January 27, 2021

Small Changes, Big Improvement

Everyone wants to make a big splash.

We all want the rags-to-riches, overnight success story. But that’s not how life works.

We’ve been told that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but most of us don’t listen. We want a shortcut, so we resort to “hacks” and “secrets” and quit when we don’t see immediate change.

It’s small changes that make a big difference. Instead of focusing on the large improvement we desire, focus on small improvements you must make every single day to get there.

Overnight Success

 Our “overnight” success took 1,000 days.

         – Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, Inc.

We all want the amazing transformation story.

Stories circulate about “the woman who lost 100 pounds in a year.” We can’t help but think what if that was me.

So, we begin our own transformation journey. We stick a picture of the news story that inspired us on the wall next to our desk. This is the beginning of something special.

At first, it goes well. We go to the gym consistently for a few weeks, eat all the right foods.

A month goes by. You look in the mirror and see a little improvement, but nothing close to the woman in the news story.

So, you begin to feel defeated. You give up.

The problem is the news story didn’t talk about the journey. It only showed the before and after.

It didn’t show all the hard work and exercise the woman persevered through – all the times she struggled to deny delicious deserts she knew were unhealthy. It just showed the before and after photos.

It’s not about the after picture. It’s about the systems the woman used to lose weight that made her successful.

Setting big goals is important, but can also be detrimental. People often focus too much on the end-result, become overwhelmed that they are not anywhere near where they want to be and quit.

The person who wanted to lose 100 pounds may have lost 5 pounds in her first month. That’s great progress for a month, but by looking at her overall goal of 100 pounds and comparing it to the mere 5 pounds she had shed so far, she will become overwhelmed and likely quit.

Getting 1% Better Everyday

“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”

– James Clear, author and entrepreneur

It’s not bad to look at the woman who underwent an amazing weight loss transformation. It’s an inspiring story.

The problem becomes when the goal overwhelms us. We look at ourselves now and become disheartened about the amount of progress we must make. This is when goals become dangerous.

The issue with many self-help books is they present the “goal” as the end-all-be-all. Your goal should just be a roadmap. Systems are what get you there.

Look at your goal and ask yourself, what steps do I need to take to get there? What skills do I need to develop to get closer to that goal?

Define which areas you must develop to reach your goal. After, instead of focusing on the end goal and constantly comparing yourself to it, focus on getting better in each of these areas every single day. Even if only 1% better, you’re still getting closer to reaching that goal.

At the end of the day, don’t look at yourself and say “I still have so much farther to go.” Look at yourself and say “I am closer to my goal than I was when I woke up today.”

Easier Said Than Done

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”

                                                                                                    – Jacob Riis, journalist and photographer

Making consistent small improvements is easier said than done.

Small changes don’t make a huge difference day-by-day and are difficult to notice. Many give up before they start to see noticeable improvements.

Someone with the goal of getting into great shape may decide that the system of going to the gym after work 4 times per week will get him there. He does that for a month but doesn’t see much improvement.

Then, one day, he left his office feeling tired. According to his system, he should have been heading to the gym.

He told himself “what’s the big deal if I skip one day at the gym this week? I’m not getting great results anyway.”

This is dangerous and often is a slippery slope to giving up on a goal altogether.

A single decision is easy to dismiss. But reaching any major goal is done by making many single decisions, so each one should not be taken lightly.

Every small decision matters. Each one is a chance to incrementally get closer to your goal.

Applying this to networking

I’ve heard people complain about this with their networking.

They go to a few networking events and complain. “This isn’t doing anything for my business!” they say.

Networking is also about making 1% improvements every day.

Every time you meet a new connection, don’t think of the larger goal of making more money for your business. Think of how you’re making your network 1% larger, which is a stepping-stone to making money through networking.

Every time you nurture a relationship with an existing connection, do the same. Look to improve your relationship by 1% during that meeting. That is the stepping-stone to the eventual goal of doing business with this connection.

Think about your goals – with your business, with your family, with your life.

Then, think about what areas you’d need to improve in to reach those goals. Think… how can I improve these areas by 1%, TODAY? Not tomorrow, or the next today. That’s irrelevant. It’s about becoming 1% better today.

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