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The Gap and The Gain Summary

The Five Big Ideas

  1. We all have an “ideal,” a moving target that is always out of reach.
  2. When we measure ourselves against that ideal, we’re in the GAP.
  3. When we measure ourselves against our previous selves, we’re in the GAIN.
  4. Being in the GAIN has enormous psychological effects, including bolstering motivation, confidence, and future success.
  5. Always measure backward.

The Gap and The Gain Summary


You’re in the GAP every time you measure yourself or your situation against an ideal. And while ideals are meant to provide direction, motivation, and meaning to our lives, they are not the measuring stick.                

Hardy writes,                

Being in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before. You measure your own progress. You don’t compare yourself to something external. You don’t measure yourself against your ideals.                

Chapter 1: Embrace the Freedom of “Wants”

The GAP is based on an unhealthy “need” or attachment to something outside of yourself. You’re trying to free yourself FROM something, and until you do you won’t be happy. When you’re in the GAP, you’re avoiding “here” while trying to get “there”—but never actually arriving “there.” 

By contrast, the GAIN is based on being in harmony with what you want and knowing that you don’t need it. When you’re in the GAIN, you live your life based on intrinsic motivation and harmonious passion, which creates flow and high performance. This enables you to commit 100 percent and pursue what you want without unhealthy attachments.

Journaling Questions

  • Are there any areas in your life where you have obsessive passion? If so, what unresolved internal need are you trying to fill? 
  • What about your life and work do you love? 
  • What is your long game? When you’re playing the long game, you’re doing what you love. You’re not doing something just to get somewhere else. 
  • Do you have a long enough timetable to truly slow down and enjoy being here, or are you trying to quickly get “there”? 
  • Look at your life right now—what are all the GAINS you can think of? 
  • How would your priorities change if you were playing the long game?                

Chapter 2: Be Self-Determined

External reference points make it impossible to feel successful because no matter what you’ve done, the success criteria are always moving.

Getting out of the GAP and into the GAIN means you’ve made yourself your own reference point. The GAP means your life is determined by someone or something external. The GAIN means you’re living a self-determined life. 

When your reference point is internal, you make the final call on what “success” means to you, regardless of what other people think. 

When your reference point is internal, happiness and success are always right here and right now.   

Journaling Questions

  • What are the reference points you measure yourself against? 
  • Why did you choose those particular reference points? 
  • How do you define and measure success for yourself?
  • Are the reference points you measure yourself against external or internal? 
  • How often do you compare yourself to others? 
  • How much time do you spend on social media 
  • Are you self-determined and free?                
  • Are your success criteria focused on the outcomes you currently want?
  • What’s a simple filter you can create to assess every decision you make (e.g., “Will it make the boat go faster?”)? 
  • What is one thing you can apply this filter to in the next 3 hours?

Chapter 3: The Compound Effect of The Gap or Gain                

Being in the GAP creates a negative compound effect in your life. But being in the GAIN creates a positive compound effect in your life. 

Hardy explains that the GAP and the GAIN is a useful tool because there is language for it. Explain the GAP and the GAIN concept to those you love, and give them permission to call you out when you go into the GAP.

Psychologists have found that practicing mental subtraction—thinking of the absence of the good things in your life—can make you appreciate them more. to remind yourself of the GAINS in your life. 

Start using the GAP and GAIN language in the following ways: 

  • Call yourself out when you catch yourself in the GAP. Immediately look for and vocalize the GAIN. 
  • Tell five people you know and love about The GAP and The GAIN. If you so choose, get them a copy of this book so they can live more in the GAIN themselves. 
  • Give those five people permission to call you out when you’re in the GAP. 
  • Help others see and appreciate their own GAINS more by (1) asking them about their recent progress, and (2) pointing out to them their progress. It can be very humbling and empowering to have someone recognize or point out your progress. Be that person who acknowledges other people’s GAINS. 
  • When you’re in a difficult situation, help yourself and others find the GAIN. Rather than being upset, you could ask, “What is the GAIN in this?” Or “How can we turn this into a GAIN?”

Journaling Questions

  • When was a time you went into the GAP because you went from wanting something to believing you needed it? 
  • When was a time you went into the GAP by comparing yourself to someone else? 
  • When was a time you used gratitude to reframe a situation into a GAIN and move forward?

Chapter 4: Always Measure Backward

It’s easy to forget about your GAINS because your memories are always reconstructed in the present, based on your current perspective. 

Hardy recommends journaling or doing an annual review to tap back into the context of your former self, and see the massive GAINS. 

Being reminded of the easily forgotten past boosts your hope, motivation, confidence, and resilience. You’re not the exact same person you were in the past. You’ve evolved and grown a lot, even in the past 90 days. 

Take time regularly to measure your GAINS for different time frames and remember, always measure backward.

Journaling Questions

  1. Where am I right now? 
  2. What are my wins from the past 90 days? 
  3. What are my desired wins for the next 90 days? 
  4. Where will I be in 12 months? 
  5. Where will I be in 3 years?

Chapter 5: Measure 3 Daily Wins

What you do during the 60 minutes before bed has an enormous impact on your sleep quality, as well as the direction and quality of your next day. 

Reactivity begets reactivity. If you’re staring at your phone before bed, mindlessly scrolling or consuming, not only will you sleep worse, but you’ll continue that same unhealthy addictive behavior the next day. 

Write in your journal three wins from that day. Then, write down the three biggest wins you’ll get the next day. No more than three. 

Do this every day for the rest of your life. 

Pearson’s Law states: When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates. 

Having a daily accountability partner combines tracking and reporting. 

Keep your accountability partnership simple. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes per day. 

Chapter 6: Transform Every Experience Into a Gain

Being in the GAIN is not simply about seeing life on the bright side. Being in the GAIN is about taking every experience life throws at you and transforming it to serve you. 

When you’re in the GAP, you ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” and act as a victim. When you’re in the GAIN, you control the meaning of your past. You cherish your past and use it as precious feedback for clarifying what you truly want and value. 

Being in the GAIN is an approach-motivated way of life, and it enables you to turn every valley into a future peak. Being in the GAIN empowers you to take any experience and be better, not bitter.

Journaling Questions

  • Think about any specific experience—positive or negative. Ask yourself: What about this experience worked? 
  • What “usefulness” can you get from this experience to improve your future? 
  • What can you learn from this experience about what you don’t want? 
  • Knowing what you know now, because you’ve had this experience, how will you approach your future differently? 
  • What about this experience are you grateful for?


  • Josh Waitzkin, the former chess prodigy and author of The Art of Learning, always asks himself this one question every 90 days: “What did I believe 3 months ago that I no longer believe today?”            

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