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3 Secrets to Your Slight Edge: How to Be in the Top Five Percent

So identify three actions that take no more than ten minutes a day and that, if you looked back in a year after doing them every day, might add up to huge gains. Then incorporate just one of these actions into your daily routine per week for the next three weeks so that you build up gradually rather than shocking yourself into doing them
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"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." -- Confucius

Take a moment to close your eyes and think about your greatest professional aspiration and what you need to do to reach it. How do you feel? When I do this activity with clients, nine times out of ten, I get answers like "anxious," "tense," or "stressed."

When clients encounter these emotions, they are often surprised at what I recommend based on what I learned about the sloth while living in Costa Rica. The photo above was taken during my rare opportunity to see this tree-dweller walk on land. Everything slowed--my mind, my pulse, and all my energy. But then again, it's surprising that despite its, well, slothy nature, the sloth is one of the most accomplished and self-sustaining mammals in the rainforest.

So I ask my clients what if you were more sloth-like in your approach to success?

In his brilliant book The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson shows us that like the sloth, people who incorporate small, repetitive activities into daily routines--two minutes here, ten there, every day--are much more successful than those who think in monumental tasks. In fact, his research shows that these tendencies are common to those who achieve in the top 5%.

Small, daily investments lead to big results.

So identify three actions that take no more than ten minutes a day and that, if you looked back in a year after doing them every day, might add up to huge gains. Then incorporate just one of these actions into your daily routine per week for the next three weeks so that you build up gradually rather than shocking yourself into doing them. I guarantee when you stick to this approach, you will be stunned at your progress after only one month.

Here are some suggestions of activities you can begin to incorporate that will take you less than 10 minutes to do.

1. Write down five accomplishments every day
. Seeing daily accomplishments written down gives you a sense of satisfaction to tackle the next day's work. Write achievements that focus on multiple aspects of your life (work, health, relationships). This will increase your awareness of the areas in which you are thriving versus neglecting. And if your page looks a bit blank, you will work harder and/or more efficiently the next day to make that page feel more substantial because your conscience can't stand the the sight of that blankness. Here is an example of a day last week:
  1. Had initial consult with new client
  2. Went to gym
  3. Designed day 1 of strategic planning session
  4. Got through 50% of my flagged email (yes this is an accomplishment, even if it feels like a treadmill!)
  5. Called my mother

2. Maintain a "Fear Journal." Write 10 minutes each day about your fears. Be frank and open, and get it all down on paper. Putting your fears on paper makes them objects rather than emotions. With that detachment, you can objectively resolve those fears much more efficiently without emotion or prejudice.

3. Make it a point to have a conversation with a positive person each day. Those of us in the motivational space have seen real-life evidence proving Jim Rohn's famous assertion that you are the average of the top five people with whom you spend the most time. Start deliberately seeking the most positive people you can, and interact with them regularly. You will be amazed at the impact this small step can have on your level of happiness and achievement.

And one final thing--you may find that using the sloth method of achievement is quite enjoyable. The sloth, ironically, has a permasmile. I couldn't help but look at one in the wild and smile myself. Going slow to go fast will give you more time and confidence to know that you can march toward your goals and live a satisfying, enjoyable life.

Now go forth and overachieve like a sloth. Then check back in a year to realize the amazing things you have accomplished and how much fun you had in the process!

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Laura Berger is available as a speaker, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, visit BerdeoGroup

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