Five Percent

I'm 100 percent certain that though this tree is only 5 percent of my yard, the blooms and the blue sky are excellent indicators spring is around the corner ... and that makes me 1000 percent happy.

You know how you have conversations that impart wisdom that sticks with you over time? A couple of years ago, one of my youngsters wanted to be moved down a level in one of her classes. She maintained the coursework was too difficult, I maintained she was capable and looking for a way to decrease homework time in order to increase social time. So I called in her teacher to act as a referee.

We shared our opposing viewpoints, the teacher agreed with me, therefore confirming I am always right. The end.

Kidding! No really, here's what he said:

"With just a tiny bit more effort, and I mean like 5 percent more, you can go from being a solid student to being the top student in all your classes."

{Sidebar: why is it educators tend to be so wise? Seriously, so many of the conversations that resonate with me come from teachers. Does having to wrangle a mass of children daily, plus deal with crazy parents, plus adhere to government-mandated educational standards put in place by non-educators make them smarter than the rest of us? Is it something they train them for in college, like "Educator Wisdom 101," or are they born with it?}

The reason this 5 percent more concept sticks with me is because so often we hear of a person's success as a result of doing something insane. You know, exercising for 12 hours a day while consuming only kale smoothies and BAM losing 30 pounds. Or of a former janitor becoming a best-selling author by getting up a 3 a.m. and writing every day before heading out to sweep floors. Or really anything where the vast majority of us would say "good for them, but that sounds like non-stop misery and I KNOW MY LIMITATIONS."

But 5 percent is tiny. It's doable. It's like half an hour or less per day. And statistically speaking, it's small changes made consistently that create a snowball effect for other, more significant changes. (If you haven't read the book The Power of Habit, I highly recommend it. It's where I found this tidbit of information, along with other fascinating insights on how habits -- good and bad -- impact our lives.)

Now whenever I catch myself checking my phone unnecessarily, or zoning out in front of the TV, or whining about being exhausted, I just think "5 percent." Because if I have to pick starting a big project at 8 p.m. or watching Downton Abbey, those crazy Crawleys win every time. But if I just need to spend 15 minutes on a task, I know the sense of accomplishment from disciplining myself to "do something" versus "watch something" will be huge. And that I will feel less guilty when I do finally sit down to see what's up with Lady Mary and the rest of that British bunch. (For those of you that watch, Bates is starting to really creep me out.)

Now, when one of my kids hits that wall -- whether it's with studying, practicing for their sport, or cleaning their room -- I try to remind them "c'mon -- 5 percent." Because it turns out doing 5 percent more is 100 percent rewarding.

Turns out the teacher is almost always right.

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