The Power of Starting Small
For many of us, there are big things we would like to do in life; make a big difference in our employment, communities and societies; travel to distant and unique places; make lots of money.
One of the challenges of big dreams and goals is feeling overwhelmed or knowing where or how to start.
Small is a good place to start if you want to make a big difference.
Look at weight loss, as an example. If we’re overweight, we didn’t get that way in a day, so we shouldn’t expect to be back at our ideal body weight in a matter of days or weeks. Eating 3500 calories more or less than we burn adds an extra pound on or takes an extra pound off our bodies.
If you look at the difference between a 12 ounce orange juice and a 20 ounce orange juice, it may not seem like much. I used to have a 20 ounce orange juice with my breakfast each day. The difference between those two sizes is 117 calories. Not much, but assuming I am consuming more calories than I’m burning each day (a.k.a. gaining weight), then that 8 ounce difference in orange juice sizes adds up to 42,588 excess calories in the course of a year. That would be an additional 12 pounds per year.
Remember that that could be plus or minus, depending on whether we’re increasing or reducing by that amount in our annual intake.
What about finances? Let’s say you aren’t consistently saving and investing any portion of your income annually. You’re not increasing debt, but you’re not increasing your savings or investing.
Using the median US income of about $60,000 annually, let’s say that you begin to save 3% that you haven’t been investing otherwise. 3% wouldn’t cause a huge change in anyone’s lifestyle at that income, (though it may seem like it when you want something that you can’t afford).
If we take 3% of $60,000, and invest it at a very moderate rate of return, we’ll say 5%. Starting with zero but putting in $150/month for 5 years, with annually compounding interest we would have invested $9,000 but the value of the investment would be $9,946. If you got an 8% rate of return it would be $10,560.
Five years seems like a long time, but it gets here before you know it. Keep in mind that this is with a very small change (3%) in your spending month over month, and a very reasonable rate of return.
So what are the challenges you’re facing in your life? What are the big impacts that you want to make? Find something small that moves you in the direction of your goal and start doing it now.
If there is a caveat with this philosophy, it lies in consistency. Small changes that aren’t sustained won’t make a difference. Over time they will make all the difference.
If you’re daunted by a large goal or desired outcome that you don’t know how to achieve, find something small that will move you in that direction and do it. Then do it again, then again, then again.
If it’s cutting back on portions of your food, or putting an extra $100 into investments regularly and you sustain those changes, the results will come.
When you sustain the small changes over sufficient time, you can begin to see the results. This can be a magical turning point. Once you see your weight decreasing or your bank balance increasing, or progress in whatever desired big goal you have, your motivation multiplies. Suddenly you’ll find ways to accelerate the process for you even more.
Remember, when you want to make a big change, think small.