What does it take to eat an elephant? Start off with one bite at a time. I first learned this concept a few years back, and have tried to apply it in different aspects of my life from health and fitness to some professional goals that I’ve had. In the book “Atomic Habits” written by James Clear, he talks about the concept of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains used by the Sky British Cycling Team. The team basically just wanted to be one percent better in everything they had to do to ride a bike fast. That meant improving on everything from the obvious areas (aerodynamics, sports science, nutrition etc.) to the not so obvious (sleeping, comfort, team dynamics etc.)
For a lot of people, their health often feels like that elephant. We all want to work at it, but after analyzing the situation, it just feels daunting and intimidating. We do not know where to start, and we ask ourselves, “Even if we get started, will it even pay off?”
This is a concept that is even more apt in this day and age of instant gratification. Everything is moving so fast and hastened by technology. Want a meal? No need to call. There’s an app for it. It’s delivered straight to your door without you even having to take out your wallet! While things have sped up, there are just some things that though we can be efficient we still have to be patient with it, especially when it comes to our health.
So how can we apply the concept of Marginal Gains to our health?
Win the days
Each day we do the things we need to do is a win. This can be different for most people. In my own personal life, winning the day for me involves being grateful and doing my devotions, serving clients, eating relatively healthy, getting a workout in or sometimes making sure I recover, and sleeping and waking at the right time.
When I’m able to do these, I count it as a win for myself. There are days that I “lose” too, but I try to make sure that I win more than I lose. So try to figure out for yourself what does “winning each day” look like for you and do your best each day!
A little bit better every time
Periodically, we must examine our routines and ask ourselves, “Is this the best (efficient and effective) way of doing things? Is my food strategy already the best I can muster? Is the way I’m training already the best I can do from a program and effort perspective? Can I get in more sleep? What other things can I do to improve on my health, fitness, nutrition, head-space etc.?” We have to analyze these things and figure out if we can do something that improves these just a tiny bit each time.
Keep on chugging
When we win the days and figure out how to improve on each aspect, all we need to do is stay on track and watch the time go by. When we turn tasks into habits, and habits into routines, we can get to the point of unconscious automaticity—which means I don’t have to think about these things, they just flow into my daily routines. Chug along, win the days, but also do not forget to periodically examine and improve upon your routines.
Working on our health need not be daunting when we think of eating the elephant one bite at a time. Is there an aspect of your health that seems daunting to you? Apply the concept of the aggregation of marginal gains and see if these improve for the better.