There are numerous ways you can approach learning–both when on your yoga mat and when pursuing advancement in your career. If you focus on big gains, such as mastering a specific pose or landing a huge pay raise, you often miss the nuances of the journey. In fact, you can get injured or burned out by pushing too hard just to reach your end goal. Instead, this blog post suggests an alternative mindset–get better 1 percent at a time. You’re far more likely to stick with new habits, evolve your business organically, and experience more freedom along the way.

While this is a mentality I follow now, this wasn’t always the case. When I was sixteen, my father passed away from cancer. From that moment on, I felt that life was short. I wanted to make the most of every moment. And I definitely wanted big results from my efforts (because I was uncertain as to how much time I’d have on Earth to actualize my dreams).

I often pushed hard. I got frustrated when things didn’t move quickly or when I didn’t master new skills with ease. This mindset was further amplified by my participation in sports–where pain and strain were necessary to get better.

The introduction of yoga to my life in my early twenties changed my outlook. Unlike a soccer match, which has a definite winner at the end of 90 minutes time–yoga has no endpoint. There are always more challenging postures to attempt with the body, and more focus with which to train the mind. And forcing your way in yoga doesn’t work–as you very well know!

With each session on my mat, I began to embrace the tension that comes with facing the unknown. Soon, I found peace in slow, deliberate growth. And best of all, I have been able to confidently stick with my yoga practice for the past 15 years. I’ve also established a career in a field I love, married my soul mate (and been happily together for over a decade), and traveled the world. This has all been possible with deliberate decisions each day to get better 1 percent at a time.

Photo Credit: Ember and Earth


In the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, reveals practical strategies on how to use the small behaviors in your life to achieve remarkable results. How does this work? Essentially, you begin to stack one small, positive change upon another, and then repeat this cycle over and over again, until you reach a tipping point.

Eventually, the momentum of your decision to get 1 percent better at a time is internalized as a natural part of your being.

You don’t just step on your yoga mat because you have to. Instead, you want to. You don’t fight sitting down for meditation. Rather, you carve out time in your day to focus your mind and tap into the best version of yourself. Or, in your yoga business, you get excited about connecting with your community via social media instead of bucking time on your iPhone.

Said another way, the small actions you take each day to keep learning act like compound interest. If you get 1 percent better each day, you will end up 37% better by the end of the year! Who doesn’t want that?

Graphic Credit: Sam T Davies


When your small, positive habits get stored as the new operating system in the mind and body, you unlock a new level of performance. In fact, the Great Britain cycling team demonstrated this beautifully.

In 2008, they dominated the road and track cycling events in Beijing, China and won 60 percent of the gold medals in their sport. This might not seem like a big deal until you realize the Great Britain cycling team had only received one gold medal in the past 100 years!

What brought on their sudden surge to victory?

Well, in 2003, they hired Dave Brailsford as their new performance director. His goal was to search for tiny margins of improvement in all areas of life for his athletes–not just the physical aspects of training. He redesigned the seats to make them more comfortable and he used biofeedback devices to find the best racing suits for his team.

Brailsford also found ways to get 1 percent better in unexpected areas. He found the best mattresses and pillows for each of his riders, and the team hired a surgeon to teach them the best way to wash their hands. This reduced the chances of an athlete catching a cold.

The bottom line is that the hundreds of small improvements by his team lead to record-breaking results.

How can you improve in overlooked areas?

As a yogi, there are obvious ways in which you can enhance the quality of your practice. You can select a high-quality yoga mat, one that is durable and environmentally-friendly. You can schedule a time to show up on your mat each day–whether that be an active practice or a yin-style sequence. Or, you might even assess how much food you need to consume each day in order to feel sustained (as well as which of those foods provides the best energetic boost).

Are there other areas that might also affect your ability to be your best every day, like:

  • The amount of sleep you get each night
  • Your morning routine to start the day, or evening routine to unwind
  • The quality of colleagues with whom you work
  • Time you set aside to plan for your business growth
  • The friends and family with whom you spend your free time
  • Mentors you have that inspire your personal and professional evolution
  • The types of shoes on your feet and clothing on your skin
  • Which products you use each day to keep your body clean, or
  • How your living quarters are organized

The possibilities to elevate your way of being are endless. I suggest that if you want to excel in life and be the best version of yourself, then begin to think like the performance coach of the Great Britain cycling team. Discover all of the things that affect your energy levels, and begin to get better 1 percent at a time. You’re sure to get significant results when you add up all of these small changes over time!

Photo Credit: AlexType


Now that you know why tiny changes can lead to a great impact, it’s time to look at how to do it. Here are some simple tips I use (and that James Clear promotes as well):

Look Ahead

The person you are today is simply a result of the beliefs and habits of your past. Said another way, if you look at who you are today, it’s like reading yesterday’s news. It’s old information. So, if you really want to improve–if you really want to transform into the better version of yourself–then look ahead. Become far more concerned about where you’re going and the trajectory you’re going to take to get there!

Connect with Positive Emotions

Growth comes in phases. Many times, the beginning stages are slow and sometimes imperceptible. Bamboo, for example, builds an extensive root system for about five years before breaking the ground’s surface. It can then grow to 90 feet tall within 6 weeks of touching sunlight!

Similarly, it takes time to build muscle in the body or learn a new skill. You don’t see the physical effects of your training or practice at first. Yet, you will notice emotional changes.

Yep! The first evidence that you’re heading in the right direction with your choices and actions is that you’ll feel good. You’ll discover positive emotions like satisfaction, courage, confidence, and ease creeping into your daily routine. Just let these chemical indicators be enough evidence to stick with your program! You really can reach your goals–even if you don’t see visible progress immediately!

Set up Simple Systems

Systems are different than goals. Goals are the results you want to achieve. Systems, on the other hand, are the processes you use each day that help lead you to those results. In essence, systems are the steps you take–both mentally and physically–to move closer to your goals.

As a yogi, you might have the goal of mastering an inversion, like headstand or handstand. The system you put in place to work toward that goal could be doing short core strengthening exercises on your mat each day at home. Or, you could buy a membership at your local studio and take 4 classes per week with an instructor who specializes in getting you upside down.

If you’re building your yoga business, your goals might be to get hired at a local studio and recruit five weekly clients for your private sessions in the next three months. Your systems would involve completing items on your new teacher checklist. It would also include the creation of marketing material and how you spread that marketing material around town.

Essentially, when you focus on your systems, you reinforce the value in getting better 1 percent at a time. And, you can continually modify the steps you are taking, and the systems you are using, to improve your results.

Photo Credit: StockPhotoPro


As you develop great systems and experience positive emotions when following them, repeat those actions. Duplicate those choices. Remind your body and mind that this is the new you. This will reinforce small wins on your path and make your entire journey more satisfying. The net result?

You will build more trust in yourself each step of the way. And, you’ll be more motivated to stick with your systems, which will further lead to small victories, which will, in turn, increase your inspiration and focus. It starts and perpetuates a positive cycle for change! And this all starts when you decide to get better 1 percent at a time.

Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography


You have amazing goals for your yoga practice and your life. While society tends to celebrate the visible aspects of success, much of the path to get there goes unnoticed. Don’t buy into the idea that you have to win all at once. Instead, when you adopt the mindset to get better 1 percent at a time, you create amazing power to actualize your dreams. And, you’ll experience more joy, clarity, and freedom along the way.

Take Action Now:

  • Download our Systems Questionnaire to discover which habits of life are supporting you right now, and which ones are not.

  • Read Atomic Habits! It’s an incredible book to propel you toward your goals.
  • If reading isn’t your thing, but you want to hear more about the power of Atomic Habits, listen to this podcast in which James Clear spills the secrets to making lasting change in your life.

About the Author

Hi there! I'm Kym Coco, an ocean-loving yogi who is passionate about writing, travel, and great food (among a long list of other things). I feel absolutely alive on my mat, and I created Swagtail as a way to channel that prana into powerful, practical tools that can be used by other fabulous teachers in the yoga community!

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