I was dressing for work the other day when it happened. While buckling my belt, I noticed it needed to be pulled a notch tighter.
You notice because your belt develops this funny little hump where it gets settled into being buckled in the same notch over and over and over again. And then—bam. It needs a new home. Strange. Different. Uncomfortable, but not in a bad way.
My belt got tighter because I’ve been making good lifestyle choices, both in terms of physical fitness and eating habits.
You don’t really notice the changes day to day. The improvements are so incremental that they would seem nearly immeasurable. But, added up over weeks and months, they are not only noticeable, but in some cases—drastic.
Most of the time, I drive right by my ex-wife’s office on my way to and from work each day.
For many months, I noticed myself always looking back to see whether I could see her vehicle parked outside. I don’t know why. Old habits die hard?
What I do know is that it never made me feel good. There were even times I saw my little son hop out of the car with her right at the moment I was driving by.
That made me cry once.
A brutal reminder of all that had been lost.
Lisa Arends at Lessons From the End of a Marriage (who everyone dealing with divorce-related matters should read) once talked to me about emotional triggers. And she said something I’ll never forget. She said they’re going to sting. And it’s going to surprise you. But then, over time, you’ll notice they don’t sting anymore, she said. That you’ll drive by and you won’t feel horrible. You won’t cry.
And that will surprise you, too.
And then you’ll know. Like passing a test of sorts. That you’re stronger now. Braver now.
That you’re actually you again.
I can’t be sure when it happened. But I caught myself once jamming to something awesome on the radio. Smiling because that day was going to be a good day. Just, feeling good.
And I realized: I didn’t look back. I didn’t look to see whether her car was there.
Then I realized I didn’t know when I stopped doing that. Weeks ago?
Because it just happened. Slowly. Unnoticeably. Incrementally.
My mind will continue to process all of the many changes these past few years have brought.
My body will continue to get leaner, harder, stronger.
And my spirit will soar because of it. Taking me to places I’ve never been.
One little bit at a time.
1% a Day
My favorite writer James Altucher writes often about improving just one percent each day.
I like it because it makes sense to me. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post of his:
“I have a friend who is feeling down. He doesn’t like his job. He’s uncomfortable with the people he is working with. He’s had this job for ten years so he’s afraid to bail now after putting in so much time.
He wants to make a fast change.
Every day, though, is a new day. The past is just a photograph. The present is everything we can see and feel and hear and touch and love and live. The future is a fantasy.
So today improve just 1%.
That sounds trite. What is “one percent”?
Maybe I’ll write a list of ideas today. Maybe I’ll take a walk. Maybe I’ll call someone I love. Or maybe I will shower twice and do pushups. (or, ahem, maybe shower once).
Maybe you can tell me: what are all the ways someone can improve their lives 1%?
Maybe I’ll eat 1% less junk food. Or read a book instead of some stupid news article that is filling up the inane news cycle of the week before it’s forgotten when the next news cycle hits.
Maybe I won’t argue about a stupid issue. Or maybe I will spend time with my kids.
Someone wrote a completely insane comment on my wall the other day. I delete it and move on. No need to argue.
Another person wrote a blog post accusing me of trying to control him with “Neuro-weaponry,” apparently developed by the U.S.Navy. I ignore it and move on. I don’t even like to swim.
What are some other ideas? I hope you can tell me.
1% seems like a small amount.
And it is a small amount. It’s tiny. It’s easy. It’s doable. Today.
But 1% compounds. If you improve 1% a day you will improve 3800% in a year. I don’t even know what that means. Life is not a number.
But it means your life will be COMPLETELY different.
I know this is true. My life is completely different than it was a year ago. And a year before that. And I can barely recognize the year before that. I can’t even remember two years ago actually.
Sometimes just a kiss improves my life 1%.”
Technically, it’s 3,753 percent. If you improve one percent every day for one year, you improve 3,753 percent. That’s a lot.
James is right. Our lives are not numbers. And I don’t know what it means either.
But I know I can get one percent better at something today. Probably more.
Everything changed. And sure, I’m still scared.
But not very much.
And not very often.
I’m alive. More than just surviving. Living. Progressing. And striving for achievement more than I ever have before.
Instead of worrying about tomorrow, and way down the road about things I can’t possibly control, I’m mostly concentrating on getting a little bit better today.
A slightly smaller stomach.
Slightly stronger arms.
A more-courageous heart.
A calm, capable, clear mind.
An unbreakable spirit.
I wasn’t strong enough before.
And maybe I’m not today.
But I will be. One percent at a time. 3,753 percent more one year from now. And a nearly incomprehensible amount, five years down the road.
“So, Matt. What’s your five-year plan?”
Oh, nothing much.
Just improve 7.85 billion percent.