When we think about self-improvement and personal development, it can be easy to think of the loud and fast transformative success stories. Newspapers love to share dramatic stories of rapid weight loss and celebrities’ extreme surgery – and sometimes we crave the buzz of instant results too.
“Immediate, transformational change is often noticed and congratulated more than slower change – but is it all it’s cracked up to be, and how long does it actually last for?”
I remember when I was at business school at Manchester University learning about a Japanese concept called Kaizen. In business, Kaizen represents the concept of continuous improvement and promotes smaller, consistent changes over quick hacks, and action over perfection. Many large global companies create improvements using these principles – at Toyota both junior and senior members of staff receive incentives for designing ways to improve inefficient processes throughout the production line.
So, how does this relate to personal development? Some of my clients get frustrated when they have big ambitious career goals. Perhaps they want a new job with a higher salary and more responsibility. Or they might want to break into a new sector where they currently have no experience. Very often they want a lot more from their career, but don’t know where to start. So they don’t.
It is so easy not to start something because it currently seems so far away and unattainable. I procrastinated starting my coaching qualification for months because the end goal of setting up my own practice seemed so far away. In my experience, things often seem much further away before you start. I recommend that my clients initially focus on getting just 1% better at something, or getting 1% closer to their end goal. 1% may seem pretty measly – not worth bothering with. But once you successfully get 1% closer to something, it becomes easier to build on that 1% by becoming another 1% closer, then another, then another…
One example of extreme and overnight change not being sustainable is with crash diets. People often start these with the best intentions, but when they instantly try to catapult themselves from one end of the spectrum to the other with no supporting plan of action – it is hard to keep the changes going. That’s why 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail.
Of course, following this 1% improvement plan is less glamorous than a 0 – 100% overnight transformation. It won’t get you as many likes on Facebook or front-page headlines, but research says it is more sustainable and more likely to lead to permanent change. Regular improvements might feel you’re letting yourself off the hook or settling for less than you want, but in reality it can enable huge growth and result in big changes – if you are consistent and committed to taking action.
Sir Dave Brailsford led the British Cycling team from winning a single gold medal in its 76 year history, to winning a total of 14 gold medals in the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics. How did he do this? By focusing on 1% performance improvements.
If you’d like to arrange a 30 minute phone conversation to see how I could help you get 1% closer to your dream career, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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