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The 1% rule applied to personal growth, health & fitness

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Have you read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear? if you haven't I really recommend it! it's one of the best personal development / growth books that I have read. You can find it here.

In the book, James Clear talks about the 1% rule. Basically this law of the 1% is the idea of improving by 1% every day.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't.

Habits are the “compound interest of self-improvement.” If you can get just one percent better at something each day, by the end of a year (365 days) you will be 37 times better. Conversely, if you get 1% worse each day, the skill will have diminished to almost nothing at the end of a year.

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.

Getting one percent better can be as simple as reading one page of a book per day, or driving all the way to the gym and exercising for only five minutes. James refers to this as “the art of showing up.” By practicing the basic decision to “show up” for these activities you can train yourself to overcome your objections and actually start.  You’re less likely to quit on yourself when the decision to change is small and simple.

James recommends a “two-minute” rule for habits: whatever habit you’re trying to build, scale it down to just two minutes or less. For example, If your desire is to read 50 books in a year, dial it back to a goal of reading one page per day. You have the flexibility to read and do more, but you can do something simple and feel success rather than failure while learning to “show up” for your goal. Once you’ve mastered it you can optimize and improve as needed.

But even before you get to that stage, ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. If you want to get healthy, ask yourself each morning, “What would a healthy person do?” If you want to be a writer, ask yourself, “What would a writer do?”

I decided to apply this 1% rule to my personal growth and my health and fitness and have seen that compound effect that James explains. Let me share how I did it.

Those who know me would not be surprise when I say that personal growth is very important for me. I am driven by learning new things and growing personally. My health is also one of my priorities. When I talk about health I am not referring to how I look, but rather how I feel.

Keeping those priorities in mind, the first I did was to visualize my future self. I visualize myself being successful in the space of personal growth and being in the best health and shape of my life. I asked myself what would my future best self do if she was in my position today, trying to accelerate my personal growth and live a healthy life. I described my future self as someone who is curious, consistent, determined, open minded, a reader, a learner, she is resilient and a good listener, someone who is not afraid of failure. She is always full of energy and feels at her best. She is flexible and strong and feels in control.

Then I answered the question: How would a day in the life of that future best version of myself would look like? Some of the things I came up with included: spending 60 minutes every day in learning, having a consistent morning and evening routine, journaling, practicing gratitude and self-reflection daily, being open to new perspectives and points of view. The healthiest version of myself wakes up early to get her workout in, she looks forward to move her body, she eats to fuel her body, drinks lots of water, sleeps well, has consistent routines, and never gives up.

My goal became not to invest x amount of minutes a day in personal growth or working out three times a week, but rather to become that future version of myself. My goal is to be that best version of myself I saw in my vision. That is my motivation every day to act in the way she would, because if I act how she would over time I will become her. I know is not realistic to try to adopt all the habits, all the daily rituals, all the things at once, but rather I focus on progress, a 1% progress every day.

It has been two years since I started this journey and let me tell you that I have become that future version of myself. I am investing 60 minutes every day in personal growth and learning, I am waking up 2 hours before everyone else in my house to practice gratitude every day, so get my workout done six days a week, I drink consistently over half my body weight in ounces of water every single day. I have embrace self-reflection and adopted consistent morning and evening routines. In the last two years I have grown personally and as a leader more than in the last ten years. I feel full of energy, and I am in the best shape of my life.

All that did not happened overnight. It took me two years of focusing on improving just 1% every day. Many times I woke up and got as far as putting my tennis shoes on but struggled to hit play on that workout. But it was ok, because just waking up was a win. In a few months, I was looking forward to wake up, I even wake up before my alarm goes off many times. I have not missed one workout, or one day of writing down the things I am grateful for.

How does being 1% better than yesterday look like? Well, for me being 1% better every day looks like this:

  • When I am ready to give up on those reps when working out, I go for an extra repetition, or two more minutes.

  • When I hit my daily water intake, I go for an extra glass or at list an extra sip.

  • When the alarm goes off and you want to hit snooze, I jump off the bed. Because, if you snooze, you loose.

  • When I see that online training that feels I have no time to fit in my agenda, I sign up and figure it out later.

  • Every month when I set goals, I increase the bar just an inch.

  • When the 30 minutes of reading is up, I go for an extra page.

  • I block time (15 minutes to be exactly) every day to write. Renegades of the quality of what I write, I write for at least five of those fifteen minutes.

Learn more about the 1% rule here.

And don't missed my latest podcast episode. I hosted a virtual book club with some friends on the Atomic Habits book.

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