One percent progress

All of us know the saying, “small drops of water can make a big ocean”. We also know the fact millions and trillions of cells make our human body. Likewise, do you agree that the small progresses can lead us to reach our bigger goals?

People most often see one moment as defining and overestimate it. We usually do not credit the small improvements or progress we achieve daily. Most of us believe big success requires huge actions. However, this article talks about the other side of the coin, the significance of the small actions and their impacts on success.

In most of the day to day situations we are extra hard on ourselves. We demand ourselves to instantly bring in a huge change that is noticeable by everyone. Some of such situations are:

  • Scoring more
  • Adapting to a change (to a new hostel, to a new grade, to a new group of friends or teachers, a new set of subjects or syllabus)
  • Mastering a skill (learning to be independent, learning to focus and concentrate better, planning and executing a skill effectively, learning to socialize better, learning to be patient)
  • Achieving any other goal (to crack a competitive exam, to master a particular subject, to listen to classes more attentively, to understand a concept better)

On the other hand, one percent progress can be understood as the smallest possible improvement one can make in a day. What could be such small progresses according to you? It can be as small as completing just a chapter or just not postponing work that day. Isn’t it true that we feel a little satisfied when we do these rather than not doing anything at all?  Though these progresses might be so tiny that they are not noticeable, these one percent improvements are the ones that compound. However, they are more meaningful in the long run or over time. They are not added up but are compounded to make up for the successful moment that is noticeable.

To better understand, let us remind ourselves of the story where a rat helps a lion that is trapped in a net. To set the lion free, the rat begins to bite the net. As it a huge net, it takes so long, however, the rat never gives up but takes it one small bite at a time that eventually breaks the big net. And the rat becomes successful in helping his friend, the lion. What do you think might have happened if the rat gives up in the middle? Do you think the rat could have experienced its success to the end, how its efforts have paid off at last?

However, acknowledging these one percent changes is difficult to accept and appreciate in daily life. Because, they are not taken seriously as they do not seem rewarding or reinforcing at the moment. For example, if we go to the gym for three days in a row, there is not much change that can be noticed in our bodies. This could be one of the major reasons why people slide back into their previous routines. One such habit is procrastination which may lead to demotivation or self-doubt. However, what difference do you think we can observe if we show up at the gym regularly without giving up for a few months?

Considering the system, we work in, it requires hard work to be motivated about the tiny progresses we make. Some of such factors include:

  • Competition
  • Pace of the academic program
  • Expectations from others
  • Expectations on ourselves

What else do you think can be added to the above list?

We tend to give up on certain things because of how the consequences of the errors we make show up slowly but not immediately. Let us understand this with a couple of examples. If we eat unhealthy today, we may not fall sick or see changes in our bodies instantly. But your health gets deteriorated in the long run. Likewise, if we put our today’s homework off till tomorrow, we may still have some time to complete that work. And it gets overwhelming to complete all of it a few hours before the class starts. Hence, continuing to do one percent errors repeatedly may lead us to fall out of our plans made to reach our goals. 

As quoted in the book, Atomic Habits, the impact of the one percent improvements can be understood with the following analogy. Let’s say the route of an airplane is shifted by just a few degrees. A flight flying from Los Angeles to New York City might end up landing in Washington, D.C., (which is hundreds of miles apart) if the heading route is adjusted by just 3.5 degrees south. This is such a small change that is barely noticeable while take off. In our day to day life, the time we spend on our mobile phones (for instance using social media) follows the above analogy. We think of using our mobiles for some time as a part of recreation when we take breaks while studying. However, we end up adding a few more minutes to that some time. And the break time turns out to be one of our major distractions resulting in not being able to concentrate on studies. We lose the momentum of studying, isn’t it? It is like a Dominos effect, one degree on a healthier side or unhealthier side can lead us to very different situations. And it can decide if or not we are sticking to our plans and reaching our goals.

Another similar analogy is how a cube of ice starts to melt when it reaches its melting point. Imagine the cube is put in box similar to a refrigerator whose temperature can be regulated. Now the temperature of the box is gradually increased one degree at a time using a regulator. The cube of ice starts to melt only when the temperature reaches its melting point. The shift in one degree to reach the melting point of ice has led to observable huge change. Similarly, by just studying what was taught that day might not make you do well in your exam. But continuing to do it every day and finishing the syllabus before your exam date helps you score well. Hence, success moments often are the result of multiple previous smaller progresses we make regularly rather than just that one effort done overnight.

Certain factors that make it easy to stick to the plan to achieve our goals are:

  • Continue to make the tiny progress every day
  • Be persistent in making the tiny efforts
  • Appreciate and reward yourself for the progress you have made
  • Bringing together all the progresses you have made till now

Therefore, the whole objective of gaining effective and consistent results starts with making day to day small progresses. And it is not a single one percent improvement but hundreds and thousands of them that help us reach our goal. Therefore, the key to getting lasting results is to continue making these little improvements.

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

-James Clear

Motupalli Sai Sreyashi

Development Coach

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