Succeed by Doing Little

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

The "next thing" is what you should do to achieve your goals. (Photo credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger from Pexels.)

I have a problem with little. If I’m trying to accomplish something, I get hung up on the idea that I should be taking big steps to get there.

You’d think after decades of this wrong-headed thinking, I’d know better. But it still happens to me almost every day that I feel like I’m not making enough progress.

Can you say, "Self-defeating?"

I need to learn—and perhaps you do, too—that little is good.


"Little steps" was the message in a post I read recently by Darius Foroux. He’s a blogger on Medium. (If you aren’t acquainted with, I suggest you check out the treasure-trove of wide-ranging ideas you’ll find there—including some of mine.)

Foroux points out that “the next thing” is what you should do to achieve your goals. Today, you can’t do what needs to be done tomorrow, in a month, or a year from now. And your next thing is probably a small step—one post to write, a phone call to make, an email to someone, a single thought which gives you a new perspective. It will take you to the next step…and the next…and the next. Until one day you realize “you’re there.”

All the experts say, “Don’t give up.”

And I’ve finally figured out: That’s where little comes in. Keep doing the little things, and big goals can happen.

A Clean Get-Away

On my way to Different, one little thing that changed everything was an adjustment in my thinking. We were serious about making a move from our suburban neighborhood to land in the county, but it felt terribly self-indulgent.

I was actually feeling a bit depressed about it and took a walk one Saturday afternoon by myself. Isn’t it kind of selfish to want to move to a peaceful place just so we can “get away,” I mused.

Thinking I should be doing some “big thing to benefit the world” instead, it occurred to me that monasteries are founded by people who just want to “get away” and pray (for the world, perhaps; certainly for their own souls). So, what would be bad, I wondered, if I were to take my family out to a place where we could pray better? A family monastery, so to speak.

For whatever inner need I had, the idea I came up with on that one walk freed me from unwarranted feelings of guilt. The change enabled me to embrace what I really wanted to do, and we made great progress after that.

Thinking and Doing

Sometimes the thing you need is a thought. Probably more often, it’s the next seemingly unexceptional task on your to-do list.

If you really want to hone your work on the little things, check out Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt (see my Recommended Reading page for more about Mike’s book). He’ll help you solidify your big picture, and then break it down into do-able, daily pieces.

Get used to doing the next small step. It will make the littlest big difference you’ve ever experienced.

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