It's the Little Things
By Philip E. Humbert
In life, the "little things" make all the difference. We like to pretend that at least the "big things" in life, like choosing a spouse or career or teaching our children, are the result of well-thought-out decisions, but it never works that way.
Careers grow out of conversations over coffee or lunch. They happen because we need a job or because a friend has a friend in the business. Marriages grow out of casual flirtations at a party or because a friend set us up. The BIG stuff never starts with a bang; it starts as something small and later we look back in astonishment at what mighty oaks grow from tiny acorns.
Both achievement and failure are like that. Getting rich almost never requires "big" drama. It starts with the small decision to save a few dollars every week. Most people who end up "doing well" invest in safe, boring mutual funds, let compound interest work in their favor, and over time, it works out well. Unfortunately, going broke is just as easy. Make a few small decisions to buy one of those, and one of that, and pay the bill next month. Over time, there you go.
To gain weight, eat a few extra calories every day. A scoop of ice cream or an extra sandwich should do it. Fortunately, losing weight (for most people) is just as simple: Run or bike or hike a few minutes every day, skip desert, have a salad for lunch and there you go.
The keys to success are almost NEVER dramatic. High achievers might get up a few minutes earlier or make one more phone call every day, but that hardly qualifies as "dramatic," does it? Winners train slightly harder or slightly longer, but not so that anyone would notice.
Unfortunately, the path to mediocrity is just as ordinary. Henry Thoreau observed that "most people live lives of quiet desperation" not because they made big mistakes or fail any great test. They simply make the same small mistakes, over and over, day after day.
Here are some suggestions for small steps that create huge pay-offs over time:
- Eliminate the little annoyances. Everyone has their personal list, and we tolerate them precisely because they seem so "little", but they rob us of energy, passion and confidence. It if annoys you, fix it.
- Do one good thing for yourself, every day. Read a good book or watch a video. Soak in the bath, or go for a run, but do something enriching and fulfilling, just for you, every day. It'll make you strong.
- Take one extra step in the direction you want to go. Rarely does "the good life" require courage or drama, but it does require that we move in the direction we want to go. Make one more sale, write a letter, make a call. Exercise or read or play with the kids. Every day, do one "little thing" that moves you toward success.
- Invest in your relationships. "We get by with a little help from our friends," and the love of family and friends makes all the difference. And, once again, it's the little things! Give her a call, write him a note. Invite a friend to lunch, keep the friendship alive. These "little things" make life more fun!