The Right Way To Make Change in Your Life and Business

How many times have you said, “ENOUGH! I’m changing everything!”  And then you ate only buffalo tongues for 3 weeks or piled everything in the garage in a heap in the middle of the floor to finally get it organized, or marched into work and said “From now on, everything’s changing in this department,” only to find yourself back at square one four weeks later?  We all know that one of the hardest things in life is to make change.

Management by Shovel or by spoon?

This is a common way to approach change, that I call management by shovel.  The idea is that you take a shovel and clean everything off the table in one fell swoop.

Management by shovel can work, especially during a crisis.  But it’s painful, causes immense disruption, and is often very difficult to sustain long term.

Here’s another approach that I call the 1% solution:  Just change incrementally a little bit at a time.

The 1% Solution

Imagine trying to melt a block of ice.  It’s 10⁰ below zero and you know that it has to warm up if you’re going to see any movement.  So you apply lots of effort for a couple of days, bring it up to 7⁰, and look excitedly for results.  Nothing.  But you’re made of tougher stuff than that!

So, you wake up the next day and redouble your efforts.  In two days it’s up to 3⁰ and there are still no results.  So you give up.

What you didn’t know is that if you stuck with it for one more day, you’d see results.

My point this morning is that all of the small incremental changes you implement in your life add up and really matter over time.

I spoke with a client this week who added up all of the 1% solutions they’ve accumulated over the past two years.  They included small changes in:

  • Technology upgrades
  • Hiring strategies
  • Feedback and coaching
  • Regular huddles
  • Equipment upgrades
  • Cuilture/social activities

None of them were huge sweeping changes.  And yet two years later their business is vastly more profitable and staff are much happier and engaged.  They just made small, bite-sized, sustainable changes and kept up with them over time.

So today take a really small step that doesn’t seem to matter, because actually it does.  Spend five minutes at it every day to make it a habit.  Maybe one day you’ll want to spend more time at it.  For now get in the habit of performing the ritual.

Make change in small ways

  • Reading for 2 minutes every night (or morning)
  • Going for a 2 minute walk daily
  • Drinking a glass of water in the morning
  • Spending two minutes cleaning your workstation at the end of the day
  • Putting away $50/month into savings/investments
  • Holding a 5 minute daily huddle with your team in the morning
  • Beginning meetings with a quick check in from everyone: work and personal
  • Spending one hour/month thinking of your longer term strategy

Don’t ask yourself if you’re accomplishing the huge goal.  Instead, ask if you’re heading the right direction or the wrong direction.  Even if you’re making tiny progress in the right direction, you will get there over time if you don’t give up.

That’s the 1% solution.

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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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