just read The 1% Solution for Work and Life by Tom Connellan and I think the process the author lays out makes a lot of sense and provides great self-coaching options to reach your life and work goals. What I appreciated so much about the book is that it reminded me that I don’t have to be perfect and I don’t have to (nor is it a realistic to) achieve my big lofty goals overnight. Instead, I can practice being better at one specific thing each day for a month with the goal to improve that one area by just one percent. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. And when you’re continually stretching yourself to be one percent better than you were the day before every day, you’ll find yourself reaching new heights in many areas of your life that far exceed a single percent.
Your Call to Action!
You'll want to work at that 1% improvement each day for 30 days so that it becomes more natural and automatic for you. Here is a great exercise that was in the book that I invite you to try now: Put your arms out in front of you and then clasp your hands together, fingers interlocked. Note which thumb is on top. Now unclasp your hands and re-clasp them with the opposite finger on top. How does that feel? Pretty weird, right? Even if it’s in your best interest, change will feel uncomfortable at first. The daily practice will get you past that discomfort and closer to your aspirations.
What one specific goal could you work toward every day that would have the biggest impact on your life? Got one? Okay, then think of the various actions you could try and then each day for 30 days. Finally, put those baby steps toward being better than you were the day before into motion. For example, maybe you want to be 1% more connected with your employees. Every day you could take actions like striking up conversation to learn more about your team members or making time for a daily team huddle. Stretch yourself a bit outside of your comfort zone and your comfort zone will shift with your new growth.