The Power of “Tiny Gains”
Reading time: 8 minutes
In our Pa 10 course, we believe you will acquire many new ideas you will want to start using to improve your child’s learning power. We encourage parents to begin thinking tactically how you will share and encourage the use of these better evidence-based learning strategies with your kids. This article points to your best change strategy.
Because these ideas have so much potential to improve learning, you will want to consider how you will implement your change strategy. You should consider this question – what is the best way to make these amazing improvements? What do you believe is the best way to change something?
We are confronted by a basic truth – most people misunderstand how to make amazing improvements. They tend to choose the wrong method because they don’t know how constructive change works. Read this to select the right path to achieving amazing results. Here’s the how and the why behind effective change efforts.
Big Thinking and Failure
Here in America, our culture carries a strong belief in the “big leap” and the popular thinking you must “go big or go home.” Think big – one hears this all the time in sports, business, and personal improvement. We speak in a language which honors great achievement, convincing ourselves that a change is only meaningful when there is some big and visible outcome associated with it. For example, most of us don’t set a modest goal of losing 5 pounds, that’s too little, no I want to lose 25! (Think big – but in this case to become smaller.)
Look at our New Year’s resolutions – they are usually big and bold – never mind they are often not achieved. The vast majority fail – by February. That’s not very promising.
We live in a culture where we see ourselves as failures when we do not accomplish that major change. This belief is widely held and expressed in many disciplines, industries, and professions. Here’s one of my favorite examples of “big thinking.”
In organizational change, one discipline I worked in, many advocated the concept of the BHAG – (pronounced Bee Hag) –the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a popular idea conceptualized in the business book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Collins and Porras. Lots of companies embraced this idea. But most of the BHAGs I observed failed spectacularly. They didn’t reach anywhere near their lofty goals. And they resulted in many discouraged, disappointed, and professionally damaged employees in their wake.
One reason, of many, this “reach for the stars” thinking does not work is that it fails to consider the human factors in all of us. Although we certainly desire to improve, we are also seekers of comfort and stability. Our brains prefer to rely on those familiar habits because they help us reduce cognitive load therefore allowing us to focus on important things. When too big becomes threatening it turns people off.
We resist big change, even when we know it’s good for us, because that change is uncomfortable, it forces us too far outside our comfort zones. To promote better learning strategies, let’s ditch this overly ambitious approach and find the better path.
Your Best Approach
What then, is the best way to achieve amazing changes for our kids and ourselves? The well-known author James Clear, an expert on habits, helps us with the power of “tiny gains.”
He believes when you want to successfully change habits, it’s best when “it involves continuous improvement with dedication to making small changes and improvements every day, with the expectation that those small improvements will add up to something significant.” This has been proven to be the right stuff.
Clear says, “The typical approach to self-improvement is to set a large goal, then try to take big leaps in order to accomplish the goal in as little time as possible. While this may sound good in theory, it often ends in burnout, frustration, and failure. Instead, we should focus on continuous improvement by slowly and slightly adjusting our normal everyday habits and behaviors.”
He points out if you could get one percent better each day for only one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done!
Or consider a more moderate effort; if your child could become only one half of one percent more productive each week, this amounts to two percent more productive each month, and 26% more productive by the end of each year. When you improve the efficiency of individual study at this tiny but doable rate, it results in a significant gain.
Taken further, with the magic of compounding, we can anticipate even more dramatic improvements if you stick with your efforts. When your child is 26 percent more productive in the first year, with compounding, this amounts to doubling your child’s overall productivity and performance every 2.7 years! This is sustainable, and you won’t need that BHAG thinking!
This is called the Law of Accumulation, or the Principle of Incremental Gains. The reality is this is the primary reason for all great success stories. This is what you should strive for.
Tiny Gains and College Readiness
Let’s bring this back to your goal of creating college-readiness in your child. The path for amazing improvement comes through those small steps of adding better learning strategies one at a time. You don’t need to, and shouldn’t, do everything at once, you establish a patient plan and work it with your kid. We will explain more about this in upcoming lessons.
There are two important ideas in lesson 3 of the Pa 10 course that will help you implement this more effective and vastly easier-to-do incremental approach.
- The first is Learning Maturity, a useful way to examine where your child is on the path to college readiness. It consists of 5 steps or stages your child will go through as he or she improves learning skills. It helps you set more modest goals where you only need to strive for the next stage in the progression.
- The second is the value of having a dedicated weekly family meeting where you have conversations with your child on what they did this week and then set simple plans to try to be a little bit better next week. It’s called the study planning and review meeting and it’s a central component to successful implementation.
Embrace the power of “tiny gains” as the best path for achieving great things!