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Two Percent Shifts

view from our place in Caleta Grau

This is a view I want to have more of in the coming years (and with small shifts, this is not just possible but highly likely)

As we start off a new year — some of us with bigger-than-life dreams and plans — I’m reminded to keep it simple.

In my yoga classes and coaching sessions, I often encourage folks to tone down their expectations.  Because I think “letting go of expectations or desired outcomes” doesn’t pass the bullsh*t test, I opt to suggest two percent shifts.

If you feel two percent less sh*tty after class than before, then you’ve got something to work with.

If after a few months of practicing (mindfulness or yoga or active listening or what have you), you notice your tolerance for your inner depressive/angry/jealous/self-pitying narrative is two percent less than it used to be, then you’ve got a hell of an excuse to celebrate.

While cold turkey and plunging in can be a good way of shaking things up and trampolining out of ruts, I find something to be said for how seasons shift — gently, one day at a time, with some blizzards and storms and waves, but largely imperceptibly,

About four years ago, I started to do a daily list — of the people and experiences in in my life for which I felt grateful, or the things I did well.  There have been many studies on this focus-shifting practice; it’s even been taught to soldiers to help them develop resiliency to the trauma they’re guaranteed to have while on active duty.  Because the list serves to document my life, I take time toward the end of the year to review it.  (And it does take time:  the list averages 100 pages.)  From there, I pull out the major lessons, surprises and good times of the year — all the patterns it’s hard to see in a too-busy daily life.  (A photo diary or visual journal could serve the same function.)

Somehow, doing this helps me figure out what to keep focusing on.  Resolutions don’t work for me, and neither do goals (ironic as I am actually pretty damn good at helping others figure out their goals and devise action plans) — but applying lots of self-compassion, I’ve learned that I can think about two percent shifts in how I feel, first off, then I can prioritize some next steps in different domains of my life and go from there, slowly but surely.   

Ironically, committing to moving slowly and deliberately — after all two percent is nothing to be scared of and is so easy, you can’t help but succeed — leads to pretty radical changes.  In fact, another word for this slow-motion is “mindfulness.” And getting really clear and confident allows me (and maybe you too?) to make very swift choices when the time is obviously right.

So as January sets in — consider keeping it very simple, something that will just lead to a two-percent shift from what you are doing right now.  If it continues to feel good, you can make another two percent shift soon and build something magical, brick by brick, page by page.

May 2014 offer you amazing physical health, psychological well-being and spiritual connectivity.

This entry was posted in: Change


I'm a yoga therapist and coach who is fascinated by the ways in which scientific inquiry has converged with wisdom traditions in concluding that our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are intrinsically connected. I try to use this knowledge to help people feel more resilient, courageous and alive.


  1. Rita says

    Thank you, Yael! What a great piece and reminder to slow it down. I think we have a tendency in this high paced world to be impatient, to want everything now – sort of the product of all the personal technological advances. Everything is instant, information on your phone or the internet, tv shows and movies on demand, amazon prime and the list could go on. We feel pressured to be instant and on demand as well.
    With Omi it is even more important to find a speed with which we raise him, help him to become a balanced human being who is mindful and have tools against all the fast paced demands in life.

    • Thank you Rita! I couldn’t agree more. Having a baby — or helping someone you love who is dying — or getting a diagnosis yourself, or falling in love, or being arrested, or fired, or watching your house go up in flames — can all be magical ways to get us back to what is important. All of these things may change our lives in an instant, but they somehow teach us to act as though each moment is eternal and quickly vanishing at the same time. Being in a new relationship and a shotgun marriage with a huge amount of cultural transition has taught me to slow down, but my next challenge is to figure out how to be proactive with more change that’s on its way, while being able to savor much more than I often feel I can when things are moving so quickly around me. Maybe it’s about not demanding so much from life?

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