When I was in grade school, I learned about percentages in math class and like any sophomoric young man who discovers a new fact, suddenly became quite frustrated when someone would say they gave 110%. For I knew quite intellectually that there could never be more than 100% – that was simply the most you could provide of anything and any number greater was pure exaggeration. As life would go on, I would begin to define in all areas of my life what that 100% limit was. What's the most money I could imagine making, what's the best shape I can imagine being in, what's the nicest place I could imagine living in, what's the best day I could experience? For each of these and in nearly every aspect of my life, I (as almost everyone does) created subconscious 100% markers – the big dreams – and then went about my life living at around 80% of those expectations. You see, I set a low bar and almost hit it - and was quite satisfied. That is, until I wasn't.
When I moved to Maui I began to start looking at some of these beliefs. Beliefs manifest themselves in the form of behaviors, which when repeated over time form habits in our life. Habits have three parts: a trigger, an action and a reward. At the end of last year, for example, I had a pretty healthy "dessert" habit. After dinner I would typically sit down to watch some television. I would start the show - but when the first commercial break would come, I would get up and scoop me out a bowl of ice cream. I'm sure at first this was just a "oooh, I have ice cream in the fridge" idea. But rather quickly, the three elements of a habit began to take shape. The trigger was the commercial break on the tv show, the action was making a bowl of ice cream, and the reward was... well... ice cream (or rather, the sugar rush to my brain). Before I knew it, I wasn't going "Oh... I have some ice cream in the fridge" - I was looking down at an empty bowl of ice cream on the table, having completely sleep-walked through the experience of the trigger and action, and barely even acknowledged the reward. All along I gained more and more weight. Now this didn't really matter to me, because at the time I weighed 210 pounds, and while I knew that was heavy, in my mind the best I could weigh would be about 200 pounds, so being 5-10 pounds overweight wasn't so bad. I had the wrong 100%.
As of this morning I weigh 187 pounds. Since the start of the year I've lost nearly 30 pounds and feel amazing. Where is the 100% now? I'm thinking 175... although we'll let nature determine my final weight destination. As my thoughts began to evolve and the paradigm of what I "should" weigh began to shift within my subconscious, so did my actions. No more ice cream in the evening. Instead, after my first espresso in the morning, I get a hankering to put on my running shoes. In the same way I would look down at the empty bowl of ice cream and think "I barely remember making that..." I now find myself 5 minutes into a run before I even realize I'm out the door. I've learned you can easily form new habits by understanding the process of trigger, action and reward.
Last fall when I started running again, my average pace was around 12 minutes a mile. I decided I would create a goal to break a 10 minute mile. That was my 100% and it took a few weeks, but slowly my pace began to lower, and finally one day I clocked in 9:57. I was psyched! I had hit my 100%. This week I ran 5 times and not once was I above 10 minutes. In fact, on Tuesday my average was 8:41 on a 5-mile run. What was once my 100% is now my average and the new 100% is undefined. This is as true on the small scale of ones personal life as it is on the grand scale of humanity as a whole. In 1861, Charles Westhall held the world record for the 1-mile at 4:28. Each year racers would continue to improve and re-imagine 100%. Finally in 1954, Roger Banister broke the 4-minute mile by 6-hundreths of a second. The record today is 3:43, a full 45 seconds shorter than it was in 1861 and it will no doubt some day be even shorter.
There is no 100%. This is not just true for physical health. There is no limit to your capacity for learning, loving, laughing or living. Through various exercises and practice you can expand your capacity for compassion just as you can increase your running speed. You can increase your intuition just as you can expand your vocabulary. There is not one characteristic you possess that you can not expand, and none which you lack that you can not acquire through practice and focus.
One of the greatest 100% misconceptions is that of age. It's amazing that a species which knows for a fact it used to live half as long a mere century ago, still assumes it has to age at all. Not only have we convinced ourselves that aging is a part of life, we've managed to take the century of time we perceive as our 100% limit, and break each decade of that experience into pre-conceived notions. Someone in their 40s is suppose to be different somehow than an individual in their 60s. These are all simply mental constructs we've developed in our subconscious that are then acted out by the majority of the population. I have met enough exceptions to the rules however to recognize age is simply a thought. I recently completed work on a website for the famous Maui restaurant Mama's Fish House. This world-famous destination was just named the #2 restaurant in the US by OpenTable, and was started in 1973 by Doris and Floyd Christenson. Floyd and Doris are now in their 80s - but are they tucked away in a retirement home? No - they still go to work each day and actively manage and run the restaurant. And contrary to it's name, this isn't a little "Ma and Pa" shop. With a staff of over 300 and a dining room that is always booked solid, they have their hands full. I worked with a variety of folks on this project, and Floyd was certainly the sharpest of the bunch (and the hardest to impress, which I also respected). Now how am I suppose to reconcile 82 year old Floyd with other seniors I see who seem far too fragile to even order a meal at that restaurant, let alone run it? Does Floyd have unique DNA... perhaps. More than likely its the fact that for the past 40 years he's been driven by a passion to run one the best restaurants in the world. He hasn't had time to worry about aging, he was too busy living.
This past weekend I went snorkeling with two couples. One was in their 40s, the other in their 50s – both super fun and in great shape. In fact, I was probably the weakest link on the snorkeling adventure. It's inspiring to spend time with folks who are just as active and healthy and passionate about life and career as I am, yet 10 to 15 years further along the experience. Having started exercising regularly I can easily say I'm in better shape now than I was two years ago. As this progresses, I will no doubt be in greater shape than I was in my 20s. There is no 100% – and aging is a thought which manifests itself as lazy habits and is rewarded with limitless rest. Stop resting, start living! What are your subconscious limits, your 100%?
In the 16th century there was a Dominican Monk named Giordano Bruno who had a distinctly different view of the universe than was the popular belief at the time. Giordano's vision was that of an infinite universe that had no center – or rather – the center of the universe was wherever the observer happened to be (something we now know to be true, as fantastic as it sounds). This contradicted greatly with the Earth-centered Universe popularized by the church at that time and Giordano was called out as a heretic. To defend his position he proposed the following thought exercise. If indeed the Earth was the center of a finite Universe, then one could certainly make it to the edge of that universe. And once there upon the boundary of the universe, lets say they shot an arrow outward. Would the universe expand, or would the arrow leave the universe? The church's response was to burn Giordano alive at the stake in 1600 – a mere nine years before the invention of the telescope. It's not surprising the church took such action, his thought exercise is a dangerous one, as anyone who puts it to use immediately realizes they exist in an infinite universe.
Giordano's arrow is a perfect metaphor for breaking the 100% in every aspect of your life. Imagine what is the best you could ever hope to do – imagine working hard and achieving that – and then imagine going a little bit further the next day. You are the manifestation of an infinite universe bound by neither time nor space – why would you assume you have limits? Stand on the boundary of your experience and then take another step.
"The sad fact is that more people are confined by their thoughts than are freed by them. We need only to look around us to see people who are rich emotionally and materially because they think and feel rich. Yet, we see even more people who are laden with emotional and material debt because they think and feel poor. Some are inspired with vision, others are encumbered with doubt. Some are moved by ambition, others feel safer in monotony. Some seek opportunity, some wait fruitlessly for it to knock. Negative habits are capable of locking our imagination, gifts and potential in a jail cell as inescapable as Alcatraz. Your marvelous mind has the same ability and power (even moreso when it’s applied in a positive vibration) to turn the key in that rusty lock that sets you free of your own Alcatraz of habits."
- Bob Proctor