The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

The way I speak to my children in every single exchange, MATTERS.

The food I choose for my afternoon snack, MATTERS.

Turning out the lights at 10:00PM vs. 10:36PM, MATTERS.

Doing 12 pull-ups when I want to stop after 11, MATTERS.

The details MATTER.

My commitment to the finer details of my day to day routine have added up to significant success in some areas.  Likewise, lack of attention to detail in other areas of my life has contributed to corresponding mediocre results.

I used to think that small acts of complacency I made throughout the day weren’t a big deal.

Things like:

Staying up too late.

Not making my bed in the morning.

Failing to keep simple promises to my children (ie. A storybook before bed.)

Sleeping in when I had planned to get up and train early. 

I used to think these things were minor and insignificant.  And maybe when you hold them up against the grand scheme of life, these once in a while shortcomings appear negligible to all of the other bigger moments but the truth is, they do matter

Every single action I take today, substantiates the person I am right now and it dictates the person I will be tomorrow.  

In his book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear writes about the aggregation of marginal gains (tiny changes, big difference).  The philosophy of the aggregation of marginal gains involves searching for tiny improvements in everything an individual does.  Using David Brailsford’s coaching of the British cycling team, he demonstrates the power and significance of infinitesimal shifts over the long run.  

Prior to the start of Brailsford’s work with the team, the British cycling team had won only one gold medal at the Olympics since 1908.  They had spent the past 100 years constructing a reputation that was average at best. In fact, their performance was so lackluster, that a top bike manufacturer in Britain refused to sell bikes to the team because they were afraid it would hurt sales if other professionals saw the Brits using their equipment.

5 years after Brailsford took over, the British cycling team dominated the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, winning 60% of the gold medals.

At the 2012 London Olympics – They set 9 Olympic records, and 7 world records.

From 2007-2017, the British cycling team had 178 world championships, 66 Olympic/Para-Olympic gold medals, and 5 Tour de France Victories.

 How did he do it?

 Aggregation of Marginal Gains: Tiny Changes, Big Difference

Brailsford thought that if he could break down everything that goes into riding a bike and improve it by 1%, the sum of those small improvements would equate to a significant increase in success overall.  And that’s just what he did. From hiring a surgeon to teach the team how to wash their hands properly to avoid illness to testing fabrics to find out which ones were the lightest and most aerodynamic, Brailsford took into consideration every detail that might improve the cyclists abilities.

Often when setting out to achieve a goal in life, we assume we have to make an earth shattering overhaul to our current lifestyle in order to palpate success.  We make up our minds about something we hope to accomplish and then we want to see the results of the intention as quickly as possible.  

While, taking massive action to acquire massive success certainly works for some, (think individuals who do things “cold turkey”) it’s not practical nor sustainable in most cases.

“It’s easy to OVERESTIMATE the importance of one defining moment and UNDERESTIMATE the importance of making small improvements on a daily basis.  They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be massive. It’s only when looking back that the value of good habits, or the detriment of bad ones, become noticeably obvious.” – James Clear

Transformation can be a slow and monotonous process and indeed we aren’t perfect…there will be slip ups and mistakes.  But remembering that the details matter compels me to question whether or not detouring of my path for momentary gratification is worth it.  Often times, it isn’t because of the inconvenience it poses to get back on track and the discomfort of knowing that I didn’t take committed to myself or the process.  

 What it all comes down to this…

Today, am I showing up as the woman I want to be?

Am I speaking like her?

Walking like her?

Acting like her?

Am I emulating her in every single detail?

And if the answer is yes, then I’m a woman who is fully committed to herself.

And, for me, there’s no other woman I’d rather be.










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