I was working out at the gym with a friend and knowing the New Year would start in a couple of days, we chuckled as we thought about how much more crowded the gym would be after January 1st. Then as it happens every year, about four to six weeks later, the gym returns to its normal level—and we wouldn’t have to wait in line to use the weight machines.

Yes, the New Year resolutions for buffing up the body and becoming healthy would last a short time for most people. Great motivation to start but not much to continue. Why is that? For many, it’s because we make our goals too high and become discouraged when we can’t meet them.

But there is a solution. It’s found in “The 1% Principle,” which I write about in my book, Why Do I Put So Much Pressure On Myself? It’s the idea of setting small goals toward a bigger one and when we meet the small one (1% instead of 75% or larger), we’ll be encouraged to continue.

Here are some ideas.

Unrealistic Goal

1% Principle

I will have a devotional time with God for one hour every day next week.

I’m going to spend 5 minutes with God two times next week.

I’m going to stop eating all sugar.

I’m going to limit sugar to one item per day.

I’m going to go to the gym every day this week.

My goal is to go to the gym two times next week.

I’m never going to get angry with my child again.

Since dinner time is the hardest time to be patient, I’m going to concentrate on staying calm on Tuesday next week and ask a friend to pray for me during that time.

Get the idea? Instead of thinking 100% toward a goal, start small and be encouraged as you reach it. Then you’ll continue to move toward the larger goal. (And by the way, it’s OK to do more than the 1% goal if you’re able).

Does this sound like a plan that God can’t applaud? After all, doesn’t He believe He can empower us to reach huge goals? Of course He can but He also understands that “we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14). That’s why He says, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all.” (1 Timothy 4:15 NASB). He doesn’t say, “so that your perfection may be evident to all.” He expects us to be in process little by little and is pleased with our progress—even 1% at a time.

How can you use the 1% Principle to grow closer to God, become more of the person God wants you to be, or develop your spiritual life? Make a plan now and carry it out—little by little—1% at a time.