“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.