1% Positivity Improvements: The cumulative effect on your life will leave you laughing

Just finished James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, which I highly recommend. A very practical, no nonsense book full of step by step instructions on how to build better habits. And let’s face it, when I hear someone say habit, I get this warm fuzzy feeling inside of me. 😉

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One concept he puts his spin on is the idea of getting just 1% better everyday. Simply put: instead of focusing on big, massive changes, just focus on getting 1% better at something. He then lays out the mathematical proof how if you get just 1% better everyday, it compounds to a whopping 37% improvement in just one year! Here’s a great idea that dives deep into it.

“improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable — sometimes it isn’t even noticeable — but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding… What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”

— James Clear [3]

In this article, we’re going to focus on how to get 1% more positive. We all want to be super productive, but we also want to have more positivity in our life. Less whining, less complaining, more silver lining, more smiles. Why? Well, here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Luck is the probabilistic manifestation of being positive.
  • Generally those with entity views (i.e. fixed mindsets) will see all characteristics, in addition to intelligence, as innate and static while those with incremental views (i.e. growth mindsets) see characteristics as malleable.
  • Fixed mindsets lead to more stereotyping, greater rigidity in prejudiced beliefs, and difficulties during conflict resolution.
  • Growth mindsets (incremental views) are connected to more open beliefs and amenability during conflict resolutions. [12]

1% Happier

In our quest to get 1% more positive in our life, well, it begs the question: what is happiness?

Here’s two (of a billion) ways to understand happiness:

  • Eudaimonia is a Greek word commonly translated as ‘happiness’ or ‘welfare’; however, more accurate translations have been proposed to be ‘human flourishing, prosperity’ and ‘blessedness’.
  • The Dalai Lama’s broad message sounded straightforward from the start of our conversation: To attain happiness, one must be able to say, “My life is something meaningful, something useful.” This, in turn, requires an understanding of our common purpose: “the taking care of each other,” which is our “human nature.” [13]

According to the Greek and the Buddhist, perhaps a good common ground is that happiness comes from our contribution to the human condition. More simply, are we adding anything to the people around us… or are we a drag on them.

I was in Chile on a trip with a bunch of close friends. One in particular is very well-read on societal issues, news, and understanding history. Basically, he can see the ills of society and what probably caused them. But in becoming so knowledgeable, I noticed a decline in his optimism and in people. Over dinner one night, I asked him, are you happier knowing or would you rather be happier but ignorant?

1% Happiness Tip: Less current news, more learning. If you listen to podcasts, stop with the news and subscribe to a topic you find interesting. Better yet, get free audio books from your local library through the app Overdrive.

1% Happiness Tip: “Yes, and” approach. They teach in comedy improv classes that you ALWAYS say, “yes, and.” If someone suggests something you’re not entirely on board with, just say “yes” and then follow it up with something more, “and…”

1% Happiness Tip: Add to your morning routine to text a friend how much you appreciate them. Yeah, it might be weird at first but they’ll learn to love it.

1% Relationship Improvements

Grey stoning. It’s a concept I wrote about previously. The technique can be used when trying to get rid of someone in your life that’s a user, selfish, dramatic. It calls for you to be so boring that the other person eventually stops contacting you.

Not sure why I started thinking about that except that it seems like people are hanging out more, now that more people are getting vaccinated. (Although, still be careful please!) So as we emerge from our WFH shelters, what a perfect time to intentionally craft who we are and who we choose to chill with!

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And in keeping with our theme, here are ways to get just 1% better at our relationships and increase positivity. I equate it to a drip in the bucket in our ‘love tank.’ Keep the love tank full and you’ll be humming along; or if you’re running on fumes things will be stressful. #5LoveLanguages

1% Relationship Tip: Flip the script. Once per day, say yes to someone or agree with someone.

“If you are inclined to dismiss ideas as hopelessly naive, ask yourself whether it could be because you are beholden to dogmas that are so ingrained in your daily life that you hardly recognize them anymore — dogmas that, on careful reflection, might not seem all that helpful.”

— Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic [13]

1% Relationship Tip: Stay curious of others. I’m embarrassed to admit there are some basic facts that I don’t know about my close friends. Next time you’re chatting it up, ask those deeper, personal questions and learn what makes them tick.

1% Relationship Tip: Preach positivity. If you can persuade and convince others that it’s better to live positive, glass half full, see the silver lining, etc., then you yourself will become a master at it.

“Further, when we share knowledge about how to become happier, we persuade ourselves every bit as much as we do others. It is a well-known phenomenon in psychology that asking people to argue in favor of something can be a great way to get them to believe it.”

— Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic [14]

1% Money Positivity

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Put your money where your mouth is. That’s an American idiom, right? I’m horrible at them. Once, I was in a meeting where the big boss used it in his speech. He said something to the effect of, “the solution to this engineering problem is like the cat’s pajamas, you’ve got to put two in the bush in order to get a bird in the hand.” What?! I digress…

My point is in order to be more successful, more productive and positive, we’ve got to fully align our actions with our personal identity. In other words, what kind of person do you want to be, and are your behaviors matching it? I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you want to be the best version of yourself. And for me, that includes being conscious of my impact on the environment, on others, and doing my part to promote the positive.

I think a great way to do that is to spend our money on products and brands that also align with our personal identity. Align your money and your principles towards connectedness happiness. Maybe bitcoin fits that definition for you, but here’s a few ideas to consider:

1% Money Tip: Morning routine idea to read up on the missions of some of your favorite brands. Once you do, move on to…

1% Money Tip: Spend money on brands that you agree with. For me, it’s brands like Miir drinkware and Peak bags and accessories. What makes it easy to trust is when they’ve got recognized certified badges like Climate Neutral, 1% for the Planet, and B Corp.

1% Money Tip: Invest in companies you can believe in. I’ve preached before how I like not just being a consumer, but an owner of whatever I’m using. I believe if it’s good enough for me to use, then it’s probably good enough to own a piece of stock in.

1% Money Tip: Pay for the drink behind you. In the drive thru at Starbucks, ask how much the tab is behind you and offer to pay for it. If it’s a minivan full of people, I might have to pass on it though.

1% Better Identity

To gain 1% more positivity in our life, we should aim to get 1% closer to our personal identity. The more closely aligned we are to who we want to be, the happier we’ll be, the more positive we can be, and the more positivity we can project onto others.

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Let me make the point with a story. When I went on my first (and only so far) mountaineering hike and summited Mt. Baker, we were all roped up together, single file line, marching up and then down the mountain. I was roped up second, behind the leader. We’re supposed to keep a bit slack in the rope line, to avoid constantly pulling on each other. But because I was slower than the lead hiker, I’d occasionally cause a yank on him, resulting in him chastising me! That did not make me feel good. But when we got to the peak, he offered to take pictures for me and sacrificed his limited time on the peak to do something for me.

It’s a small story, but I think it demonstrates how our little actions throughout the day either add or subtract from the kind of person we want to be.

“Little strokes fell great oaks.”

— Benjamin Franklin

1% Identity Tip: Write down a positive self-affirmation as part of your morning routine. ‘Nuff said.

1% Identity Tip: Prioritize one small thing that reinforces the kind of person you want to be. For example, make time for exercising because you’re an athlete, or reading because you’re a reader, or time with your kids because you’re a great parent.

1% Identity Tip: Craft your identity by adopting a personal statement, like, “I am a vibrant part of this X community,” where X is something important to you.

1% Productivity Tips

It’s impossible apparently to talk about getting 1% better in our life without acknowledging perhaps where the concept started. In James Clear’s Atomic Habits and in the numerous articles I’ve researched, they all make a reference to, “the formula is based on incremental improvement, or what the Japanese call “kaizen”– getting a little bit better each day.” [1]

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“The Basic Principles of the Kaizen Approach: a dedication to improving effectiveness, satisfaction, and waste. The core tenets of continuous improvement of Kaizen include: Standardizing, Measuring, Evaluating, Innovating, and Evolving.”

— Melody Wilding, LMSW [5]

The word kaizen makes it sound like I’m practicing martial arts, but that definition is a snoozer. Bottom line, look at our daily life for ways to up the effectiveness and pleasure, but lower the wastefulness.

“Determine where your time and energy is wasted — One of Kaizen’s core principles is waste reduction, and it comes into play in more scenarios than you might think. A key to unlocking more productivity is to do less, not more.”

— Melody Wilding, LMSW [5]

1% Do More With Less Tip: Combine errands, set time limit. One of my all-time favorite tips, do all your errands at the same time to cut down on driving back and forth to multiple places, plan for the most efficient route, and have a time limit. If you don’t get done with them all, maybe you can live without it for another week. You have more important things to do.

1% Do More With Less Tip: Use Unroll.me and immediately get less junk in your inbox. I’ve used it and it’s like the Tinder of email subscriptions. Swipe left to unsubscribe, swipe right to keep. (Please swipe right on me!)

1% Do More With Less Tip: If you’re relaxing, then do it 100%. Don’t multitask, don’t feel guilty, just give in completely to the relaxation and reap the most benefits while you’re at it.

1% Miscellaneous

Finally, let’s wrap up our chat about finding incremental 1% ways to get more positive, which in turn leads to increased productivity, success, superpowers, and immortality. Haha, ok, maybe not all of that but most of them.

My dad got a triple bypass a couple years ago, and he hasn’t been the same ever since. Pre-surgery, my dad was a stern man, prone to disciplining and lecturing me whenever he saw fit (which was often). Post-surgery though, he doesn’t talk much and is typically smiling. He’s mostly easy going, does whatever he’s instructed to do, with the occasional rebellion. Growing up, I told myself I would never be like him, but now I hope if I ever get to his stage, that I can be an old, happy man that’s as little of a burden as possible.

To me, that’s what this 1% increased positivity could lead us towards. Small, incremental changes that could add up to a lifetime of change for the better, for you and for everybody around you.

With that, some final, albeit random, suggestions:

1% Positivity Tip: Plan for an adventure. I almost want to say it doesn’t matter if you actually end up going, but take a few minutes to plan an exciting adventure. The act of planning will expose you to inspiring articles and open up the possibilities of our mind.

1% Positivity Tip: For your birthday, in lieu of gifts, ask for charity donations. My close friend has been doing this for years and in retrospect, his cumulative positive effect on society is fantastic. Do the same and make a difference for others.

1% Positivity Tip: When was the last time you laughed really hard? Listening to Hidden Brain’s Humor Us episode, it explains how adults fall off a “humor cliff.” Bring back that hearty laugh by starting up a group text about something you found funny recently.

1% Positivity Tip: Forget the 1%, and instead do +1. Do +1 pushup. Do +1 min of running. Get +1 more clothes. The +1 works almost everywhere, just be careful not to overindulge!

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  1. How to Increase Your Productivity by 1000% by Marelisa Fabrega
  2. The Difference of 1%: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear Book Recap by Blake Reichenbach
  3. This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened by James Clear
  4. 93. James Clear: Just One Percent Better, Disrupt Yourself Podcast with Whitney Johnson
  5. How To Radically Transform Your Life Through Incremental Improvements by Melody Wilding, LMSW
  6. Get 1% Better Every Day: The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement by Brett and Kate McKay
  7. The 1% Habit — The Surprising Power Of Incremental Improvements
  8. Easy Self-Improvement: Examples of One Percent Improvements by Alice Boyes Ph.D.
  9. Incremental Theories of Well-Being Predict the Pursuit of Positive Experiences by Megan Hamel
  10. Positive Thinking Scale
  11. New Measures of Well-Being by Ed Diener, Derrick Wirtz, Robert Biswas-Diener, William Tov, Chu Kim-Prieto, Dong-won Choi, and Shigehiro Oishi
  12. Implicit theories of intelligence by Wikipedia
  13. The Subtle Mindset Shift That Could Radically Change the Way You See the World By Arthur C. Brooks
  14. Don’t Wish for Happiness. Work for It. By Arthur C. Brooks

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