The law of incremental gains leads to exponential growth, but you need to be consistent.
It is a simple, voluntary life formula, able to extrapolate immeasurable positive future rewards. Sacrifice today, accrue tomorrow.
Be better than you were yesterday.
This simple motto has grounded its way into my daily approach to life over the last month. I wake up, dust off the lethargic cobwebs of the night, and before rising to self-medicate with the essential pre-consciousness catalyst of coffee, I faintly map out a plan – a goal that will give my day meaning. The goal is simple: How will I best utilize the hours of my day to ensure that I go to sleep fractionally better off than when I woke up? That’s it. That is my schedule for the day. With that simple mental activity out of the way, I can brave through whatever laborious or treadmill task or responsibility faces me. I can metaphorically take on the world, shoulders high, head up with all the gusto needed. I have my purpose, to be better.
All I ask of myself is that I improve by a fraction of a percentage each day: 0.1% improvement of my life on any aspect or goal.
Try this now: Use a calculator and multiply 1(your present self) with your future 0.1% improved self(1/1000th improvement) and repeatedly press the multiplication tab. Repeat that action 365 times and observe what your future self looks like. No longer is it starving for affection and confidence; no longer is it drowning in obscurity and irrelevance. What do you(1) look like now?
If you have calculated it right, it should look like this: 1 X (1.001) to the power of 365 days = 1.44
With a tiny morsel of daily improvement(a fraction of a percentage point ), you are now 44% better than at the beginning of the year. By improving 1/1000th of your former self every day, you are nearly 1.5 times better after only a year. What happens if you do this for multiple years in a row?
Or better, what happens if you improve more than that measly 0.1% each day? What if you dedicate yourself fully to the betterment of yourself (physical, emotional, intellectual) and increase by an entire 1% every day, becoming that much better than your former self. Try multiplying 1 X 1.01 for every day of the year(365) and see what happens.
1 X (1.01) to the power of 365 days = 37.78
You are now 37 times better than your former self after only a year!
Welcome to the future you – no longer strained by minimal achievements and progress. You have left the 1s behind and are now flying high in the stratosphere of successful numbers; you have hit double digits, and your stock increases further every day. You have leveled up; exponential growth is no longer a futile, statistical term that has little relevance to you; it now represents a philosophy and structural process that embodies your entire being.
This idea represents the power of incremental self-improvement, and it is slowly transforming my life – day-by-day.
And the steps are effortlessly simple.
Identify areas for improvement
The first step is honing in on targets for improvement. Without goals, life is void of meaning, and self-improvement fizzles into irrelevance and inefficacy. My goals target mainly around writing: I start by focusing keenly on becoming a better writer every day(only a fraction of a percentage point better). I don’t spend my days festering in feeble comparisons with other great writers in my genre; that is counter-productive. I only focus on becoming slightly better than yesterday – an achievable goal – with the idea that incremental gains will lead to exponential rewards in the future. I sacrifice now to receive later. These are not new theories or practices; there is nothing genius or groundbreaking about any of this. But it took me a while to understand the importance of this simple process.
I have other targets, many of them linked to writing or producing a better version of me(wellbeing). Every day, I read to become a slightly better, more informed reader. Reading feeds into my writing as well. I conscientiously work toward developing my vocabulary and language skills because I know the positive links and effects on my writing. I spend time learning a new language because it boosts my mental agility and makes me fractionally more intellectual every day. Lastly, I work on my health; I exercise and meditate almost every day, hoping to become fractionally better each time.
These are aspects of my life where I aim to develop daily progress through keen, conscientious practice and repetition. Every day, I aim to be only slightly better than the last. Overnight success does not exist – at least I tell myself that. Nor would I want to achieve it that way. The journey toward development and success is far more purposeful than the attainment of that success. I want to earn it; I want to enjoy working towards it with that bite-size fraction of a percent each day.
Have a morning ritual
The point is simple.
Make a damn plan, man. Nothing serious, just a few precious, solitary minutes in the morning to ask yourself, “ What am I going to do today to be fractionally better than yesterday?” Pose the question every morning and investigate the best course to use your time that day. It doesn’t take a whole lot to improve by a fraction of a percent. Maybe just an hour or two of diligent self-improvement.
Planning for it will give it purpose. The purpose of planning has been the breakthrough in my experience. Making a plan leads to a commitment that requires negligence to break. When dealing with your development, it isn’t worth the resentment of breaking that commitment. By planning, you are far more likely to realize the goal or intention.
Always reflect before sleeping
Equally important is the time reserved for reflection at night; never go to bed without reflecting on how you have improved incrementally over the day. It only takes a few minutes. By recalling positive moments at night, the engines of momentum continue churning in the right direction; it helps move the machine.
Reflection is necessary on unproductive days as well. It helps to harp on reasons or events that lead to the distortion of productivity to improve future progress and decision-making. The reflection process takes less than five minutes and allows me to reaffirm positives and consolidate areas that require attention and focus the following day.
Incremental gains only work with consistency. You must improve fractionally every single day. Regardless of your desire or outcome, try to include some activities that permit growth and development, even for just a few minutes. The goal is to be better than the previous day, fractionally.
The benefits of thinking in terms of incremental gains
- You naturally stop comparing yourself to other people by instead comparing yourself only to yourself. There is no emotional retraction from the goal; it is rooted firmly in the objective amelioration of your former self. I find myself less often longing for the successful lives of other people. My objective and realistic aim ground me firmly to the floor. I understand the simple steps needed to succeed and rarely commit adulterous treason by flirting with the fashionable excesses of success of those in my circles.
- You adopt a highly positive outlook. By dedicating every day to positive thoughts of progress and the development of the self, accelerated energy feeds itself into your system.
- You enjoy bountiful purpose and meaning for your day, undeterred by what others are doing around you. You focus on simply getting better. The idea becomes a daily journey worth living for, a roadmap that forms the basis for your existence. That purpose helps guide you through whatever grind and suffering exist around you.
- It represents an easily attainable daily objective. There is nothing complicated about striving to improve by only a fraction of a percentage per day. And the thought of exponential growth in the future is all the inspiration needed to keep going. It takes the pressure off of conventional productivity traps. Instead of burning out, get better: every single day.
The formula is simple and easily attainable: improve fractionally every single day. I have begun thinking this way, living this way for a month now, and my stock seems to be slowly climbing toward that exponential ladder. A mindset is all that is needed to change the course of the future.
Now go out there and do something that will make you 1% better than yesterday!