Hello everybody, welcome to Episode 16 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we answer all of your life related questions.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Today we have a question that revolves around this curious, common idea in this industry about getting 1% better each day and always growing a little bit. It’s an important question to ask, so thank you to the young man who sent it in.
QUESTION: “How does someone, especially a student in their 20s (or a graduate student like me) get 1% better every day? I have heard this saying about compounding a lot but couldn't find the steps to put it into action. I meditate daily, have a gratitude journal and try to exercise at least 4-5 days a week. But these things tend to keep my growth and performance at a plateau. Can you please suggest some directly applicable tips to become 1% better each day, even if it is a single area of life?”
What Does ‘Better' Mean?
I guess the first question I want to ask you (or better yet, the question you should first ask yourself) is, “What is ‘better', anyway?”
You have to define that for yourself before you set out on some kind of path to get there, otherwise you won’t know where you’re going.
Ideally, with my clients (and it’s not the case with all of them because they all operate differently), we work to get a clear vision of where they want to be in life and we create steps based on that vision. And because they all operate differently, they all have different, unique visions.
Intrinsic vs. Societal Ideas
So if you’re going to define what “better” means to you — and this goes for everyone — you have to dissect your vision and try to identify:
- what components of it are your own
- what components are sort of manufactured based on who you’re around or what others are doing
- what you’re ultimately filling your brain with on a daily basis
You have to make something that’s meaningful to you and be aware enough to filter out the things that are more societally induced ideas rather than things that actually matter to you intrinsically.
Explore Where Your Habits Come From
And that begs the question, where did you get these habits from?
The exercise, meditation. and gratitude journal mentioned in your question…
These are wonderful habits, don’t get me wrong. I indulge in all three of them myself, except I don’t write my gratitude down but, “tomatoes, to-MAH-toes.”
The reason I ask, though, is because they’re really, really popular these days. Everyone in self-help talks about them and it’s pretty widely agreed upon that they all provide great benefits.
There’s a caveat, however, which most everyone fails to mention and/or realize. And the caveat is that even the most practical of habits, like these ones, aren’t going to serve anyone if they’re being done transactionally instead of intentionally.
So if you’re doing these things — these great things — more so because you seek them as means of improvement or a means of labeling yourself as 1% better after performing them, instead of just doing them because you like them, they’re not really going to be of much use to you because you’re improving a version of something that’s not really you.
Does that make sense?
Room for Fun and Joy
Like, if you don’t care about these things or don’t do them at least mostly for the sake of fun and joy, then it’s time spent pursuing a status more than anything. And, I don’t know anything about you beyond this question, but it doesn’t sound like fun and joy based on how you’re wording it. I’m hearing 1%, 4-5 days a week, plateau. These calculations, these restrictions. It’s so black and white, it sounds like more of a math problem than anything. It doesn’t sound as though you’re giving yourself the opportunity to have fun or even the opportunity to fail. And that just gets you caught in a cycle, or a hamster wheel, if you will.
And that cycle/hamster wheel is insatiability. Ya know? It seems like you’re continuing to add and add and demand more and more of yourself, but in search of what? A life without problems? A status without errors? A future that’s always moving up and never going back? These things don’t exist. And though you might listen to what I just said and tell yourself “I know these things don’t exist, I couldn’t ask for them,” ask yourself if your actions are really reflecting that mindset.
Because those two can be really hard to align and but it’s really easy to not realize it when they aren’t aligned.
When Will You Be “Better” or Good Enough for Yourself?
After you ask yourself that, ask yourself, at what point you’ll be good enough for yourself. Because I’m getting the impression that that point isn’t going to come if you keep going down this road. What would it take for you to be okay with yourself outside of all these growth-based habits?
Consider who you’d be without them. What if, for some reason, you couldn’t meditate, exercise or write in your gratitude journal anymore? Would you still be able to accept yourself? I’m sure a lot of other people would be able to accept you, and I’m also sure that you could still get “better” each day without these things. These things are wonderful additions to your life, but they aren’t you.
I’ll tell you what I see from an outside perspective: I have a very clear image of someone, based on approximately 4 sentences, that is ambitious, driven, diligent, focused, mindful, willing to ask for help, and willing to do whatever it takes. It’s understandable that you’re being hard on yourself, that’s just the natural flip side of such wonderful qualities. But these qualities have nothing directly to do with the habits you’re focusing on. It has to do with your intentions and the vibe you’re naturally giving off.
Value Beyond Habits
This sounds to me like someone who has a lot of value as it is beyond the habits. This sounds to me like someone who is already at a high level (probably without having to do much in the first place) and is getting better on their own without realizing it. That’s how I see “better,” and according to me you’re already getting better, so sit and think about according to whom you’re NOT getting better. Cause you might be the only one thinking that. And if others are thinking that, my bet is that they aren’t people who have a good grasp on growth, realistic expectations or much compassion for you.
What if “better” is just about accepting yourself more and not being as preoccupied with all these mini achievements? That’s at least one definition of better for you to chew on, all right? So look, man, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I suspect the only way you get 1% better each day is by not worrying so much about trying to BE better.
This was intended to be as preachy as it maybe came off as, folks. But this like regular emphasis or forcing ourselves to constantly get better is dangerous — a very backwards part of the industry in my opinion — so I’m grateful that the question came in and that we got to take, what I feel, is a healthier look at this whole concept.
So I hope you liked it and took something from it. You can send any of your own questions you’d like advice on by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re wheeling and dealing episodes right now so get your questions in and let us help you out. All right? That does it for now, friends. Till next time!