The magic of thinking small

Posted: 4 January, 2014 in motivation
Tags: , ,

A comment on yesterday’s post got me thinking about the magic of thinking small, and how one small change made every day can lead to big changes down the track.

It reminded me of a story of a boy who was told by his father that by the end of the year he promised his son would be able to lift a fully grown cow. The son thought on this a while and realised the time and effort that would have to go into training for such a feat. He thought of hours of weight lifting his father would put him through for the next year and shuddered. But his father, instead of giving the boy a tough fitness regimen, simply told him it would take two to four minutes each day, and no more. Relieved, the son was willing to to give it a try.

The next day the father showed up with a new-born calf which he handed to the son.

“Each day,” he said, “I want you to come out here and pick this animal up.”

The skeptical son told his dad that picking up a small calf is a long way off picking up a full-grown cow.

“That’s right,” the father said, “It’s a year off. This small calf in one year’s time will be a very large cow. But if you come out every day and pick it up you won’t be able to tell the difference between one day and the next. When a year is up, if you’ve done this every day, you will be able to lift up this full-grown cow, as promised.”

I’m not sure if this really happened or if it was just a very clever way of getting across a commonly ignored fact — small changes matter!

The growth of cattle is minute on a daily basis but after a year this animal would’ve been huge. Is there a day the young man would have walked out to the cow and not been able to pick him up? If he had been able to easily the day before, he would tell himself, he could do it today as well.

And just as probable, if he had missed one week of this exercise he would most likely have found he couldn’t pick up the cow after that break. A week of those small changes in size would have added up and may have made the lift impossible.

I realised that many of the changes in my life can be successfully achieved with small daily changes.

Especially when it comes to my writing.

The thought of finishing my book is sometimes overwhelming. I feel like I have so much further to go and I wonder if I will ever get there. But if I break it down into simple daily tasks it looks so simple. One thousand words per day will give me over 365,000 words at the end of this year. I’ve written 500 words in this post already so, logically, I know it wouldn’t be much of an effort to turn out an extra 1000 words for my book. When I think about it like that I wonder why I thought it would be so difficult to achieve in the first place.

I’m also continuing last year’s practice of learning one new word per week. (It was going to be one new word per day but I found I liked to have the week to really get the definition set in my mind). Last year I added 54 new words to my vocabulary and continuing that practice will give me the same result this year.

There was a time when I thought one year was so long and to take any kind of small step was useless because the end of the year was just too far away. As I’ve gotten older, and the years have started going from 12-months long to or six-months long (I still don’t know what happens to those other months) I know that one year is nothing. I can do anything in a year.

Let’s see where these small steps can take me.

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