The Difference Micro-Adjustments Make Over Time
Recently I attended a workshop focused on healing and personal growth, and in the gift shop, I came across a shirt with a compelling inscription. It read “2º Shift: The phenomenon of small adjustments making a monumental impact over time.” We say this often at WinShape Teams because it’s true. Let me explain.
If I hop in a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and intend to pilot it to LAX, I need to set my compass to the exact degree West that will take me to Los Angeles. If I adjust my heading just 2º — a tad South — I may be surprised, once I’ve traveled the distance it takes to get to LA, I won’t even land in California, but in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico! That little shift may not have seemed like much, but it made a big difference over time.
This principle applies to not just navigating terrain or the skies, but also to navigating life.
Little changes over time lead to big changes in outcomes.
Investing $500 a month (the average car payment in America) for 25 years will build $700,000 of wealth.
Eating one fruit and one vegetable at every meal could make substantial changes to all kinds of health markers: weight, cholesterol, A1C, blood pressure, and more.
Taking five minutes a day to genuinely ask and listen to how a teammate is doing (outside of work) could have a long-term impact on your team’s culture and productivity.
Start smaller or bigger with any of these trajectories, stay the course, and you’ll see the impact over time. The reason the 2º shift is more effective than bigger adjustments is twofold: firstly, small changes are easier to start and maintain; as they require less energy and are less noticeable, we are less likely to give them up.
Secondly, when we make a significant change, if it becomes too challenging, we are more likely to overcorrect and end up flying back to where we were or even worse in some cases. This is most common with fad diets: where we only eat ice and spinach leaves for three days and then binge on hamburgers and fries when we just can’t take it anymore. Eating an extra serving of vegetables a day would be a smaller change, therefore more sustainable, and we’re less likely to backslide dramatically.
Ultimately, we have the power in our hands to shape the future without dramatically revolutionizing the way we live.
A 2º shift in our lives may be something as small as simply paying attention. Paying attention to how you are speaking to your coworkers, where your money is going, what you are putting in your body, or how you are spending your valuable time.
By simply paying attention to the choices you are making, simply asking the question “is this going to make me stronger, healthier, or more fulfilled,” you may make a micro-adjustment that makes a major impact over time. We’re human, and sometimes we will recognize the cookie isn’t going to make us healthier, but we want it anyway, and that’s great! We paid attention, and that was the shift we needed to make.
Using the 2º Shift to Impact Others
A question arises: What happens when you turn your attention away from yourself and start asking the question: “how can I make this person’s life just 1% better?” What do you possess that could add value to someone else? What impact could five minutes have, if you spend them explaining to a co-worker your process for expediting and simplifying a common work problem?
Your five minutes of minimal effort could save them hours of wasted time and energy. Saving them hours of wasted time and energy could prevent them from wasting time on menial tasks and eventually burning out at work. Keeping them from burning out could propel them and provide the time and energy to pursue their dream role, where they and the organization can thrive most. The destiny of your team, your teammate, or your organization can be changed for good or bad with minimal effort.
Don’t let fear or a desire to do more stop you from doing something. As Andy Stanley says “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” If you can buy one single mother’s groceries, don’t keep yourself from doing that because you can’t buy 100 single mothers’ groceries. That little bit of difference today may make a major difference in ten years.
It can be hard to see the difference a 2º shift makes in the short term, but this shouldn’t be surprising. If I change a plane’s course 2 degrees over Atlanta, I will still be in Georgia, still above I-20, staring at the trees below. It won’t be until I’m flying over the Colorado Rockies instead of the Arizona desert that I realize I’m headed far north of LA.
The power of the 2º shift is maximized when those small adjustments become permanent habits. But the power isn’t limited to permanent habits. One note of encouragement, one intentional conversation, or one investment in a teammate may be exactly what tips the scale toward a breakthrough.
How to Get Started
My challenge to you is this: take five minutes, put your phone down, close your computer, get up and walk away from where you are, and do something that will add value to someone else. Ask them how they are really doing (then listen intently). Help someone carry something to their car. Write a note of encouragement and put it in the mail or on their desk. Order a book that has encouraged you and send it to someone you know could use it. Do something out of the ordinary. Then—this is the hardest part—don’t expect to see anything monumental happen… yet.
Trust the Process. Small changes are good. Going in the right direction takes lots of intentional choices, but you’ll be glad you made them when you get there!