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  • Jaime Lang

Take Responsibility for the Little Things

Little things over time make a big difference.

If you follow me, you will notice that I emphasize this idea a lot. Part of that might be because my sun sign is Virgo— but it is also because the little day to day things make up the bulk of your life and so you can examine and set the tone for your life by focusing on those small pieces. When it comes to goal setting there is a great deal of progress that can be made in the pursuit of dreams by focusing on each little, tiny individual step. But even without a specific goal, you can look at the little things in your life and see how important they are as building blocks for the overall pattern you are creating. These little day to day choices may not seem as romantic as giant sweeping gestures that knock people off their feet, or as epic as cataclysmic changes which uproot the world as we know it, but it is in these mundane, repetitive processes, that the foundation of structure, goals, and relationships are created. Little things are like the soil out of which the bigger patterns grow.

This may not sound particularly exciting, but the truth is most big changes occur because of the small adjustments that a person makes repeatedly. You don’t start off at the top of the mountain, but each little step you take brings you closer to that apex. In the same way sweeping changes rarely just appear in someone’s life, often they are the culmination of small choices made consistently over time. Little habits, adjustments, and choices are less fun to talk about than the culminative outcome, but they are often the unseen building blocks that lead to big events.

The concept of little things leading to bigger outcomes isn’t new. We see it everywhere. We know that wars don’t just happen, there were several smaller events that led up to them over an extended period of time. Large businesses don’t really just appear overnight, they were being thought of, created, funded, established, developed for a long time before they became powerhouses. Star athletes don’t just show up on the field or court and dominate, they put in hours of sweat and thought and training. You get the idea. Good or bad, the really big events that happen around us are not really a single big event, they are the culmination of thousands of smaller steps leading up to them. Even though this isn’t a new thought, it is still significant and worth understanding, because it is so easy to look at the culmination point and ignore all the thousands of steps leading up to it. That culmination point might show you where the thousands of smaller steps lead, but we can affect change most directly by taking responsibility for the steps instead of focusing so persistently on the outcome.

Small changes made consistently over time create a lasting impact. This means that if we take responsibility for the little things in our lives and really put energy, effort, and care into the little but significant moments that move in the direction we want our lives to take, then we have more direct control over the outcome than we do if we try to force big moments or wait until cumulative events to occur in order to change something. Knowledge of and focus on those small, daily choices can be used to create new desired culmination points or avoid oncoming painful culmination points. An example of creating a positive culmination point would be an athlete who trains for an event, knowing that putting effort into their training, prioritizing their health, and making lifestyle changes (eating, sleeping, stress reduction, etc) to allow them to excel at their sport will lead to them being successful during their game. An example of taking responsibility for little things to negate an unwanted culmination point would be noticing that there is a problem in your relationship and talking to your partner and making adjustments in the way you relate to each other before the disruptions build up to become a giant argument or break up. Either way, taking charge of smaller things before they reach the culmination point is what creates or prevents that bigger outcome.

All of this is to say that the little things in life matter--a lot-- and recognizing this and taking responsibility for the little things you choose to do or not do in your life can go a long way towards allowing you to line up with the life you want instead of one that you would rather not experience. They may not be glamourous in and of themselves, but the small gestures of concern, the little experiences of discipline, the incremental movement towards desired outcomes are little things that create waves which can propel you into different kinds of experiences. This is great news because these little daily tasks are also some of the most do-able things. They are small enough and accessible enough that you can focus on and work with them now. You don’t have to wait for a giant opportunity to move towards a new career, you can start with little adjustments that will prepare you and set you up for success now. You don’t have to have most romantic gestures for your partner, you can do small things that show thought and concern now. You don’t have to be the most intelligent student, you can start learning about things that interest you now.

Do the little things that matter to you and do them well. Bigger opportunities will be created by those little tasks, and when those opportunities arise it is the little things that will have prepared you to step into them and succeed. Life happens in the small things, don’t miss out on it or downplay the importance of those little things.

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