For those who are overwhelmed by the demands of work, family and home life, not to mention one’s own personal well-being, there’s good news: you don’t have to make huge changes to improve your life. Make small changes and you’ll create a significant dent, or so suggests a recent article in The Evening Standard.
The advice comes from Britain’s gold medal-winning Olympic cycling performance director, Dave Brailsford. Brailsford credits the cycling team’s great success (they won 14 medals) with a theory about the powerful effect of “marginal gains.”
Brailsford explains the approach thusly:
“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one per cent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”
For example, because rest is essential to athletic performance, the athletes were given better pillows. The same thinking holds true for non-Olympians in every aspect of life. If you break down everything that goes into being you — from work and to health, to relationships and finances — how can you make being you that much better?
The Evening Standard’s Susannah Butter suggests that those who want to start saving money begin by stopping buying a daily coffee. By trimming $2 a day from your spending, you save in excess of $500 a year depending on whether or not you snag coffee on the weekends too.
She offers similar advice about diet and health changes — cut back on alcohol consumption, walk a half hour a day and bid your afternoon chocolate bar adieu in order to lose weight and add years to your life.
While Butter’s suggestions are no doubt effective, Brailsford’s advice can be taken another way, too. Rather than use the theory of marginal gains to strip your life of the little things that make you feel better — chocolate, wine, coffee — why not take a page from the athlete’s books and figure out ways to make life more manageable by enhancing your comfort and pleasure?
If you’re miserable sitting at a desk all day, figure out a way to make your seat more comfortable. Arrange your workspace to be more conducive to comfort — ask for a better chair, better lighting. Get up and walk around every hour for a few minutes, and, by all means, take a break when you need it. You may even find that extra coffee a day is worth the $2, or $500-odd dollars it costs you annually.
Have you recently made a small change in order to gain a larger success?