Have you ever tried to actually measure how good you are at something? If you're in sales you measure success by how many sales you make.
If you are a social media influencer you measure success by how many followers you have and who engages with your content.
In the previous examples the results are there, but how do we know if we are getting better at something?
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear shares a story about Dave Brailsford who took the English Bicycle team from nothing to winning the Tour de France and Olympic Gold in only 4 years. It was no small feat.
The process that Brailsford used is called the aggregation of marginal gains. The process requires getting 1 percent better by breaking things down into small micro-steps
I love the idea of getting 1 percent better every day. But how do we measure that kind of improvement?
It's not like there is an app you can put on your phone and put in a few numbers and it outputs you got .012% better today. I had to think a little harder about this and understand what it really means to become 1 percent better.
Improvement is a process, not a result
We often think that if I do X, Y, and Z we are going to get a certain result. We sometimes looked at life as an equation, if we plug in the variables and solve for X, poof life is successful.
It is a little messier than that. We often want results to happen quickly. "I want to be a billionaire, I want lose weight, or I want to learn more, but when it comes to doing the work that is where we shrink a little.
Improvement is a process and it takes time.
Here is a good way to think about improvement. If we want to make any improvement in life we need to create the desired change that needs to be consistent over time with adequate will power and motivation.
D= Desire to change
W = Will Power (persistence)
It's the desire to change over time plus persistence and motivation that create the results.
(D * T) + (W * M) = Results
The only thing that slows us down is the rate of change of our desire, that's our momentum, and that can happen for a lot of reasons. If our desire stays strong, we can get results.
1 Percent Improvements are about choices
Do you know how many choices we make in a day? 35,000 or at least 1 decision every 2 seconds. That is a mind-blowing number.
I would say measuring how we get better with every decision is impossible, but if we make a series of better decisions more often its possible to see slow and steady improvement and that is the idea behind 1 percent improvement.
If we make a 1 percent improvements over a year here is what a graph would look like
source: James Clear - Atomic Habits
The curve would as you can see moves upward, but within that are micro-decisions that are moving us up and down on that curve more like this:
source: James Clear - Atomic Habits
It is pretty evident that if we string together good choices in a series, even if we go back a few times. The trajectory is still higher on the curve.
We can also start making bad decisions, intermixed with some good decisions and the curve would trend lower.
Here are a few examples:
Weight Training - If you go to the gym and you miss a week every so often, but consistently string together weeks and months, by the end of the year you will probably be pretty healthy.
Relationship - If you take your wife out only a few times a year, and because you feel unfilled have an afair, even though you took her out a few times. It doesn't make upfor a series of bad choices
Entrepreneurship - Your are on LinkedIn regularly, you post some thoughts, particiapate in the community, maybe you skip a week here or there, but consistently do that for years. The result of those decisions could help you start a busines or connect with new opportunities.
What 1 percent really means.
It means making better choices and improving our process to make those choices. Its difficult to say what the results might be. We know if we have the desire to change and the persistance to pursue what we want results will come and they are usually positive.