In my life I am often astonished how much impact it can have when I focus on the small steps and little wins. Working on the smallest of attitude changes, developing a new positive habit, really does make a massive impact on the way I feel about my day and also my sense of achievement. There is a Navy Seals officer, and we all know how though those guys or girls are, who gives a graduation speech where he tells the kids that the one advice he would give them is…… drum roll…… To make their beds in the morning. Make my bed? Why? Such a small thing? But imagine starting the day by having achieved one thing, and how that sets you up for the rest of the day! The little details matters!
The Great British cycling team has been dominating medal tables in the last 4 Olympics. In this years Tokyo events they left with 12 cycling medals. If you follow the sport it is a bit hard to imagine, but there was a time when the team wasn’t so great or successful. In 2003 they brought in a guy called David Brailsford as the new performance director. At that time Tour de France had never been won by a British cyclist, and since 1908 the British team had only taken home one gold medal in the Olympics. So what did David do that changed the success of the team? He believed in a strategy he called ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. The whole principle came from the idea that if you can break down everything into riding a bike, and then improve those by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
I find it fascinating to read about the changes he and the coaching team made: it covered everything from equipment tweaking to teaching the best handwashing technique so the riders wouldn’t catch common colds. They even tested out the best pillow for the different riders so they could take them on their travels (I think they now even bring their own mattresses too). Did the pillow help win Tour de France or make riders into Olympic champions, probably not, but a cyclist that has a great night sleep will perform a little bit better than one that hasn’t been sleeping as well.
So I now have a picture of a a pillow as the lock screen on my phone. It is a little reminder to myself; what is the one thing I can do today that might not seem like a huge thing, but it is moving me towards something that matters to me, giving me the courage to grow and helping me experience progress.
As my favourite big eyebrow philosopher once said: The journey with a thousand miles begins with one step.