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The Power of 1 Percent Better Making little improvements in your lifestyle each day will earn you big rewards in the future.

By Greg Wells Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


One of the best approaches I have seen for achieving a dream is to focus on being 1 percent better.

I work with a lot of incredible athletes, but it isn't always talent that drives achievement. What sets the best performing athletes apart is their dedication to training at a consistently high level. And among that group, there is a factor that sets even the elite athletes apart: lifestyle.

Athletes with daily habits and behaviors consistent with their goals tend to be the most successful. I call them "24-hour athletes."

We can apply this thinking to success in business as well. Don't get me wrong – the "24-hour entrepreneur" isn't working around the clock. Being exhausted and run down gets you nowhere. It is the lifestyle of the entrepreneur that supports success, and that lifestyle is a 24-hour commitment. You don't need to be more talented than everyone else. You just need to "train" at a consistently high level.

This is what I mean: To live a life consistent with your dreams and goals, you have to be committed to improving how you eat, sleep, exercise and think. And daily one percent changes will do it. A one percent change might not seem like much, but small improvements each and every day will amplify your life and success -- over time.

Related: The Power of One Percent: How to Boost Business Three-Fold in a ...

Here is an interesting example from the business world: General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has made one percent better a mandate. GE collects and analyzes data from its various automated areas of operation to discover how to make micro-improvements in efficiency. Then, using the industrial Internet, updates to operating software can be sent to the equipment and create one percent gains in performance. GE estimates that it can boost productivity in the US by 1.5 percent which, over 20 years, could raise the average national income of the company by 30 percent.

What GE is doing with business processes, you can do with yourself. Being just one percent better every day is like compound interest for your body and mind, where every day's gain gets added to yesterday's principal, so that you earn results on your results. Doing something small each day will leave you with more of everything: more strength, more confidence and more possibilities.

You want to start by focusing on sub-optimal habits and behaviors that prevent you from being your best. Are you not getting enough sleep? Eating poorly at work? Ditching exercise because you're busy? Putting work relationships second to work outcomes?

Any of these errors in judgment undermine your commitment to being the best. And your best is needed to perform at consistently high levels.

Here are some tips for making one percent changes that will move you closer to being a "24-hour entrepreneur":

1. Make a commitment to get better sleep.

Start by focusing on routine -- getting to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Your brain and body love routine. Consistency conserves energy that you can spend elsewhere. Then, start making small changes to ensure you are getting at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night. If you currently sleep six hours per night, add another ten minutes this week. That's all. Then another ten minutes next week. Slowly adjust your daily habits to support the rest you need to remain mentally focused and physically energized all day.

Related: Sleep: Why Successful Entrepreneurs Snooze More and Work Less

2. Ditch the empty carbs.

A high-performance brain needs quality fuel. No, you don't need to overhaul everything at once, that's too hard. Start by getting out of the afternoon (or whatever time of day) bagel/crackers/muffin/rice cakes habit. Those simple carbohydrates fail to deliver the energy and nutrients you need. You will get a short sugar high and then you'll crash and crave more junky carbs. Always snack on nutrient-dense foods: low GI fruit, nuts, omega-3 eggs, full-fat Greek yogurt and berry smoothie, organic greens with grass-fed meat, etc. Make one percent improvements in how you eat in a day. And then keep going.

Related: This Person Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here's ...

3. Take the stairs.

Maybe you don't have stairs, but you get the idea. Add some movement into your day. Take a walk at lunch or even during a meeting -- there's no rule book that says meetings have to happen sitting down. Take the stairs, if you have them. Park ten minutes from work and walk the rest of the way. And then 15 minutes, and so on. Your brain functions much better when your body moves and your heart increases blood flow. You'll be more alert, more creative, and probably nicer to be around, too, since simple movement boosts our mood.

Do not underestimate the power of micro-improvements. Your commitment to success begins with your commitment to your own well being. And anyone -- even "I'm too busy for that" you -- can harness the power of being one percent better every day.

Greg Wells

Professor, Scientist, Broadcaster, Author

Greg Wells is a scientist, professor and author. He is an expert on human performance in extreme conditions.

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