A few small actions, repeated many times, will get you closer to the breakthrough you’re looking for.
When we look back at our past, we often realize there were a few lessons we overlooked at the time. We didn’t give them the attention they deserved. Maybe we hadn’t made any observations to solidify its importance, or we didn’t have the same goals at the time, giving us no reason to heed the advice. Whatever it was, there was something that led us to undervalue the lesson others were trying to tell us.
When I look back on my past, one of the lessons that stands out as something I overlooked is the importance of doing the little things right. It can understand why I made that mistake. After all, I was in my early teens. At the time, the world was filled with a few big decisions and it was mainly these decisions that I believed would change everything in my life and the world around me. Everything had a seemingly direct path. If you went to a good school, you would undoubtedly get a good career. If you stumbled into the right person you would know right away that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. I thought that life would come to me one day and give me the big decision that would change the course of my life forever.
I think the change in my thinking began a little over two years ago. In the spring of 2018, I graduated from high school and I made the transition into college during the fall of that year. I wasn’t happy with my life for most of middle school and high school. I was shy and scared but really wanted to talk to people and do new things. Throughout these years, I told myself college would be where I changed everything. I told myself I’d have amazing new experiences and meet the most amazing people. I built up this excitement up for years. When the moment finally came, I was left feeling disappointed. I had more opportunities available but I didn’t do anything to take advantage of them. Those first few months I ended up feeling more alone than I had during high school. I began to realize at that moment that life usually doesn’t change as quickly or dramatically as I liked to imagine. More often than not, it’s a slow and steady process. One that might take months before I notice any quantifiable change.
Doing the Little Things Is Difficult
Today, I notice more opportunities to make small improvements than I ever have. I still don’t follow through on many occasions but sometimes I do and when I do the changes are quite remarkable. This year I started going to the gym regularly, something I had only managed for 2–3 week periods in the past. I can safely say I’m stronger and more agile than I’ve ever been. A few months ago, I could only do 3 pullups. I was able to do 8 the other day. Going to the gym for just 30–45 each day made a huge difference because I did it every day.
It’s difficult to follow through because the little things rarely make a difference in the short term. Things like saying please and thank you or smiling at a stranger rarely lead to anything life-changing if you only do it once or twice. You have to do them over and over again. It may only be after you smile at the 700th stranger or say thank you to a server when they’re having a rough day that you hear how you’re actions made their day better.
I do my best to be an example of the positivity I enjoy being around. I do it because it’s important to me. It’s a little thing that makes my day better. Sometimes I wish every smile made a difference but the truth is most of the time they don’t. Once in a while, however, someone will mention how it did make a difference to them. The little things often get overlooked and undervalued.
Create One Small Habit That You Can Do Today
The strategy I’ve been following lately has been doing one small habit each day to make the next day a little better. Meditation has been my habit of choice lately. I’ve been doing it consistently for the last week and each day I come out of my meditation session happier and more energized than when I went in. I’ve started to look forward to these sessions each day.
Previously, exercise was often the habit that filled the void. Not only did I get so my physical capabilities expand but it also gave a sense of focus for the day ahead. It was a relatively small part of my day but it seemed to make everything else better.
I encourage you to take a look at your life. Is there a habit that makes your day more joyous or complete? Do you thoroughly enjoy yoga, drawing, or dancing? Could you fit that into your day? Just having a set routine that you enjoy can make a huge difference in your daily happiness.
If you do already have a routine set in place, are you able to do it each day? In the past, I often skipped exercising or meditating on busy days because I considered my school work more important. The more I think about it and make observations, the more I believe that these routines are as important as work or school projects. The days that I skip the things that I enjoy for productivity ironically often end up being my least productive days. A few hours in, I find my tired and frustrated and it’s hard to get anything done for the rest of the day. My small, daily habits enable me to be my best big responsibilities appear.
Appreciate the Little Things in Your Life
There are things we all know but sometimes need a reminder of. This is a reminder to not overlook the power of doing the little things right. Find 10 minutes to half an hour each day to pay attention to something you’ve relegated to the end of your to-do list. You could paint a picture, try a new recipe, or write a letter to a friend. Allow yourself to forget about your stress for a few minutes. The difference may not mean much today, but I think you’ll be surprised a few months from now.