Achieve life goals with a small step each day.
There’s a story about a man riding a horse, galloping quickly through the plains. It’s as if he’s going somewhere very important. A man standing along the road shouted, “Where are you going?” The rider replies, “I don’t know, ask the horse!”
This is the story of many people’s life. Believe it or not, many people feel as if they are adrift in the world. They work hard, but they don’t know where they are going.
Setting goals give your life a direction, and by knowing what you want to achieve, you know where to concentrate your efforts. Today I’ll tell you a story of how compound effect makes achieving any goal possible.
The Compound Effect
In Darren Hardy’s self-improvement book, “The Compound Effect“, he talked about how anyone can achieve big goals using the compound effect by doing things right one step at a time. It allows you to multiply your success, chart your progress, and achieve any goal.
We’ll illustrate the technique using a simple story that everyone of us can relate to. It was modified from the book itself, so the credits go to Darren Hardy.
Three Friends Who Took Different Paths
Let’s take three friends who grew up together. They stay in the same neighborhood, and have very similar sensibilities. Each of them makes about $50,000 each year. They’re all married and have average health and body weight, plus a little bit of “marriage flab”. Nothing too different among them.
Friend no.1, let’s call him Larry, goes about his life as he’s always been. He’s happy, or so he thinks, but complains occasionally that life is boring and nothing changes.
Friend no.2, Scott, starts some small and seemingly inconsequential, positive changes. He begins reading 10 pages of good book before he sleeps and listens to 30 minutes of inspirational audio book during his commute to work.
Scott wants to change his life, but he doesn’t want to take any drastic steps. He thought of having a better body shape, so he cuts 125 calories everyday. No big deal. We’re talking about a cup of cereal less, swapping a can of soda with a bottle of mineral water. Absolutely doable.
He also starts walking a couple extra thousands steps everyday (less than a mile) after work. Stuff anyone could do. He is determined to stick with these choices, knowing he can be tempted to abandon them even though they are simple.
Friend no.3, Brad, makes a few poor choices. He recently bought a big-screened TV so he can enjoy his favorite shows more often. While he’s at it, he usually chews away his new favorite desserts – cheesy casseroles and ice creams.
Oh, and he installed a bar in his family room and added one alcoholic drink per week to his diet. Nothing crazy here. Brad just wants to have a bit more fun in life.
The Compound Effect in Action
Inconsequential choices bring life-changing results
5 months passed by. No perceivable differences exist among Larry, Scott and Brad. Scott continues to read a little bit every night and listens to audio book during his commute, while Brad is “enjoying” his life and doing less. Larry doesn’t make any changes to his lifestyle.
Even though each man is doing something a little bit differently, 5 month isn’t long enough to see any real improvement or decline in their lifestyles. In fact, if you rate the quality of life and weight of these 3 men, they’ll look exactly equal.
At the end of 10 months, we still don’t see noticeable changes in any of their lives. It’s not until we get to the end of 18 months that we see a slight change in their appearances and quality of life.
But at about month 25, we start to really see measurable and visible differences. At month 27, we can see an expansive difference. And by month 31, the change is startling.
Brad is now fat and grumpy, while Scott is trim, healthy and positive. By simply cutting 125 calories a day and reading a bit of self-help books everyday, in 31 months, Scott has lost 33 pounds and has a more positive outlook in life.
31 months = 940 days
940 days x 125 calories/day = 117,500 calories saved
117,500 calories saved x 1 pound/3,500 calories = 33.5 pounds!
Brad ate only 125 more calories a day in that same time-frame, and now he weighs 67 pounds more than Scott! But the differences are much more significant than just weight and body shape.
Scott has invested almost 1,000 hours reading and listening to good books, and by putting his newly gained knowledge into practice, he has earned a promotion and a raise. He even started a side business of his own. His marriage is thriving.
Brad? He’s unhappy at work, and his marriage is on the rocks. The extra food makes him wake up a little groggy, which begins to impact his work performance. The boss is unhappy and gives him discouraging feedback.
His wife is unsatisfied with his couch potato lifestyle and unhealthy weight gain, and this stresses Brad. He feels an overall lack of energy and talks less to his wife due to their conflicts. Finally, he resorted to eating more junk food and watch more shows to relieve himself.
What about Larry? Well, he doesn’t see any improvement or decline in his life quality, except now he’s a little bit more bitter about it.
The Bottom Line
What have we learned in this story? Even one small change can have a significant impact that causes an unexpected and unintended ripple effect.
The good news is, the compound effect is predictable and measurable. Isn’t it comforting to know you only need to take a series of tiny and consistent steps, over time, to radically improve your life?
That definitely sounds easier than setting a grand new year resolution that gets abandoned just 1 month later.
Want to run 10 miles? Why don’t you start with running a mile everyday? When you can run a mile comfortably, turn it up a notch to 1.5 miles. Then 2 miles. 3 miles. 4 miles.
The most challenging aspect of the compound effect is that we have to keep working away for a while, persistently, before we can see any payoff.
But once you understand the impact of each of your tiny steps, you will learn to appreciate the effort more, knowing you will undoubtedly thank yourself few years later for making consistent effort.
If you have a goal in mind, start making small progress towards it everyday. If you don’t have one, think of an area in your life that you want to improve over the next year, and start working towards it.