We often underestimate the power of small actions. I know I do… I often have huge aspirations and want to achieve them with just a few big steps. However, it doesn’t really work like that. Big achievements are made of numerous small actions. In March of 2014, I began a 365 project where I create new lettering everyday for a year. In New Year’s Eve reflection of this past year with my progression with my lettering, I was thinking I’m ready for bigger projects. I was anxious and wanted to hurry and finish my 365 project to be able to jump straight into creating bigger projects. But then I thought that if it weren’t for those small actions each day, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That’s what the 365 project exemplifies: It’s 365 small actions towards a large, year-long goal to become much better at a specific craft.
That’s when I began to appreciate the power of small actions once again. In fact, there isn’t a difference between large goals and small actions. Think of any goal you have for improvement and see where you can break it down into small tasks. It could be to become more productive, to improve a skill, relationship improvement, or even to have more fun and relaxation. Whatever it may be, it can be broken down into a series of small steps that lead up to the big accomplishment.
Successfully breaking down a goal into a project of small steps requires a few things to make it successful. You want to make it a clearly-defined goal with a specific end to it. With the 365 project, it has a clear end to it after 365 days. Even though a year is a long time, it’s easier to give up on goals that last indefinitely. Also, you want to turn the small actions into a habit. Habits make the goal much easier by removing the friction with just getting started. You do this by making the actions a part of your daily life. I am over 300 days into my 365 project and I no longer have to think about starting a new lettering piece. It’s become a part of my daily life, grouped with such habits like eating and brushing my teeth that I don’t have to think about. This is because the 365 project is inherently a daily task. You must break your project down into small actions that are done daily to create an effective habit.
Forming a habit is a technique for you to work smarter, not harder; if you’re not forming one, then you’re working too hard.
— Dane Gonzalez (@HeyImDane) January 2, 2015
Albert E.N. Gray said that “the common denominator of success – the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” It may not be the most politically correct quote, but I like this quote for what it says about habits. Many people have asked me this past year how I am able to do lettering everyday. I didn’t think I could just tell them that it’s just a habit. I felt they wanted me to say I had some secret, but I didn’t – I developed a habit. Forming a habit is a technique for you to work smarter, not harder; if you’re not forming one, then you’re working too hard.
This works for goals of larger sizes as well. A year-long goal may seem plenty enough to handle, but if you apply this technique to even larger goals they may become more attainable and closer than they currently seem. You can turn lofty dreams into real, long-term goals that you work on everyday. Dreams are often too large and too long term to spend time working on in our daily lives. So we often don’t spend any deliberate time in our day towards our dreams. This is because most of it is a waiting game, and the things we can do seem too large to tackle in a single day.
I want you to do the following. Take the biggest dream you have and visualize what that would specifically would look like when you arrive there. Write down that dream as a goal in the most specific form possible. Specify the terms of your goal in finite figures that exist in reality. Once you have that goal, break it down into 20 different objectives that you can do to achieve the goal. That will take a while, trust me. Once you have it you’re ready to implement that goal into your daily life. Develop a habit to work on one of the 20 objectives you’ve written down each day. You can do this by writing down a specific task that helps with one of the 20 objectives on a sticky note every night that you would wake up to and accomplish the next day.
For example, your goal is to make $1,500 per month as a freelance painter. Some objectives could be to develop a portfolio of 200 paintings, building a personal website, deliberate human figure practice paintings, etc. Anything you can do that will give a tangible return on your investment towards your goal should be written down. Again, this will take a while.
I was hesitant to make a goal for fear of failure or changing my mind. However, the goal can always change and evolve as you pursue it. I don’t believe there is a time frame or point of failure because I choose to believe I just haven’t reached my goal yet. I choose to make it a matter of “when,” not “if.”
There was a shift in my mindset sometime last year about the usefulness of my small actions in regards to making change around me. I believed that the only way to make true change in yourself, in others, or the world was through big change and that I would be arrogant in thinking that everything I do can change the world. I don’t believe that anymore. Everyday change is made through small actions.
I had an experience which is a constant reminder of that idea. I stumbled across ONE certain picture on Instagram, shared by ONE certain person, with ONE certain purpose that changed my whole approach my lettering and changed my life in a significant way. I now call this the Power of One. I don’t do lettering or write blog posts because I believe I will inspire change in the lives of everyone who sees it, but rather because I believe I will inspire just one person for the better. My goals are bigger than just helping one person, but helping just one person is better than all the people who never helped anyone because they believed helping one person wasn’t enough.
Community is another vital aspect. The goal should already be meaningful to yourself, but you should make it meaningful to the people around you. Communicate with others about your goals and with people who can appreciate and respect them. When it’s just you it can get difficult and lonely. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and take in content such as videos, podcasts and writing from people who think similarly to you, and who will encourage you and your endeavors.
If you’ve found this helpful, could you please do me a solid and share this with someone you know? Thanks, you rock![feather_share]
If you have any questions about small actions in your daily life please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to hear from you!