How 1% Changed My Life
Happiness. Health. Fulfilment. Love.
Take a second to think about what true success means to you.
Okay, what if I told you that to achieve unimaginable success you only had to improve by 1% each day — crazy right?
You might be thinking “no way, that’s too easy — anyone can do that!”
Now here comes the good part, consistent 1% improvement per day is 37.7x growth a year!
Read on for why this mindset is used by top-performers, how it’s transformed the way I approach each day, and how you can implement it in your life.
Let me tell you a story.
All the way back in 1986 — Pat Riley — the coach of the Lakers, was faced with a problem. After beating the Celtics in 85' (the Lakers had never won against them in the playoffs before), the “best team in the history of basketball” didn’t even play for the NBA championship in 1986.
Following their big championship win, the Lakers players were not challenged and had grown complacent, thinking they could not get any better. Well, they were wrong.
Pat Riley had a plan going into the 86-87 season — to challenge each and every player to improve on their averages by a miniscule 1% in five key areas, telling them that it would make the difference between winning and losing the year’s championship.
What comes next isn’t much of a surprise: “The players took a look at this one percent and said, ‘Oh, I can improve one percent in anything.’”
Eight months later, the Lakers were NBA champions with a 15–3 playoff run. The following year, they became the first team in twenty years to win back-to-back NBA championships.
“We had players who improved not just one percent, but five to 15 to 20 to 50 percent.”
That’s it right there — by challenging his players to increase a mere 1% over an entire year, what actually happened was far more impressive. When we’re talking about professional athletes, a 5% gain — not to mention 20% or even 50% — is simply outrageous.
How was this possible?
For one, Pat Riley expected his team to scoff at his challenge or at the very least laugh at the idea that 1% improvement was what he thought they were capable of. In effect, this was intentional so that players would try even harder to prove their coach wrong, bettering themselves drastically more in the process.
However, it took showing-up for the team to improve — consistently practicing many days a week over the course of the season to achieve their level of success.
Here’s where you come in.
Our brains aren’t wired for exponential growth — we don’t fully appreciate how a small change or improvement can have an enormous effect down the road. So, we often aim to improve by a huge amount in a short time while overlooking the less attractive steady growth. As you’ll learn to know, getting one percent better isn’t going to make you any headlines. Your success will.
When you grow a little each day, those improvements stack on each other to create compound gains, described by Albert Einstein as “the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
The mindset of 1% growth is also a bit of a mental hack, your brain thinks that to do only one percent better is extremely easy and so you will end up often over-delivering, which will accelerate your growth even more.
Now here comes the good part: you can implement this mindset right now.
Three ways you can implement 1% growth in your life:
- Show-up, day in and day out — consistency is 🔑
- Identify the most important areas of your life (i.e., health, relationships, fulfillment, etc.)
- Have high-standards — know what good is, recognize the gap that exists, and work on improving one percent at a time (it’s ok, we’re not perfect :)
Applying these three approaches, I’ve been able to get more out of my days and do what matters most to me. Instead of having wildly productive days and then largely unproductive ones, I’ve found a balance; staying productive while still allowing myself enough time to rest.
Steady progress towards my goals has allowed me to find renewed meaning in the day-to-day life during lockdown; knowing that I’m making the most of the time at home to grow both as a student and individual.
The 1% growth mindset is a powerful tool used by high-performers and that you can use to realize exponential growth. Pat Riley used it to turn a highly talented but complacent NBA team into an absolute success that won back-to-back championships in the ‘80s.
Tapping into a simple trick in our minds that leads us to over-deliver, together with compound gains from simply showing up and by improving 1% a day — there’s always somewhere to improve — you’ll be well on your way to achieving unimaginable success, growing by more than 37x a year!
After applying this mindset for a few weeks, it changed how I approach each day. After two months, it changed my life. I hope it changes yours too.
You’ve got this.