The 1% rule will change your life.
If you take 1,000 steps today, a 1% improvement will require you to take 1,010 steps tomorrow.
That extra 10 steps will do almost nothing for you, and you probably won’t even notice you took them.
This means if you aim to get 1% better every day, the extra effort you put in each day, as well as the improvement, will be unnoticeable.
But over time, the improvement is astronomical.
- 1% better daily for 1 year = 1.01^365 = 37.78
- 1% worse daily for 1 year = 0.99^365 = 00.03
This means if you focus on getting 1% better every day, after one year you will be 37x better than when you started.
On the flipside, if you get 1% worse every day (usually by doing nothing), you decline to almost zero.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear details a brilliant example of the 1% rule in action with the British Cycling team.
A new coach was brought on in 2003 to turn the teams’ fortunes around. In almost 100 years, British cyclists had won just one gold medal at the Olympics, and had never won the Tour de France.
The new coach was a unwavering loyalist to the 1% rule, and detailed his strategy – “if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put it all together.”
The 1% adjustments started immediately – they redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable, they rubbed alcohol on the tires for better grip, they were electrically heated uniforms to maintain the ideal body temperature, they switched from outdoor to indoor riding suits, which were lighter. But they went even further. They tested different massage gels to see which one resulted in the fastest muscle recovery, they selected specific mattresses for each rider to optimize their style of sleep, they even hired a doctor to train the riders how to wash their hands property to reduce their chances of catching a cold.
In just five years, the results were undeniable. Despite having just one Olympic gold in 100 years, they dominated the next Olympics in 2008, winning 60% of the gold medals available. At the next Olympics in London, they set nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, a Brit finally won the Tour de France. And they won it again the next year, and then again in 2015, 2016 and 2017, giving them five victories in six years. Between 2007 and 2017, the British won 178 world championships, sixty-six Olympic gold medals and five Tour de France victories, one of the most successful stretches of a national team in any sport, ever.
If that’s not proof of the power of compounding, what is?
And it shouldn’t be surprising, as the math shows us why it’s so effective.
By getting 1% better each day, you’re 38 times better within one year.
Seems logical (almost inevitable) that getting 38 times better every year, for five years, should lead to an Olympic medal or two, no?
So, now for the practical part.
How can you get 1% better each day in your own life?
Most of you already know the answer, but here are some ideas to get your mind flowing:
- Drink one less beer
- Eat one less item of junk food
- Do one more set in the gym
- Wake up ten minutes earlier and go for a walk
- Sleep ten minutes earlier
- Watch one less episode of Netflix
- Eat one more piece of fruit
- Eat one more serving of vegetables
- Drink one more glass of water
- Save ten more dollars
- Invest ten more dollars
- Pay ten extra dollars off your mortgage
- Give ten more dollars to charity
- Read one more page
- Listen to a podcast instead of the radio
- Send a positive text or email to a friend
- Call someone you care about for ten minutes
These are good starting points, and as you improve them by 1%, they will become bigger changes with bigger results.