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November 13, 2021

Compounding: the Best way to Change your Life for the Better—& 7 Simple Steps to Do It.


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I recently devoured The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Talk about a life-changing, perspective-shifting book.

Whatever you are currently reading, I highly recommend putting it to the side and cracking open The Slight Edge. It will shift your entire mindset.

The main theme of the book is using the concept of “compounding” to improve, heal, and thrive in your life.

What are the small (almost imperceptible) actions you are doing each day in the seven life areas listed below that are either building toward your version of a fulfilled life or dragging you further away from it?

It’s impossible to recap such a profound book into a few sentences, but I will give it a shot.

Olson poses that we are all at the mercy of what he calls “the slight edge.” These are the simple, daily choices we make, minute by minute, that either uplift or deflate us, not to mention bringing us either closer or further away from our version of a fulfilled life. All these small choices and actions start to compound and create the life that we presently have.

In our culture, we love the idea of “the big break,” “the quantum leap,” and “the overnight success story.”

We cling to these concepts, hoping that someday—that elusive day that never comes—we will finally get that dream job, that dream relationship, that dream life that we have always wanted, all by doing the same lackluster and uninspired actions we’ve been taking all our lives, mostly unconsciously (guilty).

No one knows this concept better than me.

After working in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, the terms “big break” and “overnight sensation” were often heard. But if you spoke to casting directors or agents, they would tell you exactly what Olson says:

“Those big breaks and overnight sensation stories were the culmination of years of going on auditions, networking with executives, and booking small roles that built up over time. Do some actors get discovered in a mall with zero experience? Absolutely. But without the power of the ‘slight edge’ pushing them incrementally forward, they may end up as that ‘one-hit wonder’ that we’ve also heard about.”

This is why Olson poses that hanging out for that “big break” (without any conscious action) is unrealistic because everything we choose to do is creating momentum (in one direction or another) in our lives. Everything that looks like a big leap from the outside is a compilation of lots of little steps, all compounding every day, creating the life you see before you.

“Big breaks” and “quantum leaps” do happen, just not in the way people think they do.

He even goes on to define what a “quantum leap” is in physics, explaining, “A true quantum leap is what happens when a subatomic particle suddenly jumps to a higher level of energy. But it happens as a result of the gradual buildup of potential caused by energy being applied to that particle over time.”

See the difference?

Speaking of time, Olson also talks about it a lot in the book. He says most people (95 percent of the population) don’t understand how time works and how to have it on their side.

This is evident in the gym memberships purchased each January, only to start gathering dust by February because someone isn’t seeing a 100 percent improvement in their body immediately. So they figure, “What’s the point? If I can’t have it immediately, I won’t work for it incrementally.”

Our short attention spans and addiction to quick results (“fix your life in 30 days!”) sets for us unrealistic expectations that, for most people, lead them to quit or give up long before their work creates enough momentum to have tangible results.

This is also compounded (see what I did there?) by our individual conditioning, programming, and fear around change, growth, and lasting fulfillment.

The book is so informative and in-depth that I will stop there. Olson also shares many interesting studies throughout, some of which literally made my mouth fall open.

Below are the seven areas of life in which, he suggests, we can do one small, simple daily action that can compound, build our confidence and self-trust, and allow us to create the feeling of what we would like our life to feel like.

Our lives are tiny moments strung together, compounding toward fulfillment or lack thereof. Most of our lives are not graduations and weddings, but the small, simple daily choices we make about how to feel, how to spend our time, and what to focus on.

For example, my action for my financial life is to pull one Abraham-Hicks financial oracle card per day in the morning so I can have something to focus on for my mindset around money.

I also made a calendar and checked things off as I went. The power of keeping promises to ourselves helps heal past trauma, disappointment, isolation, and self-doubt.

One thing I do want to highlight here: Olson’s main theme throughout the book is that these simple actions are easy to do, but also easy not to do, which is why 95 percent of the population won’t do them.

Just take that in.

If you commit to 20 minutes of walking per day, it’s easy to do, but also easy not to do. It’s easier to choose to scroll Instagram or space out on the couch. It just is. This is why most people won’t walk for even 20 minutes a day. Ninety-five percent of them, actually.

Choose to do the thing. You’ll feel better, and you’ll feel powerful.

In the seven areas below, think of one simple daily action you can do to start using the powerful concept of compounding and create a lasting and well-supported change in your life (I’ve included a few ideas for each one):

>> Health—20 minutes of nightly stretches, drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, eating one fruit and one veggie each day

>> Happiness—one page of journal writing, 10 minutes of spiritual connection each morning, saying, “I approve of myself” every time we walk by a mirror

>> Relationships—telling one person we appreciate them, giving a compliment, sending a loving text to a friend

>> Personal Development—reading 10 pages of a good book per day (Olson’s suggestion, which I am doing), listening to a TED talk or other uplifting speeches, doing some tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique)

>> Finance—setting aside $2 each day from our paycheck, pulling a financially based oracle card for money mindset work, repeating five affirmations that make us feel connected to money in a powerful way

>> Career—working toward a new certification in our field, sending a “thank you” email to a colleague about something they taught us, repeating “thank you” throughout the day when we have a work win

>> Our Impact on the World (our lives as a whole)—creating some art, setting aside $1 a day for our favorite charity, making a list of goals and reading it every day

Do your simple actions every day for a month and take note of what has changed, shifted, gotten easy, opened up, fallen away. Then, do the same thing the next month and the month after that.

And remember, you can change your simple action (or add more) as you go, and things will start to present themselves.

Creating new habits that bring awareness to our daily mood is key.

We have to know where we are in order to know where we are going, and we get to decide that, not our peers, parents, boss, or community. We do. Feels pretty good, right?

Take an honest assessment of what is no longer working for you. Get clear about your habits. Get crystal clear about why you do them. Take note of where your time goes (hello, Facebook scrolling!), and redirect that time to a more fulfilling activity—reading, spending time with friends, making art, or snuggling with your dog.

Ask yourself: where do you want to be in a year, or more specifically, where will you be on this exact date at this exact time next year? More fulfilled? Healthier? More well-read? Manifesting more money? More deeply connected to your authentic self? Braver? Sassier? More badass? Sounds good to me.

Now, remember that those things can only be achieved in the now. Meaning, you can hone the slight edge in your life today to build momentum toward those goals. You don’t have to wait. You have the power and the control right in your hands.

So, what are you waiting for? Because the “slight edge” is already here, and it’s waiting for you to take the reins and ride off toward the life of your dreams.

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