Getting 1% Better Every Day Is BS

There are going to be ups and downs when working toward goals.

By Carole Mahoney

Have you seen this phrase “Get 1% better every day” being tossed around as much as I have? I’m calling BS on it.

Have you ever watched the ups and downs of the stock market? A political poll? Or have you ever tried to lose weight and weighed yourself every day?

Do things ever get 1% better every day? Things would be so much easier if only that was the case. But if you have been around long enough, I’m sure you know things in life don’t happen in nice, neat, linear fashions.

I get that, for the most part, the intention behind the statement is to focus on working to get a little bit better every day. But there is a dangerous downside to this way of thinking.

The truth is setbacks, slipups, slumps, and other stuff just happen. Sometimes we have control over them, and sometimes we don’t. And for that reason, if our focus is on getting 1% better every day, we could be setting ourselves up for frustration and failure.

And often the darkest hours happen just before the dawn.

Handling Behavioral Change

For example, I started applying a cognitive behavioral approach to myself this past year. I wanted to get healthy and lose 80 pounds.

I have tried to do this many times before. But previously, when I would step on the scale and it went up, I went from “Let my new journey begin!” to “What’s the point, I’m never going to be able to do this.”

It was kind of like when you implement a new strategy or tactic, and it looks like things will get better, but they regress. We are wired to follow our preset patterns and path of least resistance.

So, do we stop weighing ourselves? Do we ignore our activity and conversion rates? No, of course not. After all, how else will we know if we are off course?

Having a Game Plan

But how do we handle the certain ups and downs of behavioral change? Here are three strategies that helped me and my coaching clients to push through the downtimes:

No. 1. Build up your ability to handle frustration. Develop grit by tackling the thought distortions of “I’m never going to be able to . . .” with some recall. When was the last time you hit a wall and eventually overcame it? Remind yourself of your past successes in similar situations to give you the hope and motivation to see it through. So far, you have survived 100% of your worst days; you’ve got this too.

No. 2. Come up with an “Oh well” statement. Now I don’t mean give up. Instead acknowledge it and let it go. Here are a few “Oh well” mantras.

  • “It will get easier.”
  • “It will turn around eventually.”
  • “I will come out of this better than before.”
  • “If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it.”
  • “It’s not the end of the world!”

No. 3. Begin problem solving. Sometimes when we are stuck in a rut, or frustrated, we get overwhelmed and have no idea what to do or where to start. To be a better problem solver for yourself, begin by identifying what type of problem solver you are.

The “impulsive” problem solver is one who suddenly jumps at the first idea that pops into his or her head without thinking it through, leading to unintended consequences.

Then there is the “avoidant” problem solver who tends to steer away from action when faced with a problem. This person may decide to wait a bit too long and risk never reaching a better outcome.

I’m sure you know things in life don’t happen in nice, neat, linear fashions.

I get it too. Facing the long road ahead of us can be daunting. But by avoiding our problems, we’re also avoiding the road to the solutions and the wonderful feelings of joy and success.

Or perhaps you are a “rational” problem solver who takes the time and thought to prepare themself for the journey ahead. These problem-solving explorers tend to use a four-step, problem-solving method to ensure they reach their goal. Here is what they do:

  1. Define the problem or obstacle: When defining a problem, be as specific as possible. The problem may start out as “I get wrapped up in my head when I think I hear buying signals.” Continue to narrow that down. What signals specifically tend to get you excited? Now we have ID’d it.
  2. Come up with a variety of solutions: Generate as many solutions as you can. Look at this like your brainstorming session. No solution is too silly or ridiculous. Maybe it is putting a sticky note on your screen with the buying signal that trips you up and a big red “X” on it to remind you to stay present. Or pinching yourself when you find your mind wandering. Or practicing with a coach on what to do or say in those situations. Consider all ideas.
  3. Pick the best option and act: The next step is to take action. Pick the solution you think would work well for you and give it your all. Remember, this is not about perfection and it may take some trial and error.
  4. Assess progress and reevaluate: Lastly, evaluate your progress and rate how your solution worked . . . or didn’t.

Use all these tips to move your progress forward the next time you find yourself facing a downturn or slump. And remember, everything is temporary.

Learn Sales Skills Online
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney has recorded three NGWA: Industry Connected videos, all of which provide great tips on how to improve your sales skills.

The videos, which are available to view for free, cover the four principles of a sale, tips on how to better close a sale, and her latest, on how to have productive video meetings. Click here today to watch and learn how to make your business more profitable.

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at www.unboundgrowth.com.