The Power of Small Things

by Stephen Mills on September 13, 2009

I’m a huge believer in not sweating the small stuff.  Not sweating the small stuff means not blowing up all the little things that happen in your life into something more than they are.  It means moving past the drama of the small stuff and into a higher plane of peaceful well-being.  The small stuff happens every hour of every day.

However, the other side of that is the incredible power of small things.  The compounding power of a series of small steps can create something very big.  You don’t run a 26 mile marathon, you take 9,000 small individual steps.  Small acts of kindness can make a big difference someone else’s day.  Small details that nobody else notices or thinks of can separate you from the rest of the pack.  You can be extraordinary by doing small things.

“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.” –William James

Is there a place for bold action, dramatic change, and big hairy audacious goals?  Certainly.  But there is only so much room for those.  Don’t forget the power of the small things you can do all day every day.

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things” – Frank A. Clark

Small Acts of Big Kindness

In the article I wrote on making a difference I talked about small acts of kindness.  Imagine a few small acts of kindness done every day of your life, each one making a difference to someone else.  What a legacy you would leave and it would cost you nothing!  In fact, it would benefit you immeasurably.

One kind compliment to a frazzled sales clerk, one small sentence of encouragement to a colleague, or one small act of helping a neighbor or a complete stranger.  In small acts of kindness, you see the incredible power of small things.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” — Mark Twain

Make Small Impressions

Are you always trying to make a big impression on someone?  That’s difficult, stressful, and often unsuccessful.  How about making easy and small impressions every day?  They will compound into big life-changing impressions over time.  Be patient, the power of small will win out in the end.

Taking Small Steps To Habit Change

I’ve previously written on changing habits gradually.  I made a massive change in my diet by very gradual steps over a period of months.  I felt no pain because the change from one week to the next was so small I could barely tell the difference.  I’ve started exercising and I started small.  I went on daily walks for months before I ever lifted a weight or went for a run.  When I started lifting and running I started very small.

“The Power of Gradual works because, quite simply, little things add up to a big thing if you have enough little things. Given enough time, the steady drip-drop of water becomes an ocean. Given enough time, small regular deposits become a small fortune. Given enough time, steady work at my awful first drafts yields a passable final draft.”

The Power of Gradual by Ian Newby-Clark (Habit Guy) of My Bad Habits.

Take a small step, and then take another, and then another.  Just keep on walking.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Schryer September 13, 2009 at 7:45 pm

I love “not sweating the small stuff”; so much so that I’ve kinda turned it into my own life philosophy. I’m so much happier, and more at ease, when I realize that most things just don’t matter in the long run, and there’s no reason to get upset.

But I really like the converse approach that you’ve outlined here, where you focus on doing small things instead of performing grandiose gestures. Like Grandmother Willow pointed out in the Disney film Pocahontus: “It’s the ripples”. The small things we do spread out from the center, and affect the whole pond around us. Small things grow into large ones without any further help from us.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..The Power of A Smile =-.

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Stephen Mills September 13, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Jay, I’m really into the not sweating the small stuff thing too. The ripples analogy is a perfect metaphor for the impact of small things. BTW, I LOVE that video in your latest article. :-)

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Vin - NaturalBias September 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Great things are often an accumulation of smaller actions. Realizing this makes it much easier to break down major goals into smaller ones and increase the chances of achieving. I’ve taken on a number of major challenges in the past which I would have fared much better with if I had this perspective. Great post!
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Will You Be Pressured into Swine Flu Vaccination? =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Hello Vin. I’ve often struggled with procrastination because I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead. When I figured out I could chunk it down and take even tiny steps to get started, it made all the difference in the world. I would have fared much better too! Thanks.

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Lance September 14, 2009 at 5:14 am

Stephen,
Small steps, over time – lead to great things! And I”m also a big believer in doing small things, with love and care for another – while it may seem small to the one doing it – to the one receiving it, this can be huge! We never know what one small act might accomplish (good or bad)…and that there is a great reason to focus on the small good things we can do, every day… Great stuff!
.-= Lance´s last blog ..Sunday Thought For The Day =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Lance, you hit the nail on the head with this. “while it may seem small to the one doing it – to the one receiving it, this can be huge!”. I think if we all realized how much difference those small easy acts made, the world would be full of a lot more love. Thanks for coming by.

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Positively Present September 14, 2009 at 6:01 am

Great post! I really believe that all of the little things can add up into something big… The small things really are powerful!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..words to live by: send it on =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Dani, all the small wonderful things on your blog have added up to something big for me :-)

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meatlessmama September 14, 2009 at 8:09 am

Sometimes when you really want to make a difference in the world, or change something big in your own life, it may seem overwhelming. But by doing one small thing and then another the changes add up to the big thing. One bite at a time, if you will.
You are so right that one small thing such as a smile or a kind word can be a huge thing to someone else.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Healthcare Reform Is Not About Health =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:45 pm

meatlessmama, (I love that nickname btw!) you are so right. The compounding power of almost anything is absolutely amazing. It works in all areas of life, but the problem is we simply fail to apply the principle in most of them. Thanks for your thoughts! :-)

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Jonny September 14, 2009 at 11:54 am

Hi Steven,

Great article mate.

I like to remember the power of small things by this small visualization. A snowflake is small but put enough of them together and you get an avalanche.

In response to this article I would also like to say how much I value your blog, the content you put on it and the time you give to ensure the great resource for people that it is.

All the best

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Jonny, first of all thanks for the snowflake idea. I think it is fantastic! Secondly, what a wonderful compliment and I truly appreciate it. :-)

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Laurie | Express Yourself to Success September 14, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Let’s hear it for the small acts of big kindness – I like how you put that! There are so many more opportunities to do small acts than big ones. It’s all a matter of perspective too. One kind word to said in two seconds can make someone’s whole day. Thanks for the post – I enjoyed it.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Laurie, thanks. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I so agree with the two seconds to make someone’s day. What a magnificent POWER that is!

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills September 14, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Stephen, you certainly picked the right name for this post. There certainly is power in small things, it’s the power of accumulation. Small things add up, and that’s a powerful concept. Your blog is a good example. It started with a single post, and it only grows one post at a time, but look at the result. A powerful body of work that represents an even greater path of accumulated personal growth. Whether it’s one step, one post, or one anything else, there is most definitely power in small things.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..What Remains When the Newness Wears Off? =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Hell Jonathan. That title is a great idea isn’t it? Maybe I should have just stopped there :-)

Thank you so very much for the compliment and all your help and support. I truly appreciate it!

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alternaview September 14, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I enjoyed this post and thought it hit on some really good points. It is so true that we can’t allow ourselves to focus on the small things, because we will end up missing those things that really matter. Since we really are only able to turn our focus to one thing at a time, it can be life changing if we selectively chose to focus only on those things that really matter.

It is also so true that we have to do the small things well so that the bigger things can fall into place. There is something to be said about breaking things down into smaller digestible pieces and having the determination and commitment to complete them one small step at a time.
.-= alternaview´s last blog ..It’s all about getting out of your own way =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm

alternaview, you summarized my article so well. Great job and thanks for stopping in to leave your thoughts!

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Shamelle-EnhanceLife September 14, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I love this quote!
“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things” – Frank A. Clark

Very true.. sometimes we are so.. focused on the end result and
.-= Shamelle-EnhanceLife´s last blog ..21 To-Do List Mistakes That Stop You From Completing Your To-Do List =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Shamelle, I just ran across that quote the other day and I loved it! Thanks for sharing here again.

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Ian | Quantum Learning September 15, 2009 at 8:30 am

It’s the ‘ripple effect’ isn’t it? Throw a small stone into a still lake and see what happens out of all proportion to that small act.
.-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..You make a difference =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Ian, I love that metaphor and it’s exactly right. The effect is so much greater than the effort. How many things can we say that about?

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Alexavia August 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm

You’re the gretetsa! JMHO

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Steve September 15, 2009 at 5:06 pm

The example I liked best was how you changed your diet over time. This is something I would like to work on by the end of the year. Ideally, I would become mainly vegetarian, and eating fish as well. We will see! Step by step…
.-= Steve´s last blog ..Discover the Secret Power of Belief =-.

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Stephen Mills September 15, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Hi Steve! Go for it. All I had to do was maintain the commitment to take baby steps. It worked wonders for me. Thanks for coming by and leaving your comments.

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Jalaj July 19, 2011 at 1:07 am

Its wonderful, thanks for realizing this.

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