1% Better and the Power of Incremental Change
One percent of 10,000 steps is 100. If you applied this to a coaching context, encouraging your clients to take an extra 100 steps a day may be reasonable, achievable and impactful. The same is true if you encouraged them to strive to improve by 1% each week in other areas of their lives.
So, what would happen if you applied this rule of “growing by 1%” to your business practices and your coaching skills? Imagine the impact. Imagine the power. Imagine the outcome. Using investments as a model, consider 1% growth as you would compound interest, which results from small (but not insignificant) deposits made over time that ultimately lead to giant dividends.
Continuous improvement comes with the dedication to keep moving forward and making small, but impactful changes. There’s a misperception that change is only meaningful if it’s massive or results in an immediately visible outcome. Operating in this mindset often leads to burnout and frustration, rather than the achievement of the goals for which you or your clients are aiming for. The point of continuous quality improvement (CQI) is not to achieve perfection, but to achieve progress. No system, person or action will ever be “perfect.” Progress, however, is about a process, the act of journeying forward.
Relate this, again, to your work with your coaching or training clients. You help your clients move from product-based goals (outcomes) to process-related goals (behaviors and actions). For you to grow by 1%, you also need to set process goals to engage in the behaviors that will eventually lead to the outcomes you want for your skills, your business and your presence in the industry.
Start With Clear Goals
Career success (and personal success) relies on your willingness to learn. What is it you want to learn or change? I see many professionals (and I’m guilty of this as well) say “I need to do X,” but that’s as far as it goes. That statement or idea lands on an ever-growing to-do list with no clear direction or plan to execute. Life gets busy and multiple things (events, people, tasks, duties) all compete for your attention and focus each day. But understanding what you want can help you create a road map to growing 1% better.
Brainstorm Your Goals and Desires
Before we get to goal setting, it’s important to remind yourself that you are not just your business or your career. Like your clients and colleagues, you are a whole person. You are multidimensional, which means you have goals and dreams that are related to your personal life as well as your career. These should also be addressed in your goal setting, but it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin. To make the process easier, start with just three categories—personal, professional and bucket list or larger life goals—and make the time to create mind maps for each one. Feel free to add more categories as they speak to you but start with these three to avoid feeling overwhelmed and losing focus.
Personal: This broad category relates to life outside your practice and profession, such as your relationships, home life, personal growth, hobbies or finances.
Professional: This category relates to your business as a health coach or exercise professional. This might include anything and everything related to your day-to-day operations, strategic vision and work with clients.
Bucket List: What are those “big rocks” you want to accomplish or see happen? This might be a future career move or the pursuit of a new educational program or degree. You may find that your bucket list goals overlap with your professional practice.
For the mind maps, use three separate sheets of paper, draw a circle in the middle and write the name of the category. Then, draw spokes from that center circle and identify the things in each category that you want to achieve.
Nothing is too small or too large. For example, in the personal category, you might think of a friend you don’t see as often as you’d like and write something like “enjoy a social dinner with X every month.” Again, nothing is insignificant. If it is something that crosses your mind more than once, it is important to you and it deserves attention. Write it down.
Prioritize Ideas and Write a Commitment Statement
Once you have the mind maps completed, review each one and ask yourself these questions:
- Of the three categories, which ones seem weighted down or are lacking balance and attention?
- Which area has been neglected or overlooked? How can I change this?
- As I look at these mind maps, what feels good to me to focus on? What areas are most likely to promote and/or nourish my 1% growth goal?
Once you have thoughtfully considered each question, select one or two items from each category that you feel are of the greatest interest, need or importance. You can select more than two from each category, but as we advise our clients: Avoid making too many goals too soon.
Once you have identified your focal areas, you can move on to writing commitment statements for each. These are similar to the goal statements you might use with your clients, but you’ll take these statements one step further by defining the “growth value.” Below, you’ll find sample commitment statements from my own 1% growth road map:
Personal: I commit to scheduling 15 minutes three days a week for self-care in the form of leisurely reading, mindful breathing or bedtime yoga stretches. Growth value: By committing to self-care in the personal dimension, this will promote feelings of serenity and focus during my workday.
Professional: I commit to enrolling in a continuing education course to learn how to connect with my Instagram audience through reels and other content. Growth value: By committing to developing this skill, I will be able to create meaningful and educational content for my clients and network.
Bucket List: I commit to becoming a speaker in my industry by applying to present at three separate conferences in the next 18 months. Growth value: By committing to speaking engagements, I will be able to confront the impostor syndrome I sometimes feel, work to overcome a fear, and share my knowledge and passion with colleagues and other industry professionals.
Ignite the Power of the 1%
Performing a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a common (and helpful) way to evaluate a business, but it can also be adapted to evaluate personal skills. Alternatives to the SWOT tool include SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results) and NOISE (needs, opportunities, improvements, strengths and exceptions). The point is to find a tool that best “fits” your personal values and needs and use it to analyze each of the areas you identified in your mind map categories.
The figure below illustrates a SOAR analysis of my professional commitment statement. I chose this tool because I find that the SOAR analysis approach is better oriented toward action and is particularly useful in the beginning stages of building a brand or developing an identity.
After you work through your analysis, let it marinate and then revisit it a day or two later and refine it. Once you have completed and refined your analysis, your 1% growth plan for the topics you identified is outlined for you.
Next comes action. Start with your opportunities column and make them your action items. You can create a timeline or “due by” date for each one. There’s no right or wrong approach; find what works best for you and feels manageable within the context of your reality.
The final step is to post your actions in a highly visible location, so you are likely to revisit them regularly and record your progress. It’s worth repeating the reminder that growing by 1% is about progress through a process, not perfection. Embrace this process, record your progress and enjoy your incremental growth.
As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, reminds us “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” Your action items become your habits and habits ultimately lead to growth.