Most people believe that where you end up in your life is the result of big decisions. It’s not. Where you end up in your life is the result of lots and lots of little decisions carried out every day over a long, long period of time.
Small decisions with small consequences that you make over and over and over again actually have a huge compound effect and determine what you will end up achieving.
Think about it in mathematical terms….
Improving by 0.1% is a pretty small gain. 0.1% as a fraction is only 1/1000th.
If you had a great day at work and really impressed your clients could you advance your career by 0.1%? Yes, I think you could. But if you couldn’t be bothered to make any effort all day and let your boss down with a crucial report would your career suffer by 0.1%? I suspect it would.
If you worked out really hard at the gym one evening could you improve your fitness by 0.1%? Yes, I think you could. But if you didn’t go to the gym and ate pies all night would your fitness deteriorate by 0.1%? I think it probably would (at least).
Starting at 1.000, 1 single day of growing by 0.1% takes you to 1.001. Shrinking by 0.1% takes you to 0.999
1.001 vs .999 is a 0.2% difference which is hardly any difference at all. In fact, you would hardly notice the difference.
Where would you be after 2 days:
1.001 squared (to account for the two days increase by 0.1%) is 1.002002 and 0.999 squared is 0.998001 which is now a 0.4% difference. Still pretty small. Still barely worth worrying about. You think that eating the pies hasn’t made much difference.
After a week:
1.001 to the power of 7 is 1.007021035 and 0.999 power of 7 0.993020965 which is a 1.41% difference. This is starting to become noticeable.
After a full year:
1.001 to the power of 365 is 1.44025 and 0.999 to the power of 365 is 0.69407 which is a 107.51% difference. So after a year of making the right choices our career, or our fitness, is more than double what it would be if we make the wrong choices.
After ten years (which is 3,650 days):
1.001 to the power of 3,650 is 38.40456 and 0.999 to the power of 3,650 is 0.025943706 which is 147,930% difference. That’s pretty immense.
To put that into context a business that would be worth £50,000 after ten years of making the wrong choices (not bothering to follow up potential clients, not worrying too much about the quality of delivery, recruiting staff who don’t have quite the right attitude) would actually be worth over £74 million by making the right choices (following up every potential client lead, working tirelessly to maximise quality, choosing new recruits who share the values of the organisation).
We make choices every day. Thousands of seemingly minor choices; shall I get the early train or the late train, shall I eat a doughnut or eat a banana, shall I phone that prospective customer, shall I read my kid a bedtime story, shall I go to the gym, shall I have glass of wine, shall I post on my blog today, shall I do half an hour of studying.
And often in these little decisions the difference between options is pretty marginal. If you eat the doughnut or don’t eat the doughnut, it’s not that big of a deal. In fact I quite like bananas.
Whether you try to phone the prospective customer or not, you’ll feel much the same at the end of the day. It’s easy to have the glass of wine but it’s also pretty easy to not have the glass of wine. Half an hour of studying doesn’t actually hurt that much and is actually a lot more satisfying than watching ‘Britain’s got a celebrity factor’.
And the thing to understand is that whether you chose the right thing or the wrong thing, you won’t see the impact straight away. If you do phone the prospective customer your business won’t double in size overnight, but if you don’t phone them then your business won’t go bankrupt that day. If you eat the doughnut you won’t suddenly put on two stone, and if you eat the banana you won’t lose two stone either. You don’t see the results immediately so it’s easy to underestimate the impact that these small decisions make.
But when you compound those decisions day after day, week after week, over a long period of time, they have a compound effect that makes an immense difference to your life. Eat the banana every day for several years and you will be two stone lighter than if you ate the doughnut every day. Phone a prospective customer every day for several years and your business will be significantly bigger than if you didn’t. Post a new blog every day for a year and you’ll end up with thousands of followers. Half an hour of studying every night and after three years you might have a qualification that will change your career.
It’s the consistency of these small decisions over long periods of time that make all the difference to your life.