Show me a great achiever in any field or activity, and I’ll show you a master of habit and routine.
As the hedge fund maestro Ray Dalio put it in his book Principles:
“While there might be more glamour in coming up with the brilliant new ideas, most of success comes from doing the mundane and often distasteful stuff, like identifying and dealing with problems and pushing hard over a long time.”
Pick a sphere or activity in which you’d like to improve (fitness, finances, feather painting, whatever).
Now, if you could get better by a mere 1% every day for a year, how much progress will you have made by the time you’re done?
The answer might surprise you. You’ll be 37 times better than when you started.
Read: A Scientific Guide to Habits: How to Build Good Ones and Break Bad Ones
This is the power of compound interest applied to life, which produces not arithmetic but geometric progression over time. Thus, an apparently insignificant, unnoticeable change repeated often enough can produce exponential growth or decay.
What’s more, this principle is as inescapable as gravity.
It’s either working for or against you, every minute of every day, and in your every interaction with life. Everything is in a state of flux—always getting better or worse, never remaining exactly the same.
The only effective way to wield this double-edged weapon is with habits that accrue to you, grain by grain, the rich harvests you seek.
This is the “secret” to “overnight successes” and “surprising collapses,” which are striking manifestations of gradual accumulation, not sudden seismic shifts, like the snowflakes that turn into the avalanche.
And so, think again of the area you want to improve in, and ask yourself:
What am I doing every day to accomplish this?
If you don’t have a good answer, it’s time to reconsider your priorities, because your daily actions—your routine—will mostly determine the trajectory of your life.
Just forty-five minutes of exercise every day can banish disease and dysfunction.
Just thirty minutes of reading every day can turn you into an expert in just about anything.
Just a few hours of deep work every day can produce a legacy.
As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits:
“Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
Are you “voting” the way you know you should?
What do you think about the power of small, incremental habits? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
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