Daily incremental changes are achievable, a career coach believes.

When it comes to changing your life, CV writer-turned-career coach Tom O'Neil says it is better to make changes by degrees - because positive improvements in people's lives and careers rarely happen overnight.

"Just look at those people on TV promoting get-fit machines," he says. "They didn't get beautiful bodies with rippling abs in 10 days - it took them years of hard work and dedication - they were probably at the gym every day.

"People watch these types of adverts, believe big changes are easy, and then lose heart when they don't get instant results. Real progress takes time, marketers have lied to us, helping us believe there are quick fixes for everything. But life isn't like that at all."

Tom, who is a motivational speaker and career coach, and contributed to the personal development guide What Colour is Your Parachute?, says he has often watched as people lose interest when listening to advice on how to change their lives or get a better job.


"When you talk to people about setting goals, and putting together a plan that will help them achieve their dreams, their eyes glaze over - I have seen it happen," he says. "Because it all seems too hard and involved.

"So I sat down and wondered how I can help people take solid, tangible steps toward reaching their potential in a simple and easy way."

Tom says books by leading motivational gurus such as Tony Robbins promise a lot, but ask a lot of their readers in return.

"Tony Robbins' books are filled with great advice," he says. "Trouble is, only 1 to 2 per cent of people are able to stop their busy lives to invest time in those goal programmes - they require a lot of commitment.

"Most people don't feel they have the time to stop and really think about what matters to them, to put the steps in place, write them down and come up with a formal plan to work to.

"I even developed my own goal programme called Compass, and it's all well and good - but it is only the people who are seriously motivated and focused who can follow it."

Tom's new book, The 1 per cent Principle, takes a different approach. Rather than involving a big bang change, it focuses on daily incremental changes that he says almost anyone can achieve.

"It will help people bring things into perspective and give them confidence to take a long-term view of the changes they want to achieve," he says. "To improve their career, life, relationships and health - without it affecting their daily routine too much."

Tom says The 1 per cent Principle helps readers define what they want from their life and career. It features a 30-day programme that can be adapted to almost any circumstance - to help people "tweak their way to success" by making small changes - 1 per cent at a time.

"The book is about goal setting for the rest of us," he says. "Making change takes altering one small thing every day. You just need to think, 'what one small change can I do today to improve my life, or to help those around me, family, work colleagues, or improve my career'.

"It's self-improvement in bite-sized pieces. Small positive changes are achievable for almost anyone."

By way of an example, Tom tells the story of an overweight acquaintance who didn't have the commitment to start exercising. He suggested she walk just 100 metres a day.

"It is a short walk that, in truth, will do little for her health. But if over the course of a few months, each daily walk gets a little longer, then before you know where you are you're doing a 5km walk," he says.

"At the end of the day, there are no quick fixes. And as people come to terms with this, then they can start to make small changes to their lives, they are incremental."

The 1 per cent Principle took Tom a year to write, drawing on his life and work experience in HR and motivational speaking.

"Writing CVs for people is great, it helps people get the job they want, but I am really excited about this book because it goes wider and can help people develop their career and improve their lives - which I think is huge.

"A job is a subset of a career, and a career is a subset of life, and so for me the book was a natural progression from CV writing to helping people in all areas of their professional and home life."

*The 1 per cent Principle is published by HarperCollins and is available now.

Steve Hart is a freelance reporter at www.SteveHart.co.nz