During my recent trip to Asia, I got to spend time with one of my cousins who is a very senior executive at a big bank – one that you will have heard of, but which shall remain nameless. What I learned surprised me.

I was amazed to learn about two things that he never does: he does not attend big gala banquets for business purposes, and he doesn’t drink alcohol, ever.

So how on earth did he rise so high up without attending these kinds of events – wasn’t that hard to do in his line of work? And since I know there’s no religious or medical reason for not drinking, isn’t it hard not to be persuaded to share a toast with clients on the odd occasion?

Surely he needed to leave some room for discretion?

My cousin explained that he just says, “no.” And for him, both things are easy to do – or rather, to not do.

Creating a new default

That’s when I remembered the saying I heard recently at Jeff Walker’s Launch Club conference in Phoenix: “99% is hard. 100% is easy.”

I realized that this is exactly my cousin’s point.

When you go with 100%, you’re really creating a new habit and making it easier to stick with that new habit. In fact, to live a rich life means adopting those “right for you” habits that will support the life you want.

In my cousin’s case, he gets to spend more time with his family, and he’s always clear-headed at work.

It’s about creating a new default – that set of behaviors and mindsets that make it inevitable that you will have the life you always wanted.

The question is how?

That’s where it’s crucial to apply the 100% strategy and avoid the 99% route.

Why 99% is hard

The problem with 99% is that it requires decisions when you’re in the thick of it. You have to make judgment calls about when it’s okay to make an exception.

If I’m cutting back on desserts, then is it okay to have one at a birthday party? And what about that special night out, or if my uncle has just brought over homemade pastries?

Before you know it, you’re on that slippery slope to making bad choices.

99% is vague. It leaves room for interpretation. There’s a chink in your armor and, like Achilles’ heel, it just might sink you.

Stop negotiating with yourself

The biggest enemy of making positive change in your life is likely to be yourself.

Whether it’s about eating right, drinking less, giving up smoking, getting in shape, or some other personal commitment to change, it’s so often about making a so-called decision and then blowing it when you face temptation.

Speaking personally, I know just how easy it is to lose a negotiation with yourself! Let’s take grocery shopping. I love the supermarket, and end up bringing home lots of items that aren’t on my list. It’s no wonder because I’m easily distracted by “shiny objects”.

The conversation in my head goes something like,

Self 1: “Wow, they’ve got a whole housewares section – that’s new.”

Self 2: “Don’t even think about going over there! You’re here to buy groceries. You’ve got a ton of work to do when you get home.”

Self 1: “It won’t take long – ooh, and here’s a beautiful cushion that would look great in the family room.”

Before I know it, I’ve spent an extra 30 minutes and £100 on cushions that end up not quite matching my furniture. This keeps me from doing what’s important in my life, and I regret the waste of time and money.

Clearly, I needed to institute the 100% rule on the family grocery shopping!

And now, I don’t do it anymore. My husband, who doesn’t get distracted, goes to the store instead. And I get to save time and money, which I can spend on what matters to me most.

Why 100% is easy

The beauty of 100% is that it’s definitive. It’s a decision you make upfront, and just once. You don’t have to think about it or wonder about it. There’s no room for waffling or having to decide about shades of grey.

Now don’t get me wrong, the world is not black or white, good or bad. And you know that I’m a fan of finding a “third way” rather than caving in to “either/or” choices.

But it does make your path easier if you identify certain things as absolutes. That’s why 100% makes life easy but 99% makes life hard.

100% means you’re committed. And that makes it easy to “do the right thing” and achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

What’s in the 100% “club”

You can use the 100% strategy to help propel your career too.

Earlier on in my career, I was afraid to talk to senior people. If I saw the head of our department at the end of the hallway, I would instinctively look for a place to hide – maybe a conference room or take a detour. Anything to avoid having to make contact.

Eventually, I needed to overcome my fear of talking to senior people if I wanted to get promoted.

That’s when I instituted a 100% rule for myself: if I pass someone in the hallway, including very senior people, I’m going to say something – even if it’s just hello. Eventually, I got to the point where I even came up with something substantive to say.

And this improved my visibility and relationships with some key decision-makers, and grew my network.

The trick is to choose the things you put into the 100% category. This will be different for each of us, and will depend on what you think of as a “rich life”. The life you want to lead.

In addition to always saying hello in the hallway and leaving the weekly shopping to my husband, some of the things in my 100% club are:

  • Take calls from family members while I’m in the office (a wise boss said it would save me from marital grief later on)
  • Acknowledge someone when they enter the room
  • Stand up for someone who originally made a point in the meeting, but whose point has been overlooked (I hate when that happens to me)
  • Help family members achieve their goals (even when it’s inconvenient)

What will you decide 100% on?

Whether it’s a personal habit or professional one, 100% is a “set and forget” strategy. You only need to decide once.

So how will you apply the 100% rule to help you live the life you’ve always wanted?

Leave me a comment to share one thing you will apply the 100% rule to.