15 Amazing Benefits of Small Steps, Consistency and Perseverance

A beautiful garden takes consistent efforts and perserverance

“What amazes me is that most days feel useless. I don’t seem to accomplish anything – just a few pages, most of which don’t seem very good. Yet, when I put all those wasted days together, I somehow end up with a book of which I’m very proud.” ~ Louis Sachar, author of more than 20 books

Why I Began Thinking About The Value of Small Steps

I recently decided to open a separate investment account to begin saving for our next car. I don’t plan to buy an automobile for many years, but I like the idea of having the money set aside so it’s there when the time comes.

For now I’ve been putting aside $25 a month, and I was a little discouraged when I reviewed the account statement recently and saw that the balance had reached just $175.00. “What’s the use?” that negative little voice in my head said. “At the rate you’re going, it’ll never amount to anything.”

“Not so fast, Kemosabe,” the positive little voice in my head said. “Stick with your plan.” Thank goodness the wise voice is the one I try to listen to. After all, I’ve lived and breathed the benefits of incremental acts and persistence, from writing books to saving money to paying off debt. You probably have, too.

After I told the negative voice to beat it, I made a list of some of the amazing things that can be accomplished with small steps, consistency and perseverance:

1. Learn a new skill. Got 15 minutes a day? You could learn how to speak a foreign language, play an instrument or bake a perfect cake. All it takes is the willingness to try something new, and practice, practice, practice.

2. Help a child learn to love books by reading together every day, or at bedtime every night.

3. Get in shape by exercising and doing something active every day. Can’t go to the gym today? Walk, do push-ups, stretch, take the stairs instead of the elevator; keep moving! The benefits are cumulative, and every little bit helps.

4. Invest money methodically and regularly, and watch it grow. Don’t get discouraged when the balance seems piddly in the beginning; just do it.

5. Create a great garden. Keep amending your soil with organic matter, pulling weeds, rearranging plants until you find just the right spot, pruning, dividing, and doing the daily tasks. My parents have been working on their yard and garden for 35 years, and man, does it ever look gorgeous!

6. Enjoy an organized home. Stop the inflow of stuff and keep working on distributing the outgo. Don’t give up. Eventually the tides will turn, and you’ll start to enjoy a simpler, neater living space.

7. Live in gratitude. Jot down just three things a day that you’re thankful in a gratitude journal. In a year, you’ll have amassed a thousand blessings.

8. Create something. Knit a few rows on the baby blanket while you’re watching television. Work on your novel each morning as you drink your coffee. Before long, your project will take shape — and one day, you’ll complete it.

9. Enjoy good health. Do your best to eat well, sleep well, exercise, get regular checkups and take care of yourself. Over time, you’ll benefit from the long-term benefits of these simple daily actions and you’ll be grateful to have fewer ailments, more energy and greater independence.

10. Go deeper spiritually. I’d always wanted to read the Bible from cover to cover, and I finally did it with a devotional that split the text into readings over a period of two years.

11. Live without debt. Stop using the cards, work hard to pay more than the minimum payment, and make paying off debt a priority. It may take time and discipline, but eventually you will be debt free and enjoy the benefits of freedom and a good night’s sleep. People get out of debt every year, and so can you.

12. Nurture relationships. Relationships flourish with regular attention, and sometimes just taking a moment to reconnect with someone or reach out can have lasting benefits. Think about the people in your life who are truly important, and try to connect with each one regularly.

13. Implement change. It can be tempting to think that one vote doesn’t matter, or one signature on a petition — but of course, we all know that it takes collective unity to make things happen. Support your own important causes, and never underestimate your own influence. Consider a recent victory for sustainability, when a petition instituted on Change.org and signed by 18,500 people resulted in Costco’s decision to stop selling unsustainable fish.

14. Change a life. It can be easy to think that a small amount of money won’t do much, but the reality is that every little bit helps and even a small donation can often make a big difference. $22 a month is all it costs to sponsor a needy child through Children International, one of the many humanitarian agencies that helps overcome poverty through child sponsorship.  A one-time $20 gift to Heifer International can provide a flock of chicks, each of which can lay up to 200 eggs a year — providing not only food for a poor family, but a source of income. My friend Sally volunteers for a literacy program a couple of hours a month, and teaches adults how to read. Or consider 76-year-old Dennis Provencher, who has regularly donated blood for more than 46 years; his donations have saved dozens of lives.

15. Save the earth. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably interested in green living, sustainability and simplicity. Across the world, like-minded people are surely and steadily taking steps individually and collectively to live greener and reduce their environmental footprint. Consider the growth of farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and the increasing demand for organic foods. Free range chickens and fair trade coffee are two more examples of better practices that came about because people weren’t afraid to take a stand and demand better options. If it seems like the news is constantly full of bad news and one person can’t make a difference environmentally, take heart and remember that sometimes it takes many small steps, consistency and perseverance to accomplish great things.

“I feel more confident than ever that the power to save the planet rests with the individual consumer.” ~ Denis Hays

How about you? Does this list resonate with you, and do you have any additions? What are some examples of things you’ve accomplished as the result of incremental acts and persistence? I’d love to hear your comments.
The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

10 comments to 15 Amazing Benefits of Small Steps, Consistency and Perseverance

  • One step at a time is how I break down big projects. It may feel like you are not accomplishing anything but the results proves opposite.

  • Carol

    I know I’m very late posting, but I just found your blog and I thought I’d share this. There is an online savings plan called SmartyPig that allows you to set up goals and make regular contributions to them. They pay a better interest rate than my bank does and there are retailer cash-back incentives, etc., that you can use when you meet your goal. I use it for items I have to pay regularly but not monthly, like my car insurance, and for saving for Christmas, and for a special vacation. I am thinking of using it for many other goals as well, including a car. It might be worth checking out if you’re saving for a specific goal.

  • Brent

    I cut up my credit cards a couple of years ago. I keep one in reserve but it has not seen the light of day since then. At first it was a little daunting and it takes a little longer to get those things I want now. But in the end, the wait ensures I buy what I really need rather than something I merely want. It slows up any craving I might have to consume and ultimately the reward of any purchase I make is that much sweeter.

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

    Great post Eliza. Very inspiring and a great reminder. I often feel like I am not doing enough but this post reminded me the small things do count.

  • Thanks for this, Eliza. I need this refresher on the direction I want my life to go, reminders to keep me on track. I can get lost in the flood of lists and things to do, assignments, trivia, etc. I set up a line of credit for myself a few years ago and transferred all my outstanding credit card debt to it (the interest rate is MUCH lower) and I’ve been paying it off steadily month by month. It’s slow progress, but it’s progress and I’ve managed not to amass any further credit card debt since then. I drive a very old car with almost 200,000 miles on it, so having that line of credit gives me a cushion if it totally breaks down and I have to get another before all my debt is paid off. Little steps and individual actions DO matter–and we never know where the smallest kindness or positive action will go, how it will cause reactions that travel far beyond us.

  • I love the Louis Sachar quote at the top. Sideways Stories from Wayside School are my favorite books to read to 4th graders. 😉 Your tips are really motivating, it is the small steps that eventually add up to the bigger dreams and goals. Thanks for reminding me that even my piddly savings account can someday become a much larger nest egg.

  • This is a great article as it focuses on the most important parts of getting a task done – starting it, and breaking it down into smaller steps. The largest things in history were not done in one fell swoop, just like you (probably) cant save 20k in a month and head over to dealin doug (ps does he still sell cars with cheezy ads?) and go buy a new car.
    The war is one one battle at a time, 1 soldier at a time. There may be specific turning points or times where you can look back and say “this is what did it” but usually that’s not true. That moment may have metastasized the process and made the goal a sure thing instead of a hopeful abstraction, but there was a lot of work put in to get to that point.

  • Nice thoughts on this Monday. I tend to overwork and measure my worth through results, but I have learned (and am continually learning:)) to step back from that and just enjoy the means to the end.

  • eliza_cross

    I agree, Annie! Goals (and deadlines) seem to help motivate me, too. Good luck saving for your next car, and I hope neither of us needs to buy one for a good, long time! 🙂

  • I think this is a great list. The one that hits home for me is actually your goal to save for your next vehicle. We, too, will need a newer vehicle eventually. I hope it’s years down the road, but saving for it now only makes sense. For me, saving with a specific goal in mind works out better than just saving in general.

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