The compounding effect of improving on the 'one-percenters' is, though cliche, a powerful way of creating a long term upward trend. Whether in business, health, performance or personal development, this strategy of creating 'marginal gains' is an effective method of future improvement.
And while the term 'one-percenters' is more symbolic (or small actions completed often) than literal, is 'one percent' really the best 'percent' to aim for? Maybe not.
One percent implies that you current self is doing very slightly more than your past self. But how much more should we be doing to maximise improvement without being unrealistic? What is the Goldilocks number?
Well, research tells us it's about 4%. A task should be four percent harder than our current abilities - challenging enough to force growth, but not so challenging that it's unattainable and unsustainable. This is the percentage where we can maximise flow (read: 'Finding The Flow'). This phenomenon is called the Yerkes-Dodson Law, and it explains how arousal is related to performance.
In his book, 'The Rise of Superman', Steven Kotler discusses two key reasons that 4% is our sweet spot:
- "The sweet spot keeps attention locked in the present".
- The uncertainty that comes from stretching your limits means the brain releases dopamine. "Dopamine heighten attention and pattern recognition - two things that are absolutely essential to dealing with the unknown".
How can you apply the 'four-percenters'? Testing your physical performance? Aim for a 4% personal best. Want to improve productivity, focus for 4% longer without distractions. Trying to reduce how many calories you're eating? Cut them by 4%. Want to make a massive pivot in your life? 4% of a day is one hour. Drastic, profound life change can be made in that time.
Push your limits, 4% at a time.