The final 1% is the hardest and most rewarding.

Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash

Most mornings, I wake up and head to the gym. There I set out to challenge my physical capabilities and push myself to give all I can.

Without fail, at least a few times per session, I reach the point of 99%. This is the point when you’ve given nearly everything you have. You’re a few reps into a set or some minutes into the run. You’re tired, starting to feel weak. You want to give up, but you’re forced to ask yourself:

  • Will I do one or two more reps?
  • Will I run for another minute?

The truth is you know you could, but you don’t want to. You’re ready to be done. What do you do?

You Get to Decide Whether You Give the Last 1%

The decision to go the extra mile is yours. Unless you’re working with a personal trainer, no one is going to make the decision for you.

You could choose to stop. Say it isn’t worth it, you’re too tired. Go right ahead. The only question I would suggest you ask is:

Tonight when you’re looking back at your day, are you going to regret not going for that last rep?

If you aren’t then don’t worry about it, your day is done. My guess, however, is that you will. Even if it’s just for a brief moment. You’ll think “I could have done a little more” and it will bother you a little. There will be the slightest moment of frustration with yourself for backing down from a challenge.

Life Repeatedly Asks Us If We’re Willing to Give an Extra 1%

Giving the last 1% isn’t confined to gym visits. Every day, when we go to work or meet a friend or our partner, we’re given small opportunities to give the last percent. When you feel emotionally and physically exhausted, are you willing to do the small thing that will make a big difference? Are you willing to do the dishes after a long day at work because you and your partner will be glad you did them when the next morning comes? Are you willing to go through your work project one more time to look for mistakes before you present it this afternoon, even though just thinking about it makes you feel a little sick? Are you willing to make out a few holiday cards to old acquaintances, even though you’re exhausted from shopping for gifts for your family and closest friends?

We reach many points throughout our day, where we have to ask ourselves if we’re willing to do a little more than we want to. It’s a test to see if we’re ready to create something amazing. In many ways, our lives are shaped by how we handle this decision.

The Last 1% Is Often the Difference Between Good and Great

If you do anything consistently over a long enough time, you will likely become good at it. People that go to the gym every day, and put in some effort will see results. That 1% at the end, however, will have a dramatic impact on those results. Those that give up when faced with the decision will make progress, but progress will only be mediocre at best. It’s the people that give that last percent that become the athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters. It’s the people that give the last percent that sustains amazing relationships with friends and a lasting romance. The people that give a little extra when they don’t feel like it usually becomes the writers, artists, and professionals that succeed over the long run.

If you want to be great, you’re probably going to need to stay after practice and work on your shooting, or pretend excitement when your child asks to play and you only want to relax. It’s not a glamorous decision at the moment. You have to show a certain strength and determination, but you will be rewarded in the end.

Can you imagine training your whole life for the Olympics and not making it? If I went through that, I believe my first reaction would be to look at all those times I felt I could have given more, but I decided not to. I’d look at those days I didn’t stay after practice and those times I allowed myself to take it easy on the last mile of a practice run because I was exhausted. I’d think about those times I decided to go out late at night when I knew I should sleep. Those seemingly insignificant decisions might have caused all my training to go to waste. I’d at least wonder if that was the case. Whatever your big goals are, I hope you never have to go through something like that. You can start by making an intention to push for that little bit extra in the areas of life that are important to you.

Will You Follow Through?

There will be many opportunities today to give 1% more than you have been. When you recognize these opportunities, do your best to fulfill them. It will give you a sense of joy and confidence. When you look back at your day, you’ll be able to say that you did the things you could to become better. If you get into the habit of doing this regularly, I think you’ll find your life improving at a rate you haven’t felt in a long time.

This is your chance to take the reigns in your journey. Identify what you want and go after it with all you have. Don’t leave anything on the table that you might regret later on.

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