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In his book ‘The Success Principles’, coach Jack Canfield wrote about a principle he called ‘99% is a Bitch, 100% is a Breeze’. The idea was that once you make a self-growth (denial or discipline) decision you act on it 100% of the time. This is because acting in accordance with your decision 100% is easier than doing so for 99% of the time for a simple reason that is both philosophical, and surprisingly logical.

With 100% there is no need to apply any further mental or emotional effort to the decision and its subsequent consequence. There is no reconsideration, doubt, angst or time wasted. With 99% you have to reconsider that decision every time you have to decide whether or not you should apply your standards/discipline/denial/values/principles ‘this time’.

For example, if I decide I will write 500 words a day (like Ernest Hemingway, apparently), then if I am taking the 100% route, that’s it– I will write 500 words a day, come what may. I’ll make sure I have my laptop with me, or I will write longhand on paper and transcribe it tomorrow, along with the 500 words for that day, too. If I go ‘99%’, then I have to decide, each day, if I am going to bother. That’s when the easy excuse will be ‘I have to go shopping, instead’. Or ‘I don’t have a pen’. Or ‘my laptop’s battery is a bit low and I’ll never make it’. Or ‘just one packet of crisps/pie/cigarette won’t hurt’.

(As I it here considering if/when/how/where to ride my bike I feel that pain.)

The same applies to not doing something (self-denial). If I decide that I will no longer eat chocolate eclairs, then application of the 100% principle means just that – never.

You can set your own rules for applying this principle. You can, if you wish, go ‘never’ – or you can include justified exceptions to ‘never’. You can decide not to eat chocolate eclairs ever again, or you can add an exception – but it must be a specific exception, and it must be observed. In the case of the eclairs you may elect to eat one on a new moon, your birthday, the 1st of the month, or whatever exclusionary rule suits you provided that it does not excuse you. That’s the material distinction. If you have a rule it must be specific and it must not undermine the original intention, nor can it allow for or provide excuses for non-compliance. 99% or less doesn’t cut it.

99% doesn’t work because it allows for mistakes, errors and, most of all, excuses. 100% not only disallows excuse or failure but it also demands creativity, imagination and discipline. If you ‘cannot’ execute on your disciplined objective for some external reason, the 100% rule demands of you that you find a way to overcome that temporary barrier/obstruction. Wayne Dyer, famed writer on metaphysics and life philosophies, overcame a ‘cannot go for a daily run’ when flying by running up and down an aircraft’s aisles. (BTW – not recommended!)

This concept, when fully applied 100% (see what I did there?), covers the appropriate application of both self-discipline AND self-denial. The only caveat I have to add here is this – don’t commit to 100% compliance until you are absolutely certain that you want to. This is because without that commitment you will make excuses the first time you are required to make decision whether to comply or not. And as soon as you make the decision not to comply that ‘one time’, you are already on the path to failure and guilt. It’s already 99%, or even less. And the next time that decision arises it will be even harder to make the right choice and the downward spiral speeds up. Momentum works both ways.

My final piece of advice? If you want to try the 100% Rule – only commit when you are truly ready. If necessary, prepare your environment (fridge and kitchen cupboards?) before you commit.

Then go for it.


(*An excerpt from The Three Resolutions book.)