One Small Thing

What is something you always wanted to do/try? What do you think you’d be good at if only you had the time/means?

Every person you meet, talk to, work with has something they dream about. Some big idea that “it’d be nice to…” or “it’d be nice if…” but those goals/ideas/dreams are just beyond our grasp. Even thinking about them for too long can be stressful because instead of generating a feeling of excitement and curiosity, you feel sad and deflated.

There’s one BIG problem with these goals/dreams we have. They’re just that…dreams. We lack the know-how. We lack the time. We don’t have enough …

So we set aside these dreams and pursue a safer route. We go through our day to day lives pushing along the way we always have. Day in and day out, same things, similar routine and every so often those dreams pop back up and you feel that familiar tug of “what if”.

What if those dreams aren’t so outlandish after all? What if those dreams don’t have to stay just dreams? What if I told you that you don’t have to change your life entirely, that you can keep 99% of your same daily routine and still accomplish your dreams?

Stephen Duneier said, “What stands between us and achieving even our most ambitious dreams has far less to do with possessing some magical skill or talent, and far more to do with how we approach problems and make decisions to solve them. And because of the continuous and compounding nature of all those millions of decisions that we face on a regular basis, even a marginal improvement in our process can have a huge impact on our end results.”

This concept of “marginal improvements” or “one small thing” has been proven to bring about miracles time after time. My younger kids just finished reading a book about Michael Jordon. When he was younger he would go to the neighborhood park and play basketball with his older brothers and some of the local teens. Michael was short and lacked the experience and skill that these older boys had and on several occasions was the reason he and his brothers lost their games.

So he decided that he’d make one small “marginal improvement”. Instead of going to play basketball with his bothers the next day he decided that he’d stay home and practice his shooting instead. One hour game for a one hour practice session. Day after day he’d make one small change. One more shot, one more minute of dribbling, one more…

He kept this same strategy throughout his life (I imagine he still does) and we know the outcome, the well earned title of “The greatest basketball player of all time” –NBA.com staff

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once said:

Little things make big things happen.”

A few years ago I had this goal that I wanted to swim 100 laps without stopping. I hadn’t swam (like swam swam) in ages and so that seemed so far out of my reach but I bought a gym membership and hopped in the pool. I felt like I was dying after just a few laps. But the next day I knew that I could do at least 3, maybe I could get to four so I did. Then 5, then 10, then 20, then 30, then this magical thing happened when I reached 40. I discovered that if I could get to 40 it was smooth sailing to 100, to 200.

My body screamed at me, different muscles would protest, my mind was firing off all kinds reasons why I should stop. It would have been easy to stop. Several days I really wanted to. I was extra tired, I didn’t have as much time, 20-30 laps is still good, etc. But I knew that I just needed to get to 40. I’d push myself one more lap at a time and I told myself, if you get to 40 you can stop if you want to. But I knew that 40 was magical and when I’d get to 40 I knew that I wouldn’t want to stop, that by making it to 40 I could easily make it to 100 and more.

At 40, I think my body finally realized that I wasn’t stopping. Kind of like a child that throws a tantrum and it gets really loud each minute more that they don’t get what they want. Then seeing that their loud display isn’t working, they eventually stop. Each time I’d get into the pool I knew and expected that my body would be throwing a tantrum of sorts until 40. By 40 it stopped, the mental drama shushed and I could reach my daily goals.

But it all started by deciding to make one small change, one small marginal improvement.

By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Alma 37:6

This same concept can work with any area of your life. It’s too big and overwhelming sometimes to tell yourself that you’re going to ______________________…read 100 books in a year? Speak a foreign language? Write a book? Lose X amount of lbs? Take up a new skill? Or maybe it’s just to stop yelling at your kids, or to be more positive, maybe it’s confidence and wanting to be genuine and authentic. Even these can seem overwhelming because you don’t know where to begin, or you think, “I just can’t. I’ve tried and I can’t.”

But you can tell yourself that you’ll read just one word today, learn one new word, write one word, go on one walk, make a choice to not yell just once, to decide that you’ll seek out one positive thing a day, or that you’ll replace one self-sabotaging negative phrase that is in your mind to just one that is a marginal improvement.

Because big things happen and are created after many small, marginally improvements made day in and day out. It all starts with just one small choice. One small change.

“I don’t take on big things. What I do, pretty much, is make the big things small and the small things big.” – Larry David

Keep your day 99% the same but decide to make a 1% difference. One thing differently towards your dream. Those one small things, those marginal improvements will create huge results in your life and you’ll have accomplished marvelous things.

What is one thing I can improve on today?

Then do it. It’s one small thing. You have time. You have the means. You have enough talent/skill. Just do it (Thanks Nike).

Then tomorrow ask yourself the same question.

The next day, ask it again…and again…and again…

Each day improving your life in marginal ways will create huge, lasting results.

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