Being a fitness provider as a trainer and educator for over two decades, I have deep experience in the human's inability to create massive changes overnight.
If you have ever tried to lose 50 pounds in one month, or become an educated and experienced athletic strength and conditioning coach in a few months, you know what I am talking about.
We tend to overestimate what we can get done in a day, a week, and a month; yet we underestimate what we can accomplish in year and a decade with consistent improvements.
I am sure you have heard of the just improve 1% per day or week, quotes, commentaries, and memes. I am not here to convince you of the need or desires that most of these well-intentioned memes are after...I am here to help you put some handles on it.
Below I give very simple actions, habits, behaviors, or routines, that will help you walk out the 1% improvement model.
Stop meme'ing about it, and start showing it through your daily and weekly action. Implement just 1 per week, and if it is helping you improve and easy to do, keep it going. In one year, you will have literally transformed your life multiple times over.
Every journey worth taking, begins with the first step...
1 - Focus on Your Breath
Take a moment before you pour yourself that cup of coffee, or snap the lid off of that energy drink to just breath. Don't take my word for it, just ask Dr. Belisa Vranich, who wrote the book Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve You Mental and Physical Health.
What if I said I had a medicine that would keep you calm but alert? That would relax and energize you? That would help you recover, boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes aging, power you up, and fuel every cell in your body, from your frazzled brain to your taxed muscles? You'd say, "Give it to me," right? Well, here it is. And no side effects. Take it every day--doctor's orders.
-an excerpt from Dr. Belisa Vranich's book Breathe.
2 - State or Write Down Three Good Things You Experienced in the Last 24 hours, Daily.
If we were not so good at remembering bad stuff, our survival rate as humans would be incredibly low...unfortunately this wiring of our neurology in today's fairly safe, comfortable and convenient world is more problematic. Especially with media and social media fueling our automatic negative thoughts and comparisons. One thing that has helped me and thousands of people I have coached, taught, and trained, is the positive neuroplasticity training, by thinking of three good things that happened in the last 24 hours. The more you do this, the better you will get at doing it, and the more you will tend to notice the good things, large and small, that you get to experience everyday. It helps to say them out loud to a friend or confidant, as well as write them down in a journal. This makes the memory of the event more real and concrete in your mind, and helps with the "re-wiring" of your brain.
3 - Get It Out of Your Head and On To Paper
If you want to laugh at your fears, write it down and tell yourself the story...most of the time. Most of the time our fears our insecurities or false-narratives that we tell ourselves in our minds. When we take a moment to write it down, most of the time they are laughable. Also, if you are having trouble knowing where to start or how to start, begin by writing it down. Even stream of conscious journaling can help you understand what you are trying to process. Taking 1 minute to remove the incessant processing in your head, and jot it down on a piece of paper.
4 - Just Move
Sometimes (most of the time) we overcomplicate our physical health. I need to ensure I am moving in all three planes of motion functionally, while burning fat, optimizing androgens, cultivating an environment for optimal testosterone function, balancing sleep and nutritional foundations, cleansing the impurities, proper lighting, breath analysis, and body anthropometrics measured, before I begin this program...so I will start it month 2, week 4, and day 3...or just get up and move. Dance, run, wiggle, or whatever you like doing (or can tolerate)...just move for 1 minute. If it turns into 10 minutes - awesome! If it turns into an all-out ultimate frisbee bracketed competition - great! For a 1% improvement to occur, just move for 10 minutes per day (if you are already moving or doing hard core training - awesome!).
5 - Read
When I say read, my brain automatically thinks self-help books, but that is not what I am intending when I write this. Reading can come in all shapes and sizes, and most of those are going to be helpful for our brains. It has been said by Harry S. Truman, that, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." And I agree. Reading can be audio recordings, articles, personal/professional development books, and even fictional books. Each time you dive into a different perspective, and come out with an experience that you may have never been able to participate in personally without reading. This makes us far better at handling situations with respect, care, honor, and intelligence, rather than throwing around our ignorance as a weapon to hurt and demean. Just 10 minutes per day, will change your life.
6 - Express Yourself Creatively
Whether it is writing, painting, singing, playing an instrument, acting, taking pictures, carving, doodling, and the list goes on... Take 10 minutes and express yourself, even if your art looks ridiculous. "Everything is hard before it is easy." -Thomas Fuller. And you don't even have to get good at it. You can use this time to express something that may need a healthy outlet. Art has been used as therapeutic means for trained therapists to help children and adults for quite some time. Although you may not have the trained therapist on your side, you can at least take this time to express yourself, and improve your whole-brain functioning.
7 - One Thing You Are Grateful For, and Why.
Another incredible way to build neurological wiring and firing that is positive. Thinking of things that you are grateful for, automatically create positive thoughts, and then choosing the thing you are grateful for today, and writing about why you are grateful for it, makes it more real and concrete. It is important to think about the good things that are happening in our lives to help invigorate a positive platform from which our positive words and actions can be launched from. No one wakes up in the morning, and tells themselves that they want to ruin people's lives. If we are to lift people up, we must be lifted up ourselves. This is a great way to do just that. Just two or three minutes each day or each week, can change your life.
8 - Savor the Moment
This positive neuroplasticity training (PNT) is all about being present in the moment. Take a moment to really perceive all of the goodness in the sunrise, or a good cup of coffee. Think about all of your senses being tantalized by this moment, and then write about it. Or just ponder it. I do this once per week, and then other days I implement the other PNT's. I usually perform this with an incredible cup of coffee, but you can center it around anything.
9 - Call an Old Friend
Statistics show that our lives can be shortened or lengthened by our social connections. People with more social connections tend to live much longer and more quality lives than people that have less connections. So call an old friend, and begin a new or many new connections one week at a time. This habit can really build momentum, and change the course of your life, as well as the lives of your friends, family, or loved ones.
10 - Write with Your Off Hand
This takes a minute or two to implement each day or each week, but the whole brain connection that it generates, will last your entire life. It is difficult to write letters and words with your off-hand, so your brain has to work overtime to do something that would normally be fairly easy and subconscious. This means you will be using more of your right and left hemispheres through the corpus collosum, as well as your upper cognitive and lower limbic brain to accomplish the task. Your whole brain connection will help you connect with others and yourself at a higher level (not stuck in the emotive or cognitive centers exclusively). Using the emotive, creative, linear, cognitive, and autonomic parts of our brain together, improves our abilities for personal and social success.
11 - Write a Thank You Letter
If you want to feel better, make someone else feel better. There is not much that trumps a good old fashioned thank you letter for expressing gratefulness, and turning someone's frown, upside down. Take the five minutes that writing the letter takes, and then drop it off at the mailbox on your way to work, school, or errands. This goodness will not only spread to the person, but it will inevitably well up in your heart too.
12 - Do Something Generous For Someone
In the same vain as the way to improve yourself 1% last week, this week's focus is on generosity for others. Doing something generous for someone else, especially complete strangers, has an uncanny ability to improve our spirits. I have tried to maintain a frown while opening the door for a mother herding her "cats", and it was impossible. My grin was created by the action, and then spread to her and her children. You don't have to limit it to opening doors for mothers, you can pay for someone's coffee, or meal, and even help a neighbor with yard work or house work. It will be very difficult to feel bad and do something good at the same time.
13 - Clean Your Desk
Often our brain is as cluttered as our desk is, so to clear our mind, it may be just as easy as taking the 5 or 10 minutes to clean our desk off. It is amazing how cathartic and clearing this is for me, every single time I do it.
14 - Purge the Junk
Take ten minutes this week to put all of the junk (anything you have not used in the last year or two), and either throw it away or give it away. Purging the junk, helps us recognize the burdens that we can sometimes feel emotionally or cognitively by holding on to useless stuff.
15 - Drink 20 Ounces, 600 mL of Water To Start Your Day
I used to think coffee was the great bowel mover, and then I encounter the power of a large glass of water. Not only did I feel better, but I was "handling business" earlier than I ever experienced, when just drinking coffee to start my day. Now, don't get me wrong, I often chase my water down with a cup of coffee, but I never start my day off dehydrated anymore. Remember, you are one BM away from a great day!
16 - Smile at Yourself in the Mirror
Smiling, even fake smiling, has been shown to change our confidence, mood, and productivity. So take one minute (THE WHOLE MINUTE) to smile at yourself in the mirror each day this week.
17 - Share Your Smile with Someone that Doesn't Have One
Now that you have shared your smile with yourself, try this competition...How many people can you get to smile today? This week? It is very difficult to get people to smile with a frown on your face, so crack that smile, and shine your light to everyone you see. On a rare occasion, I won't be able to get a smile from another person...most of us still have enough mirror neurons to reciprocate this small but powerful act. Remember, you smile is changing someone's world, even if it is only for a moment.
18 - Make a Post about Someone You Want to Honor in Your Life
Who is someone that has helped you in life, and they deserve some recognition. Improving 1% is often about someone's mentorship, knowledge, or lessons that you are using today. You can improve your positive neuroplasticity and theirs by taking a moment to lift them up with words.
19 - Stretch
Even if it is just one stretch position for one muscle group, you can create a cascade of good feelings physically and emotionally by taking two minutes to stretch it out.
20 - Meaning in Your Work
Often we can feel like we are in the rat race or the doldrums of getting up, punching in for work, punching out of work, and then doing it all over again. Take 10 minutes today to reflect on how your work is helping other people. This momentary reflection and journaling, can significantly impact our attitude, productivity, and improve the wiring of our brains.
21 - Write Out Your Best Possible Future
This is by far my favorite PNT exercise. Take 10 minutes this week to think about what your life would be like 1-5 years from now if everything went perfectly. If you were able to accomplish all the things you are looking to do, and say all the things that you are hoping to say, and if you are to learn all the things you are hoping to learn. Then write it out with as much concrete language as possible. I now have old journals that have literally come true, because I have been doing this for the past few years (actually over a decade...man I am getting older).
22 - Hug a Loved One
You will feel better, and they will feel better. Take second to hug someone you love. There was a study that stated we needed 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth. You got this. 12 seconds. 12 hugs. Growth.
23 - Give a Gift to a Total Stranger
It doesn't have to be much. It doesn't have to cost a thing. It does have to happen. Your life will inevitably be brightened by brightening someone else's life. Take a moment to give a gift (not garbage) to a total stranger. Could be flowers. Could be a gift card. Could be paying for their coffee or meal. Take a moment to give a gift to a total stranger this week, and see if you want to continue this weekly habit to improve your life and other people's lives by 1% (or more).
24 - Stop and Smell the Flowers
Not metaphorically, but literally. Find some flowers out in nature, or in the grocery store, stop, and smell them. Let the floral scents improve your brain chemicals, and help you be more present. We tend to be lost in the future or in the past, and this helps us snap out of it for a moment.
25 - Compliment a Stranger
This is a three-fold improvement. First, we have to take a moment to think about someone else, and not ourselves (we are naturally pretty selfish beings). Second, we must look for something good, specifically something good in someone else. Third, we have to step out of our comfort zone to comfort someone else with a compliment. Don't make it weird. Just compliment, and move on. They don't need to thank you for the act to work for them and for you.
26 - Pause Before You Start a Complex Project
If you are doing something challenging or complex, we often get caught in our own whirlwind of thoughts. Take a moment before you start to clear your mind, and just breath. This has been shown to improve your ability to focus and conquer the critical thinking necessary to complete the complex project. (What do you think I did before writing this article?)
27 - Brain Dump Before Bed
Most of us don't have the superpower of falling asleep when we hit the pillow, so to help us improve our sleep and get us to sleep faster...take all of the stuff that is zooming through your mind, and write it out. Even if it is stream of conscious-style journaling. It is safely on the paper, and you mind can read through and pick up where it left off tomorrow morning.
28 - Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Depending on your activity level...Obviously, if you are highly active, and you are losing a lot of water through, sweat, you will need to replenish that H2O. Water will do a lot to improve your mood and physiology. Drink when you are thirsty, and try to keep your pee clear or light colored.
29 - Build and Follow a Night Time Routine and a Morning Routine
If you don't build it, it will not happen. Take a moment to think through what you would like to do before you go to bed, and when you get up. Write it out, and practice adding one thing at a time. To help, I have written out evening routine best practices and morning routine best practices in many of the items below.
30 - Turn off Screens an Hour Before Bed
At least an hour. That blue light is preventing your production of melatonin, and keeping you up later than your body wants to be up. Sleep is one of the most important components of our psychological and physiological health, so let's improve 1% each week, by improving our sleep.
31 - Turn Down Temperature in Bedroom to 65 an Hour Before Bed
Your body sleeps deeper, and stays asleep better at a cooler temperature. So if you have access to some thermo-regulating controls, turn the temperature in your room to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
32 - Turn off Notifications on Smart Watch or Phone an Hour Before Bed
Your technology is often used to track your sleep, and show you how good or bad you are doing. It also happens to be a major reason you get bad sleep. The good thing, is that our technology is getting smart enough to know better. Use the functions to turn off the notifications an hour before bed and through the night...or just shut it off (the metrics for sleep are not worth the bad sleep, if you have to leave your phone and notifications on to collect them).
33 - Set Opportunity Clock 30 Minutes Before Bed
No more alarm clocks. With our renewed mindset, and positive mindset, we will now be setting opportunity clocks for the proper amount of sleep you need, so you can crush tomorrow's plans.
34 - Get Excited for Your Tasks and Schedule 30 Minutes Before Bed
This week set up the habit that goes right along with setting your opportunity clock. Get excited about the opportunities you have tomorrow. Make your task list, and build your schedule, and then take a moment to get excited about those opportunities.
35 - Bathroom Routine 20 Minutes Before Bed
Do your doodie, er, I mean, duty, so that your body doesn't get you up later for excretion of either number. These psychological and physiological habits will start to trigger processes in your brain and body, to help you fall asleep easier.
36 - Eliminate all Lights in Room 15 Minutes Before Bed
Turning off the lights increases the melatonin production, and prepares the mind and body for sleep.
37 - Gratefulness, Prayer, Meditation, and/or Breathwork Until Asleep
Now that you have built the habits for sleep, here is a 1% improvement to help you fall asleep faster. Perform one of the four or all four habits as you lie in bed. I have been blessed with the ability to fall asleep when I hit the pillow, but anytime my daughters can't fall asleep, I tell them to talk to God, think about all the good things they have in their life, and then focus on their breathing, and I have yet to come back in the room to see that they are still awake. The same goes for my wife. She has a harder time falling asleep, but this is exactly what she does to get to sleep faster.
38 - Perspective is Everything - Look For the Bright Spots
As part of a morning routine or just in general, if you have challenging moments, difficult scenarios, or just in general, we can always benefit from looking for the bright spots. Help change your perspective by looking for the silver lining in every dark cloud. I am not talking about ignorantly pretending the dark cloud isn't raining, hailing, and spitting out lightning on us. But for every dark cloud there is a silver lining if you look hard enough for it. Sometimes it is just realizing that when the storm passes, there will be green and thriving life because of it.
39 - Words Mean Stuff and Things
Take a moment to implement some PNT journaling if you haven't yet. More importantly, take a moment to think about the words you use. I can demonstrate how life-changing even one word can be... Imagine the worst moment in your life. Now, by just changing a single word, your thoughts and feelings will radically change. Imagine the best moment in your life. If this is just one phrase with one word change, imagine how we can improve our life and the lives of those around us, by changing just a few more words we use.
40 - Think About Your Death
I know this sounds morbid, and wrong. Most of that is because of the way our society has distanced itself from the inevitable part of life, called death. If we take a moment to realize that one day, we will pass from this life, it can be used as a way to really cherish and use the time we have more effectively and more positively. What will people say about you when you die? How can you improve this week 1% to improve the time you have here with us?
41 - Think About Your Impact
In the same light as 40, we can have an indelible impact in people's lives. For good or for bad. For the most part, we get that opportunity and choice. It won't be one single choice, but a series of 1% style choices that we make that will create an impact that becomes a legacy. What impact are you making, or going to make, starting this week?
42 - Automate or Delegate Something That You Hate
There are probably a few things that you despise doing. For me that is washing my car. Don't get me wrong. I love a clean car. I don't clean it as well as others, and I waste a ton of time and water if I do it myself. It is far better for my productivity, mood, and the environment, if I have professionals take care of this task. Which in turn allows me to make more money than the money I give someone to do the thing they are good at. Same goes for taxes, advertising, marketing, and a list of other things that I am not good at or dislike. Why would I spend more time doing something I am not good at, and dislike? 1% or more improvement through automation and delegation.
43 - Don't Do It For The Gram, Do It For Your Spheres of Influence
Your morning routine needs to eliminate your technology, specifically the calls to action in emails and the comparisons of social media. Think about how important it is for your to do something for your spheres of influence, and do those things. This includes, PNT, prayers, exercise, hydration, healthy eating, breathing, meditation, content writing, filming content, journaling, or anything else that is going to improve your quality of life, and the quality of life of others. When you do check your email and your social, remember all of the 1% improvements that you have been making, and share those.
44 - Tell Your Family That You Love Them
Every. Single. Day. We control a lot, but we often don't control the date and time of our death, so share your love while you can. This familial connection will not only improve their lives, but it will inevitably improve yours.
45 - Forgive Yourself
We often slog through life with self-hatred, shame, and guilt that we don't have to hold on to. We hold on to these insecurities and self-image issues, because we haven't forgiven our past. You may be the sum total of all your past actions, and inactions today, but remember, they don't have to write your future. The only way to write a new future, is to forgive your past.
46 - Forgive Your Enemies
Might be the hardest thing I have ever done, and learned to do, but it was also one of the most freeing things I have done (I was a victim of sexual abuse, and also one of my enemies, was me at a dark point in my life). When we don't forgive our enemies, we chain ourselves to their past actions in hopes that we can hurt them back, but it ends up continuing to hurt us, instead of them. Now, I am not saying that we should put ourselves in harms way again, or be okay with what they did, or justify their wrongdoing. Feel free to email me at [email protected] for more information on any of these 52 ways, especially this one. Lewis Smedes was quoted, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that the prisoner was you."
47 - See Your Service or Sacrifice in a New Way
We often feel we have to serve or sacrifice to create something greater than ourselves. I would challenge you and encourage you to see your service and sacrifice as the highest form of self-love and other's-focused love that you can give. If we change the way we perceive our service and sacrifice, it will change us, and inevitably change others.
48 - Love Until It Hurts
Mother Theresa, wrote this incredible insight, "I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." I had the great pleasure of visiting Mother Theresa's home convent in Calcutta (Kolkata), India a few years ago, and I was moved to tears by her incredible and insatiable love for the unloved. Even after her death, she is moving people through her love. Maybe not, until it hurts, but add some more love this week, and see if it doesn't give you more love in the following week.
49 - Be The Change You Wish To See In The World
We often get caught up in the idea that we are one choice, move, or vote away from the needed change in this world, and forget to be that change in our own life. Just like Gandhi stated so perfectly years ago, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” How would you apply this 1% improvement?
50 - Practice The Golden Rule
"Treat others as you would like to be treated" is usually how it goes, and I would add, if you were them in their shoes. This forces us to think about others, and what they are going through--others aware. And then, we think about how we would like to be treated if we were them--others engaged. And then, we would treat them in a way that is aligned with that--self aware and self engaged. This high-level emotional quotient or emotional intelligence, has an extremely high upside. 90% of the top-level leaders have very high emotional quotient/intelligence. Take it for a spin this week, and see if it is worth keeping.
51 - Learn One, Do One, Teach One
If you are trying to master something. First, learn it, understand it, and know it. Second, do it, put it into practice, and apply it in your life. Lastly, teach it to someone else, and this new knowledge or skill will be unforgettable.
52 - Share Your Wisdom (not a zero sum game)
The knowledge, experience, and wisdom you have will go to waste unless you apply it and teach it to others. We are not here on earth to win everything, at the cost of everyone. We are too smart to not come up with win-win-win scenarios and strategies every single time. The greatest win-win-win involves you sharing your knowledge, experience and wisdom with the world.
I hope you enjoyed this journey of improving 1% each week. If you think someone else will enjoy it, please share this.
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