Ever wonder why you go to the gym? Or why you get up early to write another few crappy pages for that book you want to publish? Or why you bother to cook a healthy meal? Or why you continue to make sales calls when you never get a response? Or wonder why the weight scales is not moving? Or maybe you do none of those things and you are fine with that?
Whichever side of the fence you find yourself, you are likely experiencing what I call the compounding effect.
I recently listened to a podcast from Irishman Shane Finn on this very topic where he defined the compounding effect as:
“the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small seemingly insignificant actions”.Shane Finn, Pushing Limits Podcast, Sept 24th 2021
I think this sums it up perfectly.
These seemingly insignificant actions could be showing up for a gym session, batch cooking a meal so you have a good choice on hand, meditating for a few minutes, spending some time with family, friends or loved ones. These actions, viewed in isolation, are easy to dismiss or not do, but when batched together over a week or a few months can add up to significant life improvements.
We all know you can’t just get up off the couch and run a good marathon. For most people, this is not going to work out very well. We know we need to train for an event like this, and we train in small blocks that get incrementally harder as time passes. This way we build up our endurance and condition our bodies so we are ready when the big day comes around.
This is compounding in action. I find this concept so fascinating and energizing because it puts all the small daily actions that I take into context. It allows me to reframe them into the bigger picture and it is this bigger picture that I find far more motivating and a source of drive within myself. It is a deeper well to draw on.
For example it would have been really easy for me to roll over and go back to sleep this morning when the alarm went off at 6.30am and if I was just looking at this one day and event, it’s not that big of a deal. However, put this miss into the context of my bigger goal of building a strong, lean body and being more consistent in my goal execution, then this miss seems like a bigger deal to me. I don’t want to be that guy who thinks it’s ok to miss a workout that I have committed to. What else will I let slide that I have committed to? It becomes a slippery slope where your actions are not supporting your identity.
James Clear, author of the amazing Atomic Habits uses the analogy of the stonecutter to explain the same compounding concept for habit formation. He says:
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”James Clear, Atomic Habits
I use this concept on a daily basis, for my health and fitness, my finances, my mental health and social life. It helps propel me forward to do things, that often times, in the day or the moment, I do not want to do.
One of my key goals for 2022 is consistency in all things, I struggle big time with this one so I decided to tackle it head on and apply a new level of consistency to my daily, weekly or monthly goals. So far it is working well with no misses. A large part of that success is keeping the longer term big picture front and center for drive and motivation and knowing that these small actions and progress, taken on a daily basis will, one day, add up to a big result.