There is a Japanese business concept, Kaizen, which means “continuous improvement.” This is the process that built Toyota Motor Company. It’s the process that ancient samurai warriors used to prepare for battle. It’s also the process that you and I can use to become better versions of ourselves.
It’s January, which means that most of us are setting resolutions that we’ll drop before The Super Bowl shows up in February. It’s easy to sit down and write down all of your goals for the upcoming year: the money you want to make, the weight you want to lose, the lifestyle you want to attain. It’s another thing entirely to make those goals a reality.
Most people see these goals and think that a dramatic, life-altering event takes us from point A to B. That couldn’t be less true. The way to make these changes is by getting 1% better each day.
The way to get rich isn’t with a lottery ticket; it’s learning to earn, save and invest consistently over time. The best way to get healthy isn’t a crash diet; it’s eating nutrient-rich foods and moving your body.
Bestselling author James Clear helps to make this point in the below visual. Every day we have the opportunity to either get 1% better or 1% worse.
As you can see, these tiny gains add up over time. If you get 1% better each day consistently, you create a compound interest on that growth that skyrockets you upward.
Here’s the point: the people that focus on getting 1% better each day will improve by 37X at the end of the year. Imagine your skillset now and where you could be if you were 37X better. It comes from small, daily improvements.
I promise that if you get 37X better at something, your life will significantly improve. Imagine your finances, your health, your relationship – your life – 37X at the end of this year. That’s insanely powerful.
So it’s really not about going balls to the walls every second. Life is a long game and the past is filled with stories of people who came out of the gates hot and burned out.
So, what does 1% better even mean? How do we track it? It’s all dependent on your goals, but here are a few examples:
- Spending an hour prospecting to find new clients for your business
- Eating a salad for lunch
- Writing even just one paragraph of your novel
- Calling your boyfriend to say goodnight
- Carving out five minutes to think of things you’re grateful for
Not bad, right?
Well, as important as getting 1% better is, it’s equally important to not fall into the 1% worse trap. 1% worse happens more often than we’d like to admit:
- Canceling a meeting “just this once” because you’re not feeling it
- Falling back asleep in the morning instead of getting up for the run you planned on
- Skipping your weekly guitar lesson
- Checking email the second you wake up, sending your anxiety through the roof
There is a part of Nike Founder Phil Knight’s Memoir, Shoe Dog, where Knight relives the experience of going public with Nike. After winning a tense negotiation with the investment bankers, Nike was set to go public, earning Knight and his team a handsome paycheck.
That evening, Knight tells himself “The first part is behind us. But it’s only the first part.”
“I fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke up it was cold and rainy. I went to the window. The trees were dripping water. Everything was mist and fog. The world was the same as it had been the day before, as it had always been. Nothing had changed, least of all me. And yet I was worth $178 million.
I showered, ate breakfast, drove to work. I was at my desk before anyone else.”
I get chills just reading that. It didn’t matter that Knight had just made more money than most of us can even fathom. Because his mission was far from over. And he knew that one day – good or bad – wasn’t going to change him. Rather, a consistent effort of 1% better each day would be the only way. Phl Knight understood Kaizen.
Your life doesn’t change in wild swings of fortune; it changes because of the small, daily choices you make.
Your life will change wildly in the long run with a focus on getting 1% better today.