The Compounding Effect

Photo by  Nattanan23

Photo by Nattanan23

Here’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about as we embark on this new year: the compounding effect.

Many of us have heard about this in regards to our finances, I’m sure. We put a sum of money into a savings or investment account and it grows exponentially over time. The reason why it’s able to grow exponentially is because the percentage increase that’s applied regularly is applied to the most up-to-date amount, not the original amount. This is how people like my grandparents, who were blue collar workers, were able to have tons of money by the time they passed away—it compounded over decades.

But the area in which I’m thinking about the compounding effect isn’t in the area of finances. It’s actually in every other area of my life. I repeatedly tell those around me (and myself) that I just don’t have any time to exercise. And the reality is that I don’t really have time to exercise in the way that I used to before I had a kid and a full-time job. However, I could easily take ten minutes to walk around our gigantic church parking lot. If I just did this 5 times a week, that would total 2,600 minutes of exercise per year, which would be approximately 13,000 calories burned, which would mean almost 4 pounds of weight loss—those last few pounds I’ve been trying to lose for years. If I did this for five years, it would be 20 pounds…from just ten minutes of walking around my parking lot five times a week!

I don’t think abstaining from one sugary pastry is a big deal but what if I did this every week? That would add up to 52 servings of sweets I didn’t eat and several more pounds of weight loss on top of the weight loss from my ten minute exercises.

I didn’t think writing for 30 minutes every day was a big deal but it compounded to something so much greater than anything I imagined. That’s actually what happened in 2018. All of my HuffPost, Thrive, Medium and blog posts were a result of writing 30 minutes 5 times a week.

Believe me, friends. I don’t like setting goals and I don’t like resolutions but this compounding rule is powerful.

Part of the reason why I don’t like setting goals and resolutions is because I’m a creature of habit and I don’t like change—especially any kind of stressful change. As a busy working mom, I try to make my life as efficient and seamless as possible. When I pose change to myself as non-threatening as possible with minimal effort, then I’m willing to consider. Especially when the outcome compounds to something so much greater over time.

This compounding effect applies to our relationships as well. One gentle kiss for our spouse or child one morning may not make a big difference. What if this were done for ten years? This would create such tenderness within a relationship. On the flip side of that, little mean passive-aggressive comments compounded over time erodes trust and a sense of safety within a relationship.

If you’re like me and you’re too busy, tired, stressed or to the brim with other priorities in your life that goals and resolutions are the last thing you want to think about, I encourage you to remember the compounding effect.

Just choose one area of your life where you would like to see change and the tiniest action you could take in that area of your life consistently (e.g. 10 minutes of walking each day, 30 minutes of writing each day, withholding criticism once a day) and then see how your life unfolds over time. I myself will be going with the 10 minutes of walking 5 times a week commitment. We may not see results over a week or maybe over a year. But I always think we need to take the long view in crafting our lives anyway. That way, we’re able to build habits that are actually sustainable and life-altering. Don’t think about who you want to be in one year. Think about who you want to be in 20 years and then start implementing tiny shifts right now that get you to that dream life.

Here’s to teeny itsy bitsy changes. Happy 2019 everyone!