“Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results”

One of the books on the Synergy Performance reading list is James Clear’s Atomic Habits. What Clear is able to accomplish exceptionally well in this book is break behavior change down into easily digestible and practical strategies that anybody can employ. What he recognizes is that plenty of people have the desire to change, but few understand behavior change well enough to truly have a process in place to achieve results. Where many seem to go wrong is in trying to make large, wholesale changes all at once. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great strategy and will likely result in frustration, disappointment, and quitting before any traction can be made. Clear believes, however, that “remarkable results” are the product of lots of “tiny changes” that add up.

One of the other great qualities of Atomic Habits and Clear’s writing style is his ability to convey a message through an image. Below are three images from Atomic Habits with practical takeaways that you can employ in your life, both in and out of the office, to increase productivity and achieve your own “remarkable results.”

  • Don’t Rely on Motivation: The first practical tip is related to what was mentioned in the introduction – lots of people fall short on their goals because they bite off more than they can chew. They attempt to make large changes that often require enormous effort, which simply isn’t sustainable over time (more on this below). Early on, they may feel extremely motivated and get off to a great start, but soon enough that motivation will fade, and they’ll be left wondering why in the world they signed up for such a mountainous task. Clear believes that by beginning with an easy, consistent habit (one that is “So easy, you can’t say no.”), you set yourself on a path of growth that you are much more likely to stick to and build upon. For example, rather than telling yourself you’re going to run for an hour each day when you’ve gone years without lacing up your running sneakers, start by going for a five-minute walk. You’re more likely to stick to the habit when you aren’t relying on motivation to get it done. Think about how you can apply this tip to both your personal and professional life.

  • Find the Sweet Spot for Growth: Building off the first tip, the key to long-term growth is to find the magical middle between sustainability and effort. If something is very sustainable, but requires minimal effort, it’s going to difficult to achieve any real growth. Ultimately, you’re just doing what is comfortable, and really, you’re just being lazy. This is a good strategy when you’re just getting started with a new habit (such as the walking example above) but will not drive your long-term growth. Likewise, a behavior or habit that requires intense effort in order to accomplish simply will not be sustainable in the long run. This is the guy who goes out and runs for an hour on the first day and is so miserable throughout and sore for the days that he follow, he doesn’t end up lacing the shoes back up again – the effort required to keep the behavior going is simply too great. Find your sweet spot. What is going to push you just enough to get a little uncomfortable? Find that spot for whatever behavior it is that you are trying to change, and you’re on a path of long-term growth. Think about how you can apply this tip to both your personal and professional life, too.

  • Little by Little, Little Becomes A Lot: It seems cliché, right? But the math is there, and the numbers don’t lie – if you actually got a little better each day, after just one year, you will be significantly better (about 37%, in fact) than when you started. This is why it is so important that you are consistently challenging yourself to improve your skillset and strive to be the best version of yourself – because even when it doesn’t seem like you’re getting better, you are. The key here is If you can just stick with the small behaviors that put you in your zone of long-term growth (from above) on a daily basis, you’ll find yourself on a steady trajectory of improvement over the course of the year. What will get in the way of this? Trying to rely on motivation or a herculean effort to make large changes (from tip 1), being lazy due to lack of effort or burning yourself out due to lack of sustainability (from tip 2), and patience. Patience is key. Growth takes time. Play the long game. Again, think about how you can apply this tip to your personal and professional life for long-term growth.

When it comes down to it, it’s the small behaviors – your habits – that make the biggest difference in your long-term growth and achievement. These behaviors won’t make headlines. They aren’t life hacks. They aren’t sexy or glamorous. They’re just simple, consistent behaviors that are aligned to your long-term goals, and when done well (and again and again), they add up to something special. So, the real question is: What are you waiting for? Get started today.