Improving By Ten Percent

flyBe_smPerfectionism depends on a black and white view of the world, discounting “lesser” steps as irrelevant. When targeting perfection, you cannot improve because you never reach your goal. I recently read the book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story by Dan Harris, recounting his journey as a reluctant meditator. By electing to focus and espouse the modest ten percent level, he mitigates both his internal expectations and the external judgment he might encounter if he set a higher target. This week I explored being ten percent more compassionate, more patient, and less judgmental toward myself. I figured I have at least a ten percent variation in these levels anyway so why not aim for the best of my normal coping and see whether I could extend it even a bit further? Percentages compound beautifully as a single ten percent can build into another without the discouragement of failing to reach 75% or even 25% in one step.

At some level you decide how to take things, how to internalize them, how to act and react. The mini-shifts apply here too. If you can’t currently live the maxim “Don’t take things personally,” for example, perhaps you can follow it ten percent more today than yesterday. Anything inviting more love and compassion for yourself or others leads toward soul-level mastery of this life and whatever arises within it.

Daily I lean into the paradox of everyone doing their best even on their worst days, during their most difficult challenges. Knowing this truth still allows room for mindful electing of a better best when you can manage it. Developing presence, the ability to stay with what you experience, invites the incremental nudge. A slight improvement may mean the only perceptible shift surfaces in accepting reality including who you are and what feels hard.

Does a try, even a “failure,” count as a success? Where could you shift your life by ten percent? Does this sound easier or harder than a more ambitious target?


  1. Hi Christy, I like the idea of aiming for a 10% change as opposed to an “all or nothing” mentality. As an author, I’m learning that failing better is a worthy goal. Thanks for sharing Joanne 🙂


    • Hi Joanne,
      Thanks for your comment. The other part about compounding percentages I appreciate is how you can never reach 100% which seems rather fitting when attempting a shift. Failing better is a great goal!
      Warm regards,


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