According to the principle of accumulative advantage, when one person (or thing) gains a small advantage over other people (or things), over time that advantage increases and expands.
In this article, we discuss four ways to create an accumulative advantage in marriage.
The Amazon Rain Forest has over 16,000 types of trees. But there are 227 of those species that make up 50% of the trees in the Rain Forest.
James Clear explains how this happens:
Imagine two plants growing side by side. Each day they will compete for sunlight and soil. If one plant can grow just a little bit faster than the other, then it can stretch taller, catch more sunlight, and soak up more rain. The next day, this additional energy allows the plant to grow even more. This pattern continues until the stronger plant crowds the other out and takes the lion’s share of sunlight, soil, and nutrients.
From this advantageous position, the winning plant has a better ability to spread seeds and reproduce, which gives the species an even bigger footprint in the next generation. This process gets repeated again and again until the plants that are slightly better than the competition dominate the entire forest.Source
The Power of Accumulative Advantage
This is called an accumulative advantage. Small advantages (like a tree growing just a little faster than the others) turns into a big advantage over time.
The margin of difference is incredibly small. But if a tree has a 1% advantage over the other trees, over time it increases that margin significantly.
In sports, business, and politics, it’s easy to see how this advantage leads to a large margin of victories, market-cap, and votes.
The gap between winners increases over time.
But how does this apply to life? Marriage?
Let’s put it in terms of a 1% difference.
Marriage is not a competition. It is a partnership. But the 1% rule still applies.
If you become 1% better each year (month, week, or even day), over time the rewards increase dramatically.
Let’s take communication in marriage for example:
If you invest in making communication better by just 1% each week, in one year you will have by 52%. That’s a big difference.
If you attempted to do all that at once, you would fail. It’s too much.
But 1% each week over the next 52 weeks creates big strides in your communication skills.
How Can We Practice 1%?
If we just took time as a measure of our communication, and we added 15 minutes a week of concentrated conversation and connection (60 minutes in an hour + 24 hours a day equals 1440 minutes. 1% of 1440 is 14.4 minutes. We rounded up to make it an even 15 minutes), we would greatly enhance our ability, effectiveness, and emotional connection with our spouse.
Over time the gap between where you were and where you are grows exponentially.
But it doesn’t have to be measured by time. As long as you improve something by 1% you can be miles ahead of where you are today. The accumulative Advantage takes over.
Just remember, it’s not about having a better marriage than your neighbor, your parents, or anyone else. It’s about moving the needle in your own relationship. It’s about improving your communication, intimacy, connection, and trust.
It’s about having a better marriage next month than you do this month.
Why We Balk At This
This flies in the face of most marriage advice.
Partly because we want instant results. We want to go to a marriage counselor and have our relationship fixed in one or two sessions.
It’s the microwave culture we live in.
But life doesn’t work like that.
The Tortoise and the Hare
Remember the Aesop’s Fable about the Tortoise and the Hare (turtle and the rabbit)?
Even though the rabbit was much faster, his lack of focus and commitment (he took a nap on the way to the goal) made him lose to the turtle who was focused on simply taking one more step in the right direction.
Moving slowly in the right direction is better than not moving at all, or moving quickly in the wrong one.
Taking small steps will gain you the victory if you just keep moving in the right direction.
At some point, the accumulation advantage effect takes over.
100 Books A Year vs 12 Books A Year
Here’s another way to look at this. If you read 100 educational books in the next 12 months, you would acquire a lot of knowledge.
But if you only read one book a month, but you read it several times, took notes, and applied the principles to your life, you would have an accumulative advantage over the person who read 100 books.
The advantage comes because you internalized the thoughts, message, and principles of those 12 books. This is far more valuable than simply reading 100 books.
The same idea applies to developing relationship skills. You could sit and make a list of 100 things you want to change in your life and marriage, but if you took one item and truly focused on internalizing that concept until it became a part of the way you think and behave, you would create an accumulative advantage.
4 Ways To Create An Accumulative Advantage In Marriage
Growing your relationship by 1% is not as hard as you might think. Here are six practical things you can do to add value to your marriage on a small scale that pays off with big returns.
Let’s take the area of communication and apply the law of accumulative advantage.
#1: Increase Talk Time By 1%
I broke down the math earlier (see above). The point is to set aside 15 minutes of uninterupted connection time. If you already have a routine for this, add 1% to your time.
For example, if you have a habit of sitting on the porch swing for 30 minutes after dinner, simply add 1% to your time. That’s not much. In fact, you could add another 15 minutes of concentrated ‘talk time.’
Over the period of one year, you will add more than 91 hours of conversation with your spouse.
Why is this important?
It takes T.I.M.E. to connect. Research shows that people who interact on a consistent, regular basis grow closer.
This is why our social circle mimicks our work or church circle. We play with the same people we work with. Why? Because we spend more time with them than anyone else.
#2: Hold Hands For 15 Minutes
This doesn’t have to be separate from talk-time. The point is to touch (non-sexual contact) for 15 minutes.
#3: Avoid Discussions About Problems For 10 Minutes
A study done by Utah State University indicates tabling discussions about problems for the first 10 minutes of interaction with your spouse reduces stress and creates stronger emotional support.
Learn how to have stress-reducing conversation, emotionally support each other, and sooth
self and partner in positive communication patterns. Make the first ten minutes together a positive experience. Do not bring up problems, criticism, complaints during this time.
There are four benefits to not discussing problem issues in the first 10 minutes of your time together.
- It reduces stress
- It fosters positive emotions
- It creates stronger emotional connection
- It resets the pattern and habits of how you communicate
Our life moves in the direction of our habits which form patterns. If we alter the pattern, we change our lives.
This 10 minute exercise will change the pattern of your communication and reset how you communicate with your spouse.
#4: Create One Memorable Moment Each Month
Creating memorable moments doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t have to fly to Paris for a one night romantic dinner. It can be as simple as watching the sunset from your back porch or balcony.
The key (and goal) is to add something that makes it memorable. Not expensive. In fact, I’ve discovered that the simple things become the most memorable.
Advanced Climbing in Colorado
Our first Father’s Day in Colorado was special. We were thousands of miles away from the kids, but Michelle made my day one I’ll never forget.
She asked what I wanted to do after church. I told her I had read about a hiking trail on a near by mountain that was rated for advanced hikers. She asked if we qualified as advanced and I assured her we did. I can’t believe she forgave me for that one.
We packed our hiking packs and headed to the location. It took us all afternoon to reach the peak. It was rugged, grueling, and extremely steep. But we made it. The last 100 yards were especially difficult but I refused to stop short of the top.
When we reached the pinnacle, we stood amazed at the beauty of the surrounding area. It felt like we were literally on top of the world.
Our climb down was worse than going up. At times we had to sit down and slide down the mountain. We got lost at one point and didn’t make it back to our vehicle until after dark.
Not once did Michelle complain. To this day, we talk about our adventure on that mountain.
It was memorable for many reasons.
The beauty at the top was incredible.
The challenge of the climb (and decent) was exciting.
The sense of accomplishment was rewarding.
The story we get to tell our friends is fun.
But I think the most wonderful part of that memory is that she did it for me. And with me.
She knows my lust for adventure, and she wanted to be a part of that experience. We shared a wonderful memory together. And it didn’t cost us a dime.
We still tell the story (you only heard the rough draft short version). And we still smile at each other because of that memory.
Date Night Jazz Festival
Recently my wife suggested we take turns planning date night. To make it easy on me, she took the first date. Here’s what she planned.
A small community near us has an outdoor Jazz Night during the Summer months. They do some other pretty cool stuff, but this one is right up my alley.
When Michelle heard about it, she planned for us to have dinner at a cozy Italian restrauant that evening, and then we will sit on a blanket and listen to music.
I tell you these stories because making memories falls in the one percent. It doesn’t take much to make a memory.
You don’t have to climb a mountain (that’s just our thing). You don’t have to like Jazz music (again, that’s our thing). But you do have to find what makes your spouse tick, and do those little things.
Making memories keeps you bonded. It builds strong ties.
Sociologist often talk about how shared experiences create a bond, even among strangers. Think how strong a bond you can forge with your spouse by sharing a special moment.
Also Read: How Fishing Makes My Marriage Better
The principle of accumulative advantage says that by doing small things a little better (adding 1%), you will eventually widen the gap between where you were are and where you are going.
In this article we discussed how this applies to marriage. By using the 1% rule, you can do a few things that will give you an advantage and make your relationship better.
We listed four ways to apply this to your marrige.
- The Power of Accumulative Advantage
- Why We Balk At This
- 4 Ways To Create An Accumulative Advantage In Marriage
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