The Compound Effect: How Your Daily Choices Affect Your Life – Part 1!

originalRemember those vicious word problems from high school math class that asked, “If you invested $1000 into a bank account that had an interest rate of 10% that was compounded annually, how much would you have after 10 years? They were dreadful, right? Well, what if life operated in a similar fashion, but instead of things being compounded annually or monthly, they are compounded moment by moment?

This is what Darren Hardy writes about in his amazingly motivating book, The Compound Effect. It’s a different type of self-help book. It comes from a guy who is a multi-millionaire and runs a magazine called Success Magazine. However, his wealth is nothing compared to the message of this book. His basic premise is that the choices you make in your day-to-day life slowly compound over time to create seemingly nothing, but they are being still being processed.

He refers to a “microwave mentality” we have as a society that expects instant results.

“Don’t try to fool yourself into believing that a mega-successful athlete didn’t live through regular bone-crushing drills and thoughts of hours of practice. He got up early to practice – and kept practicing long after all others had stopped. He faced the sheer agony and frustration of the failure, loneliness, hard work, and disappointment it took to become No. 1” (p. 20)

This idea is not all that different from the 10,000 hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell talks about it in his book, The Outliers, which I’m sure many of you had to read in school. This basically means that the key to success in any field is practicing that specific task for at least 10,000 hours. 

Whatever it is that you want to change in your life, it’s not going to be easy. Don’t expect change to happen immediately. As I’ve stated in my post, 3 Things To Understand Before Starting Therapy, don’t expect instant results all the time. Change isn’t immediate. It takes a lot of work to change a habit that has been so ingrained. It takes a lot of work to start a company. It takes a lot of work to improve your relationship. For the amount of time it took you to get into the situation you’re in, it can take just as long to get out of it. I don’t say that to be discouraging and it’s not always true, but I want you to be realistic. Darren Hardy goes on to say,

“The path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time” (p. 20-21).

Often when starting therapy, your therapist will challenge you to do something for that week. It may not be fun, but it’s necessary to get to where you claim you want to be. And you will have to continuously go back to the question of where do you want to be? You might be asked to fill out a sheet tracking your mood, come up with a list of goals you want, writing down specific thoughts you have. All these things are a form of tracking.

“Tracking is a simple exercise. It works because it brings moment-to-moment awareness to the actions you take in the area of your life you want to improve” (p. 38).

It amazes me how accurate these self-help books can be sometimes. It’s sort of like when you buy a car and all of a sudden you start to see that car a lot more on the road. Is it that there are a lot more of those cars on the road now that you bought them, or is it more true that your focus has changed?

As Darren Hardy goes on to say in his book, take it slow and take it easy. Pick one habit, focus on that one.

“Pick the habit that has the greatest control over you” (p. 38).

And as you begin reaping the rewards of the Compound Effect over that one habit, begin adding things. But as the Compound Effect says, don’t expect to see change immediately. What makes the Compound Effect happen are those seemingly inconsequential tasks you do everyday. It’s the daily choices you make. It’s whether you decide to go to the gym or not. You may tell yourself that it’s just one day, but that is just forcing the effect to start over.

All of this is meant to foster useful, strong habits in you that are in alignment with where you want to go. One of my favorite examples in the book about making just small changes is about a plane traveling from Los Angeles to New York City.

“If the nose of the plane is pointed only 1 percent off course – almost an invisible adjustment when the plane’s sitting on the tarmac in Los Angeles – it will ultimately end up about 150 miles off course, arriving either upstate in Albany or in Dover, Delaware. Such is the case for your habits. A single poor habit, which doesn’t look like much in the moment, can ultimately lead you miles off course from the direction of your goals and the life you desire” (p. 60).

So you have to start thinking about, what are your goals? Where do you want to be? Decide on that first and then make the plan. In relation to business, Darren Hardy makes a similar, yet poignant point on a recent post on Facebook,

This poignant distinction was once shared with me: Before you build your business plan, build your LIFE plan. Figure out what kind of life you want to have FIRST – where you want to live, what type of people you want around you, whether you want to work nights & weekends, how you want to dress, etc. THEN build your business plan around these criteria. I was once doing this all backwards… you?

So think about your goals and then go from there. As a caveat though, you won’t always have a clear picture of where you want to end up. It won’t be some magical place you instantly figure out. However, I go back to a point I’ve made before on this site, which is to stay goal-oriented, but present focused. Know where you want to go and take small steps in alignment with that.

What’s your goals? Make a list. Make them as specific as you can. If you want to shoot for the stars, then right it down, but be specific. Make some short-term and some long-term. Share your thoughts on this book and these ideas! We’d love to hear from you!

UPDATE: Check out Part 2 here!

To purchase a copy of Darren Hardy’s book, click here.

Related links:

Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

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17 replies


  1. 4 Life Lessons We Could All Learn from Elon Musk « Psych Connection
  2. The Compound Effect: How Your Daily Choices Affect Your Life – Part 2! « Psych Connection
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