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Last year I purchased an awesome book at amazon called The Slight Edge. It's what led me to learn about the compounding effect, and I'm so happy and grateful that it did.
This book really causes you to look at your life, where you're at, how you got there, and the choices you can make daily to get to where you want to go.
Most people are familiar with the compounding effect of money, as its key to the long-term accumulation of wealth. Saving a few hundred dollars each month grows into tens of thousands over time. The principles of compounding also apply in every area of our lives, whether we like it or not.
Internalize the simple principles in this article and adopt them for a lifetime. Doing so will allow you to more easily stay focused on what is most important to you and take the necessary action steps to realize your desires.
Willingness is the key.
The compounding effect of choice is made up of two simple principles.
“It is the simple disciplines (choices), that don't seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”
“It is the simple errors in judgment, that don't seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”
Principle #1 in Action – “Simple Disciplines”
There are three important elements in the compounding effect of choice.
- Compounding Effect – Your actions will ADD upon the others.
- Choice – ACTING or NOT ACTING is always a choice. Choose consciously. Frequency and effort make a difference.
- Time – Actions taken over time GROW.
This visual representation has proven useful to me and continues to keep me on track with important areas in my life. Below I share how I am using this principle #1 to support my goal of getting in the best shape of my life.
My Personal Story
When I started back exercising a few weeks ago there were many days that I did NOT feel like going. Once there, oftentimes I didn't feel like being there. Then I would walk around the park for 10 minutes, feel out of breath, and wanted to throw in the towel. Can you relate?
Here's what I did in the beginning, I simply repeated the following words in my head, over and over again. “It's the simple disciplines, that don't seem to make any difference at all, in the moment, but the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”
Clearly, my first week of working out wasn't transforming my body into a Kelly Rolland as fast as I would have liked it to… LOL
But on a serious note, it WAS discouraging and I wanted to quit. However, I do have faith in the process, and these simple words of wisdom that I read in The Slight Edge. I trust the compounded effect of many workouts over time, combined with my awesome nutrition regimen, WILL give me the results that I'm looking for.
My current level of fitness is a clear reflection that the compounding effect of choice is really working, and I'm on my way looking sexy and fit like Kelly.
Ultimately, the habit of working out is becoming second nature, and I rarely need to repeat, “It's the simple disciplines, that don't seem to make any difference at all, in the moment, but the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.” However, a few months ago, I repeated the quote almost every day!
Brand this principle into your being, and use it anytime you feel discouraged or uninspired to act (that's exactly what I do!). It's a great reminder of the bigger picture.
Reflect upon the compounding effect for each of the simple choices below. The principle applies well in health, relationships, business success, money, self-care, self-esteem, and an evolving of one's Consciousness. The principle also applies well in cultivating internal emotions and states of being, such as love, joy, and inner peace. Anything repeated over time ultimately creates a compounded result. What results in your life would you like to compound?
- Reading 10 pages of a good book
- Eating healthfully
- Spending quality time with your children
- Working out
- A simple act of kindness
- Saying, “I love you” to a loved one
- Yoga or stretching
- Focusing on what you appreciate
- Avoiding sugar or caffeine
- Drinking a gallon of water per day
- Saving money
- Attending seminars
- Listening to educational CD's
- Getting up early
- Cleaning off your desk each day
- Listening closely to others
- One extra hour of work
- Being honest
- Being on time
- Pursuing a dream
“It is the simple disciplines (choices), that doesn't seem to make any difference at all in the moment; HOWEVER, repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”
Simple Errors in Judgment
If you want to successfully boil a frog, it's best to turn the heat up over time or the frog will jump out and escape. I wish no ill will to frogs, however, it makes the point about “simple errors in judgment.” These little actions or non-actions seem relatively harmless initially and for a period of time. However, the compounding effect leads us to less pleasant results in our lives. This is the model of mediocrity.
“It is the SIMPLE ERRORS in judgment, that doesn't seem to make any difference at all at the moment, HOWEVER, repeated over time, the compounded effect makes all the difference in the world.”
This principle is clearly illustrated in the lower portion of the diagram above.
The diagram represents one “simple error in judgment.” As is the case in accumulating credit card debt, a little each month doesn't seem like a big deal. The negative consequences don't reflect much impact for quite a while. Without referencing this graph, it may seem that watching two hours of mindless television each night isn't hurting you in any way. You may simply continue watching every day while complaining about needing more time to pursue an important dream. Two hours of television is relatively harmless. However, the compounding effect of this “simple error in judgment” translates to 728 hours of television per year! That is over 30 full 24-hour days in a year!
Remember these elements in the negative compounding effect of choice.
- Compounding Effect – Negative actions and non-actions ADD upon the others and create a cumulative effect.
- Choice – ACTING or NOT ACTING is always a choice. Choose consciously. Frequency and lack of effort make a difference.
- Time – “Simple errors in judgment” create ATROPHY over time.
Examples of “Simple Errors in Judgment.
Reflect upon the impact of the items I've included on the list below. Some of these may initially appear harmless. What consequences could result over time in compounding these “simple errors in judgment”? What other “simple errors of judgment” would you add to this list? This list is not intended to elicit feelings of guilt or remorse. We have all exercised “simple errors in judgment.” Use this list to stimulate awareness. In later chapters, you may or may not consciously decide to address something from this list.
- Watching mindless television
- Not saving money
- Spending more than you earn
- Being late
- Eating a cheeseburger or fries
- Spending time with negative people
- Dwelling on negative thoughts
- Interrupting people
- Not being fully present when listening
- Smoking or using drugs
- Listening to loud, abrasive music
- Staying up late or sleeping in
- Excessive time on the internet
- Not working out
- Not being friendly with others
- Criticizing yourself or others
- Maintaining a stressful lifestyle
- Not taking personal time for yourself
- Laziness – performing below your capacity
- Not expressing appreciation to your partner
- Time in a dead-end job
- Too many desserts or candy
Another way to use this model is to compare a “simple discipline” or “simple error in judgment” with another.
If you read 10 pages of a good book today, and I don't, the difference between you and I on that day is pretty negligible. In fact, after a month, the difference is still not that great. However, if you continue to read 10 pages of a good book each day for the next ten years, the difference between you and I will be CONSIDERABLE.
If you focused your attention in a specific area of focus over that ten-year period, it's likely that you would be an expert in your field.
If I eat one ice cream bar today, and you don't, the difference in our level of health is not very significant. However, if I eat an ice cream bar every day for a whole year, and you don't – all things being equal– there will likely be a CONSIDERABLE difference in our health.
Generally, it's not just about the ONE single discipline or one simple error of judgment. Some of our choices support our growth, and some don't. Becoming aware of these choices is the first step. Seeing a visual representation of their respective impact is also useful in fine-tuning our choice points. There will be numerous simple disciplines you'll apply over and over again on your path of growth.
The book gives a lot more info and I really do recommend that you read it. It is an easy read with less than 200 pages, grab it at Amazon.com. I'm sure after you're done, you'll do things a lot differently if you really want to improve. If you like where you are in life then keep doing what you're doing because you're doing something right. Just enjoy the journey.
What I'm Crushing On
(affiliate links to some of my favorites)
Let me know what clicked for you in this article? I'd love to hear how the slight edge has worked for you, even if you didn't know about it.