Little Things…Big Differences

My father-in-law, David, is an avid road-biker, frequently clocking hundred-mile rides in the mountains of southern Oregon. He told me that after a “short” 60-mile ride, he developed a little discomfort in his knee. So he raised the seat 2 millimeters (mm).

To put that in non-metric terms, it’s 1/16th (or .078) of an inch.

A standard pencil eraser? It’s 5mm across. That popcorn kernel that gets stuck in your teeth? It’s about 3mm. The ear on a Roosevelt dime? Now that’s about 2mm.

The next day, David rode his bike again. This time, he had no discomfort in his knee.

Little Things Make Big Differences.

Think about going camping for a week. You pack a camp stove, sleeping bag, air mattress and pump, tent, cooking utensils, coffee, food, trekking sticks, first aid kit, fire-starter kit, flashlight, water purification bottles, and even marshmallows…things designed to help you get in touch with your primitive, rugged side. But do you know what could blow you’re entire experience? Forgetting bug spray. All it takes is a few annoying bloodsuckers to literally and figuratively suck the life out of you. I’ve seen many mountain men reduced to wrist swipes and air swats by the mere sound of a mosquito.

So many times we get caught up in the big things–

  • Where should I go to college? And what should I study?
  • What job should I take?
  • Who should I marry?
  • How many kids should we have?
  • Where should we live?
  • How much should we spend on a house?
  • Where should we vacation?
  • How much is in my retirement fund?

–to the point where we risk missing out on the little day-to-day things that help us to deepen our relationships with others while simultaneously making us better, happier people in the process.

What small things can generate big differences for you? Start by filling in the blanks to these simple statements–

1. Starting today, I need to  _______ less?

It’s different for each of us. Let words pop into you mind.

Do you need to talk less? Maybe eat less? Procrastinate less? Interrupt less? Complain less?

If you need help, ask your spouse or a close friend to give you a couple of ideas.

A friend of mine started eating less sugar before giving it up completely. He said he felt better than he had in years. It’s a small thing, right? Yup, but that small thing permeates big things like cake, ice cream, jelly beans, pudding, syrup, taffy, brownies, caramel corn, you get the idea. Based on his success, I tried it. Three months later, and I’ve finally broken my sugar addiction. And he’s right, I feel better than I’ve felt in years.

2. Starting today, I need to  _______ more?

Here’s an obvious one: sleep. You know how much sleep you need to function at your highest level, but you often cheat yourself out of the right number of winks. Well, stop it!

Or maybe it’s exercise. Perhaps you just need to think more deeply or carefully instead of letting your emotions rule your minds. Or how about love more? Dance more? Forgive more? Dream more?)

For my part, I’m learning to pause more when I feel out of control. When a flight I’m on hits turbulence, I react quickly and strongly by stiff-arming the seat in front of me in a false belief that I’ll somehow manage to break the fall from 33,000 feet. But reacting immediately and instinctually, alas, does nothing more than annoy the person sitting in the seat in front of me. And by reacting quickly and strongly to any perceived emotional conflict at home does the same thing. Only it’s worse. Because allowing that to happen can alienate the people I care about most.

Instead of reacting, I breathe and pause more. And the turbulence doesn’t last long or feel as intense.


Here’s a final thought: don’t make a page of notes and try to take action on everything you wrote. Rather, what’s the first thing that popped into your head on the less and more question? Just focus on those two things for a couple of weeks.

  1. Be intentional. Keep them in the forefront of your mind.
  2. Catch yourself when you do them well or when you miss an opportunity.
  3. Reward yourself for your successes.
  4. Tell someone who cares about you what you’re trying to do. Ask them to give you encouragement and feedback.
  5. Get ready for some BIG payoffs.



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