How to Better Yourself Every Day: The 1% Rule
“Habits don’t change in a day. But 1% a day makes every habit work.” -James Altucher
I started writing this post while doing a late night gym session. It was 9PM, and I hadn’t yet done my fitness habit for the day.
5 years ago this would’ve sounded ludicrous. I can only imagine the conversation between past Jason and future Jason.
Past Jason with a Natty Light in hand: “…so let me get this straight. It’s 9pm…on a Friday…and you’re not at the bar?
Future Jason: “Yep.”
PJ: “…and you’re at the gym??”
PJ: “AND you’re writing while at the gym? What the actual f$^&!”
How did I end up here? I most certainly didn’t wake up one morning and decide this was the life for me. If you’re asking the same “how to better yourself” questions I did back then, you’re going to want to keep reading.
It happened slowly. In fact, I barely noticed it. That’s the beauty (and pain in the ass) of habits. They aren’t sexy, but they always work.
I’m 27 now. I was 22 when I started my better habits journey. Since then, here’s a list of the habits I’ve stacked…
- Weight training
- Deep breathing
- Making my bed
- Eating (mostly) healthy
- Practicing gratitude
- Planning my days
- Doing my most important tasks first
- Reading consistently
- Writing every day (or some form of creation)
- Telling my girlfriend I love her
If you look at it, that list is fairly small for a 5 year period, but it’s had a MASSIVE impact on my quality of life and “success”.
The 1% Rule
I first heard of the 1% rule when I read it on James Altucher’s site. Then I read it on James Clear’s and I figured I should probably start paying attention (must be something about habits and the name “James”).
Anyways, now it’s here on my site. For you.
The 1% rule is simple: improve just 1% each day. The idea is that if you do this, the good habits you develop stack over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t be either.
Stop focusing on the end result and start paying attention to the process.
It doesn’t take much to do every day, but it also doesn’t take much to NOT do it. The difference is a slippery slope. Are you going to be the person who improves 1% each day, or the one who gets worse each day? If you think staying the same is an option – it’s not. Every day you don’t get better, you simply get worse.
So when it’s nighttime and you’re winding down for bed, ask yourself:
“What have I done today to improve by 1 tiny percent?”
Tomorrow, you probably won’t notice a difference. But what’s the result when 1% happens every day? Let’s ask James Altucher…
Improve a little each day. It compounds. When 1% compounds every day, it doubles every 72 days, not every 100 days. Compounding tiny excellence is what creates big excellence.”
72 days later you might be twice the person you are today. Think you can’t manage that? Let’s do some math.
Assuming you get roughly 8 hours of sleep a night, that’s 16 waking hours for you to do something to improve. 16 x 60 minutes = 960 minutes. 1% of 960 is 9.6. If you add just 10 minutes of something positive into your life each day, you’ll become unstoppable. (Credit the random stranger on James Altucher’s site who put this into perspective.)
Habits are the new retirement account
Look at it this way. Habits are a lot like money. Think of them like a 401k or regular IRA. You put money in early, it compounds, you keep putting money in, and eventually it continues to compound into a boatload of money. Then you retire.
Habits work the same way, except WAY better.
With an investment account, the market can crash. “Inflation” can ruin your gains. You could go on a wild spending spree and blow all that money in a year. But nobody can take your good habits from you.
Money doesn’t last forever. Yes, you can always earn more, but in general, money is transactional. When you use it at the grocery store, you buy something and then your money’s gone.
This is where habits are different. When you use a habit, it doesn’t disappear. You make it stronger.
I’ve experienced a massive shift in my life in 5 years. What can a lifetime do for you?
When you retire with all that money you saved up, would you rather have a dad-bod, or look like this guy (at 81 years young)?
Good habits can make it happen.
How can you improve 1% each day?
Every day, try to wake up and think, “how can I be a little better?” If you forget in the morning, that’s OK. You have 16 other hours in the day to remember.
Can you move and exercise a little more?
Can you read a little more?
Can you do a little more work that makes this world a better place?
Can you eat a little bit healthier?
Can you manage stress a little better?
Can you be a better friend, just a little bit?
Can you be a better lover?
This article was my 1% today. What will yours be?