Decisions Compound Over Time
Big, audacious goals like running a marathon, writing a book, or building a company do not result from a single action. These seemingly impossible feats are the result of many tiny decisions that add up to a magnificent result.
“An overnight success is ten years in the making.” ~ Tom Clancy
“Most people were startled to find out there were books that preceded Game Of Thrones. I’m a case of working forty years to be an overnight success.” ~ George R. R. Martin
“Overnight success stories take a long time.” ~ Steve Jobs
These small choices we make throughout each day are hard to notice in the moment. You won’t see their effects at the end of the day or likely not even at the end of the week. It takes time and consistency to see these incremental gains add up. That’s what can make them difficult. We often don’t make the connection between our individual, daily choices and the massive end results we hope to achieve.
As Sir David John Brailsford, the cycling coach responsible for British Cycling’s success, says:
The whole principle [of marginal gains] came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
Small choices compound into big results over time. Pay attention to these hardly noticeable decisions you make on a daily basis.
Daily Choices Lead to Habits
Choices we make in the moment are how we do things. These are the actions we take. If we want to get somewhere new or deliver something big, we need to string together a lot of tiny choices and let the results of our actions build up over time.
Most days, there are not an life changing decisions to be made. You don’t need to decide between moving to a new city or which partner to marry. Most days, the choices you make are mundane and seemingly inconsequential. Should I pick up my book right now before bed or watch a little TV? Should I go to the gym this morning or wait until after work if I have time?
These tiny decisions that we make constantly are what create our habits. By being aware of the impact these small decisions have, you can make choices that are in-line with your goals. These daily choices form your habits. Your habits are the daily actions you take. Consistent action is what helps you make progress in any area of life.
To change, you need to shift your habits. Author James Clear calls this Habit Creep, where you make tiny shifts in your habits that get you closer to taking action in a way that’s consistent with your goals. Your goals naturally come to be completed when your daily habits support them.
Kaizen, is a Japanese word that refers to a concept of continuous improvement. This is how we should approach our daily habits. Be continuously looking for how you can make small improvements to your daily habits and small decisions each day. Over time, your habits will grow to reflect the goals you are working towards and the sum of all your consistent action will help you achieve them.
How can you nudge your routine actions to be more in-line with the person you want to become or the goals you are trying to achieve?
I’ll explore this question in Part 2 - How to Make Your Goals a Habit.