What if I told you that focusing on making tiny 1% improvements in your life would give you a better chance of achieving your goals?
A one percent improvement feels insignificant, and it is. It’s a marginal gain. But compound that 1% improvement over time and you’ll be amazed at how far you go.
The theory of the “aggregation of marginal gains” suggests that improving all areas of your life (and business, relationships, etc…) by 1% margins compounds to give you a solid edge over time.
It worked for the British cycling team when they won the Tour de France in 2012, the first time in the 100 years of the race! The team then went on to win 7 Olympic gold medals in cycling during the London Olympics. And they won the Tour de France again in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
Their coach, Sir Dave Brailsford, applied the principles of marginal gains by making many 1% improvements to how the cyclists trained, how they slept, and their nutrition.
Many of the improvements he made sound inconsequential, such as painting the floor of the team truck white so that they could spot dust more easily, making it easier to keep it (and the bikes) clean and in optimal condition.
Perfection vs. Progression
“Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.” – Sir Dave Brailsford
Seeking perfection tends to hold us back. We focus on the finished product. Success becomes an event, rather than a process.
Rather than chase after perfection, which is unattainable, it’s better to build up a foundation of habits and processes that drive you forward.
For example, let’s say you want to take your blog to the next level as far as income and traffic. Focusing on making great gains in traffic, or revenue isn’t necessarily going to get you anywhere.
What good is more traffic if your content or user experience sucks? What good is a temporary increase in income if you don’t have a marketing plan that can automate that income over the long term?
By focusing on and continually improving ALL areas of your blog (content, user experience, SEO, performance, product offering, landing pages, etc…) by at least 1%, you’ll build a much more successful blog over time.
Your blog may never be perfect, but you’ll take it further by constantly making marginal gains.
When we create goals, we tend to think big. Whether it’s to lose 50 (or 100) pounds, or earn a six-figure income, these goals feel overwhelming and distant when we create them.
And most people fail to actualize them because they are focused the destination, rather than optimizing multiple areas of their lives that would automatically propel them to their goal.
You’ve probably heard that it’s best to break big goals down into smaller steps. While that’s true, it’s even more effective to constantly make marginal gains in all areas of your life to support reaching that goal.
When Tracy lost 40 pounds with green smoothies and a plant-based diet, she didn’t actually go ON a diet. She made a whole bunch of marginal gains that propelled her to her goal.
First, she replaced her breakfast with a green smoothie. Then she began replacing other unhealthy foods with healthier, whole food alternatives.
She started running. She networked with other people who were living the plant-based lifestyle.
She was always improving and tweaking things and over time, the marginal gains that she made lead to a 40 pound weight loss that no diet before that had ever done.
Daily 1% Improvement
There are lots of ways that you can make marginal, 1% gains in your life. Some of these gains might seem inconsequential, but could have a profound effect on your performance.
For example, keeping a clear, uncluttered desk may not be the one thing that boosts your income, or helps you lose 50 pounds, but it could alleviate anxiety, stress, feelings of overwhelmed, and improve your focus.
When you are more focused and less stressed, with a clear desk that reflects peace and calm, you’re more motivated. Your mind feels less cluttered. You are more organized and efficient, and less distracted.
Here are some specific examples of 1% improvements that you can make in your own life:
Swap out one unhealthy snack for a healthy one. Replace a soft drink with water, or tea. Replace breakfast with a green smoothie. Walk for 10 minutes each day. Do 1 push-up. Add an additional push-up every three days.
Save 1% of your income each month. If you make $4,000/month, that will result in a annual savings of $480. Sure, it’s not much, but it’s $480 more than you would have saved otherwise.
You can take it one step further and increase your savings by 1% every 3 months. At the same income level ($4000/month), you will have $1,200 saved up by the end of the year!
You can also cut 1% of your spending. Let’s say that your monthly budget is $3,600. A one percent decrease in spending is $36. Now add it to the 1% of your income that you are saving (1% of $4,000/mo), and now you’re saving $78/month!
You can also apply this to your income. Find ways to raise your income, even if marginally, and you may see a significant boost over the course of a year.
If you freelance or provide a service business, periodically raise your rates by at least 1%. If you make $50,000/year from your business, a 1% increase in income would give you an extra $500/year.
If you sell a product, see if you can increase the value while increasing the profit margins by 1%.
Look for 1% improvements on efficiency, raw materials cost, and other areas of your cost of doing business (both time and money), and you will also boost your profit margin.
Every day, I look at our website and try to find a small tweak that would make an improvement.
I strive to improve the website by 1% every day – either making it load faster, or improve user experience, or update and expand on an old blog post.
If you are seeking a relationship, take small steps every day to meet new people. Create a profile on a dating website. Or sign up for a class where you will meet people with similar interests.
If you are in a relationship, you can improve different aspects of it by going on a date night, or pursuing a new hobby together, or reconnecting through increasing communication.
Take small steps to improve your social life. Let go people who bring drama and stress into your life. Attend a Meetup group. Join a club where you will meet people who love the same things you do. Decide to tackle social anxiety, bit by bit.
Don’t feel like you have to conquer the world just to strive for a goal. Look for areas in your life, your business, and your relationships where you can make marginal gains. Then build upon those gains.
Even if you make a 1% improvement in 100 different aspects of your life, imagine how much better your life will be.
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