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What would you life look like a month from now if you just gave just one percent more effort to the things you do every day? This was a question posed by comedian/actor/all-around interesting guy Hal Sparks to those of us hanging out on his Saturday afternoon webcam show.  And it got me thinking.  How can I do the things I do in my daily life just one percent better than I did before?

Hal is a catalyst – something (or in this case, someone) that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected  and I’m always amazed at what I come away with from listening to him. He challenges my perceptions of things and my beliefs and does it all the while making me laugh (at him AND myself).

So, back to Hal’s question:  How would your life change if you gave just one percent more effort?

Like many others, I hate to start at the beginning.  I will throw myself into something and assume that I know enough to hit the ground running.  I am really good at “just winging it” and while that’s gotten me pretty far in life, I don’t recommend it because when you do have to start at the beginning, it’s really hard.  (been there, doing that) And taking things in teeny, tiny bits (1% perhaps?) feels like it’s just not fast enough. I want it all and I want it now.  And if I can’t have it all, then never mind. I don’t want any of it. (Can you hear the foot stomping sounds I’m making?)  Now you know why one percent feels icky to me.  Maybe to you, too.

It has been a challenge to me to start small.  And I resist it every. step. of. the. way.  But what are the rewards of starting at the beginning?

* Incremental changeOne percent change doesn’t look like this: running toward a big mountain, trying to climb it only to fall back to the ground, bumping my head along the way.  One percent change is more like putting on my sneakers to go out the door to look at a mountain, thinking about climbing it someday.   And one percent more than that means doing it two days in a row.  Then three days.  And soon, I’ll be standing at the base of the mountain, dressed in climbing gear and ready to tackle the challenge. Change comes slowly to most people but it’s these baby steps that help get you there. You just have to do them (rather than *think* about doing them, like I have done.)

* A sense of forward motion – once you start moving in a direction, it’s easier to keep that movement going.  We’ve all had that experience where we started a diet or an exercise program and were doing great UNTIL we fell off the wagon for one or two days which turned into weeks.  How hard was it to get back on it and keep moving?  Pretty hard, huh?  But if we just take it day by day (or sometimes hour by hour) we can keep going.

* Less overwhelm – because I like to jump into the middle of things, I get overwhelmed pretty fast. Most times, I struggle my way out of it but there have been times when I’ve had to sit in my closet because I’ve gotten myself into too much and can’t find my way out.  The easier (albeit slower) way out is to take it in smaller bites.  When you clear one hurdle, you can run toward another, then another.  And if you do bite off a bit too much, it’s not enough to make you hide in a closet. (Maybe just inside the pantry door!)

All good things, yes? Remember that the slower you start, the smaller the rewards at the beginning.  If you can do 15 minutes on the bike at the gym, try 16.  It doesn’t take that much more effort and soon you’ll be doing 30.  That’s where the results start showing up so you can see them.

Baby steps take faith that your work will eventually show results.  In a world where instant gratification is everything, this feels almost unbearable.  Like any spiritual work, these things take time and build on a foundation of work that went before it.  I am having to learn (often the hard way) that there is merit in doing that foundational work. There is merit in doing things just one percent better than you did them before.  Hal says that you’d be amazed at how different things look 30 days later after putting this into practice and I believe him.

I’m asking you: what can you do one percent better today than yesterday? And what does one percent more than today’s accomplishment look like for you tomorrow?

Start small with me and see what changes come.

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