What’s your one percent in improving your life?

Rule number four in Jordan Peterson’s book Twelve Rules for Life states, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday not to who someone else is today.” If taken to heart, how do we become the best version of the person reflected in our mirror? How do we get from point A to point B and what’s the best road map to follow?

Consider the map of one percent.

 At first glance the map of one percent may not appear to be worth your time. Not enough gain you say despite the adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.” James Clear states in his book, Atomic Habits, that if we improve our lives (or one element in our lives) by one percent every day, in a year we will have improved our lives by 37 percent. Most financiers would consider a gain of 12-14 percent in a year to be substantial. So –a gain of 37 percent is … well … ATOMIC!

I think most people would agree that wellness is important, not only for longevity, but for the quality of their life in general. However, statistics support that most people are overwhelmed by the idea of best practices for good health and become paralyzed into inactivity. They become the rider instead of the driver in their own lives. If only people realized, as Desmond Tutu so astutely quipped, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee maintains that there are four pillars of health: sleep, movement, nutrition, and relaxation. I add to this list — connection. I believe all of these paradigms are not only worthy of the one percent axiom, but necessary. Let’s dive in.

SLEEP: “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span,” – Dr. Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep. Now if that doesn’t get your attention, not much will. There’s a lot to unpack here – thus the reason for an entire book on this subject. Dr. Walker walks us through best and worst practices regarding sleep and explains if we aren’t paying attention to this wellness component, it’s much to our detriment.

MOVEMENT. I can still hear my mother saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” As it turns out, according to the most up-to-date experts on exercise, she was right. In the handbook of health and wellness, exercise is basic 101. It affects mind, body, and mood at the hormonal level. Resistance exercise, often overlooked, is especially helpful for building and maintaining muscle.

Why is this important? Muscle is the largest organ of the body. The captain of the ship. It directs your sail – the movement of your entire body. It contributes to your metabolic rate, and has been shown to deter disease. 

NUTRITION. You may have heard that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. While that’s true, knowing that calories count shouldn’t be the sole focus for optimum health. Dr. Satchin Panda, in his book, The Circadian Code, discusses implementing time-restricted eating as a lifestyle rather than the latest vogue diet. Keeping your eating within an eight-hour timeframe boasts benefits of renewed energy, improved quality of sleep as well as weight loss. I hopped onboard this lifestyle (conducting a science experiment on myself) a little over a year ago. I found it very compatible with my schedule and have enjoyed benefits of weight loss and deeper sleep. I plan to stick with it.

Another component of nutrition that recently got my attention is a conversation about protein. Dr. Gabrielle Lyon practices muscle-centric medicine. She states that there are only two ways to generate muscle: participate in resistance training and eat the proper amount of protein. She recommends eating one gram of protein per ideal body weight (in pounds), beginning with 30-50 grams in your first meal in order to generate protein synthesis. That got my attention because I don’t think I have EVER eaten that amount of protein in a day my entire life – even though I’ve been intentional about incorporating protein in my diet.

 Once I started paying attention and following this regimen for several months, I decided to stay off the scale, focusing instead on getting the amount of protein suggested. In that time, my body composition changed. I lost inches and gained muscle even though the scale showed no drop in weight. Dr. Lyon states that we should focus on muscle, and if we get that right, adiposity takes care of itself. I think she’s onto something. I’m sticking with it.

RELAXATION. Just reading about how stress affects our bodies is enough to stress me out! It ups the ante for hypertension, heart attacks and stroke. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather avoid those maladies at all costs. Incorporating relaxation and giving ourselves permission to do so can be life altering and life-saving. Whether it’s a few minutes of yoga, reading a good book, a walk through the park, or listening to music, we need to be intentional about de-stressing on a consistent basis. As we move through life, there is much outside of our control. But we need to remember even if we can’t control the wind, we can direct our sails. 

CONNECTION. To see and to be seen. Imperative. Perhaps the isolation induced by our recent pandemic brings the importance of connection into perspective. Now if we can only hold onto the lessons learned. We need relationships for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. To that point, I believe there’s nothing like the written word to build relationship. Putting pen to paper to express gratitude to a friend, a loved one, a mentor may take only a few minutes, but like an echo, it will reach back and make you all the richer.

Life is multi-faceted, but it’s NOT a dress rehearsal. We can choose to be the hero of our story – or the victim. If the water rises, we can choose to swim. 

So when you think about it … what’s your one percent?