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By making one small change at the time you can accomplish your life goals. Small sustainable changes build on each other and can gain results we could only dream of. Understand how it works and how you can get started today!
How Someone with Down Syndrome Completed an Ironman Competition
In November 2020 Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman competition. This is a grueling competition including a 2.4-mile swim, running a marathon, and a 112-mile bike ride.
Having Down Syndrome Chris has had to overcome more adversities then most, including open heart surgery at 5 months old and needing a walker when he was 3.
So how did Chris, at 20 years old, manage to complete a physical competition that most of us could only dream of? By consistently improving by 1% every day.
You can accomplish your life goals with the aggregation of marginal gains – by improving 1% at the time.
Chris mission is to be the best person he can be. He acknowledges that we all have limitations but that we can all work hard and get better.
For example, it took him 6 months to learn how to ride a bike but by tracking his activity, work hard and focus on improving by 1% every day, he could complete the 112-mile bike ride as a part of the Ironman competition.
Chris is not the only one who has used the 1% rule, also known as the aggregation of marginal gains, to reach success in sports.
10 Olympic Gold Medals by Improving 1%
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics the British cycling team won seven out of 10 gold medals using the aggregation of marginal gains. An astonishing feat considering that before 2008, British cycling had only one 1 gold medal in 76 years!
So, what did they do?
They searched for small improvements to aerodynamics by experimenting in a wind tunnel.
They painted the floor in the bike-shop white to spot impurities undermining bike maintenance.
The team learned how to properly wash their hands to avoid illness – and even avoided shaking hands during the Olympics.
They were precise about food preparation.
They brought their own mattresses and pillows for the athletes to get a good night sleep!
Think about that last one – they became Olympic cycling champions, in part, by bringing their own pillows! (source)
The 1% Rule is Not Just for Cycling
Looking at the examples above it’s easy to think that the 1% rule is only for cycling, or physical activities but it can truly be applied to anything you want to achieve!
Think about it.
Most of our goals feel impossibly large (like completing an Ironman when you have Down syndrome). However,if you focus on how you can get just 1% better you will soon put yourself on a trajectory for success!
The beauty in the 1% rule is that you are not just becoming 1% better. It is that this 1% will accumulate with compound interest, making your gains bigger and bigger with time – the accumulation of marginal gains!
Let me explain…
If I invest £1 000 with 10 % compound interest, I will have £1100 after a year. I’m 10% better off.
In the next year however, I will not get another £100 in interest but instead I will get 10% of £1100 which is £110.
After 10 years the money will have grown to £2 593.74 (!) compared to the £2 000 I would have had if I just got the 10% of the original £1 000.
Compound interest has given me an extra £593.74!
Aggregation of Marginal Gains
When we talk about the 1% rule, we talk about how many small actions contributes to the greater whole.
If I were to tell you that the British cycling team won 7 Olympic gold medals because they brought their own pillows you would laugh me out of the room, but it was one of the many small actions they took that together contributed to their success.
Let’s go back to the investing example above and say that your goal is to save up for a deposit for a house. You look at your finances and feel that it will be impossible – how could you ever save up all that money when you hardly have anything left at the end of the month?!?
Now consider that you decide to make one small improvement to your finances every month.
Month 1: you save £200
Month 2: you can still save the £200 but you decide to cancel all subscriptions you don’t actually use and free up another £50 making it £250
Month 3: You now have the £250 to save but you also review your car insurance and save £60 pounds per month, so you have £310 to save.
Month 4: You earn an extra £200 and save £510!
I can continue but I think you can see my point!
By systematically making the small improvements that in themselves don’t make a huge difference, we can achieve things that, when looked at as a big goal, looks completely impossible!
Just like in compound interest, by adding small changes over time, you keep the changes you’ve made! (Once you cancel your subscriptions you can save that £50 every month without any additional effort.)
1% Improvements to Accomplish Your Life Goals
The great thing with compound interest and the aggregation of marginal gains is that it doesn’t just work with money (or cycling!) but you can apply it to anything, by creating sustainable habits that you can build on!
Once a habit is created it will not take much effort to maintain, and you can then add on another habit and then another….
Let’s take the example of healthy eating. In the blog post What is Healthy Eating? we discussed a number of things that can improve your diet. Let’s see how we can apply them with the 1% rule:
Month 1: You decide to eat more veggies. You experiment with new recipes, side salads, and veggie snacks and find that adding a portion of veggies to every meal works for you (I add steamed peas to almost anything!!).
You create a habit of buying and making the veggies and after a month you don’t really need to think about it anymore.
Month 2: You are still eating your extra veggies and you decide to reduce the amount of refined grains (white rice, pasta etc.) that you eat.
Not only are you still getting the benefits of eating extra veggies, it’s also easier to reduce the amount of rice on your plate, or swap it for whole grain rice, as you already have your yummy veggies that fills you up and have become an important part of your meal!
Accomplish Your Life Goals
Now consider your life goals. And I don’t mean that arbitrary goal of “I should lose 5 pounds”. I mean that “I wish I could work part time but I could never afford it” or the “I want to learn how to fly a plane but I will never have the time and money” kind of goals! The kind of goals that would bring significant value to your life.
They are achievable! Just keep thinking “what is something that would take me 1% closer to my goal?” Remember that Chris could complete an Ironman by moving 1% more each day and the British cyclist could win Olympic gold by improving everything from health to sleep to bike maintenance.
What can you do, that would take you 1% closer to your goal?
And once you nailed that, what’s another 1%?