By Valentina Petrova

You start from New York City, flying to Los Angeles. The plane veers off course by a 1 to 3-degree smudge. No one notices. You munch on your overpriced airplane meal deal, take a nap, and wake up….in Tijuana. Yep. 

Small, imperceptible changes lead to massive differences over time. It works with money, navigation, and personal development. Humans underestimate the power of compounding because our brains can barely figure things linearly, causally, and hypothetically.


If you took $100 and bought Apple on Dec. 1, 2016 (at about $27 per share) and continued to put in $100 per month until this Dec. 1, 2021, you would have spent a total of $6000 overtime, but own $19,000 of Apple stock. That’s what compounding and dollar-cost-averaging do. Most people think $100 is nothing. Because, obviously, no one can get rich by saving $100! Except, of course, those who do. 

Small efforts lead to big results when applied consistently. Tiny changes of habits can shift the trajectory of life even though short-term we can’t notice. Your life is the sum total of all of your habits. One cigarette now, becoming a smoker, leads to lung cancer thirty years later. One mile on the treadmill today, consistently, turns to habitually working out, will save you from heart disease, obesity, and the usual things that prematurely kill people. 

Quantum leaps and massive action are possible but not likely and hard to sustain. Try small 1 percent changes instead. Think of something so small you will have zero resistance doing it. 

In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear did the math on change. Doing 1 percent better every day for one year will make you 38 percent better at whatever the thing is.

What’s 1 percent of learning French daily? 20 min? I knew someone who learned German from zero to conversational level in a few months by listening to lessons and practicing while driving to and from work in LA traffic. 

Trust the process! Even if it feels like nothing much is changing. If you go to the gym and do three easy things only, you won’t get the muscle ache you can brag about to your co-workers. But if you get that muscle ache, you’ll be out of the gym for a week to recover. And there your momentum ends. 

Compare yourself not to the pros but to your past self. You live your life, not someone else’s.

Schedule your activities. What gets scheduled, gets done. Once it’s on your schedule, keep it there. Nothing should displace it! Planning will help you use time efficiently.

Make it easy on yourself. Eliminate obstacles and possible excuse for not following through. Set reminders for your activities so you don’t get sidetracked. 

Measure your progress. Keep logs, calendars, measurements in whatever way relevant. Take the test. Weigh yourself. Keep track of body composition. How much you eat. How much you sleep. How many chapters are read. Tracking makes you feel committed, responsible, and accountable.

Celebrate milestones. That’s the best part of tracking your progress. Pet yourself on the back as you deserve it!

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Too much, too soon, will tire and overwhelm you. Remember the turtle and the hair. Be the turtle. 

Stay inspired. Connect with people who’ve walked in your shoes and now exemplify your aspirations. Find them. Follow them. Copy them. 

If you don’t give up, you don’t have to start over. Just do it! 

The full version of this article can be seen on my free blog at Subscribe for a dose of weekly Life Intelligence

Valentina Petrova has helped people with life, health, relationships, financial, and professional goals and challenges since 2015. You can reach her at