April 12, 2017
Law Nine: We Need the Little Things
It’s the little things adding up over time that creates our lives. In the same way that a tree trunk grows ring by ring, as opposed to just appearing suddenly overnight, we form who we are in the big picture by evolving incrementally in the little picture (aka the day-to-day). Even life’s defining moments—those times when we put it all on the line—are made up of countless micro-moments leading up to that point.
Where we are at this exact instant is the direct result of all the previous instants added up.
Growth like this is called accretion; defined as a thing formed or added by gradual growth or increase and/or the coming together and cohesion of smaller matter to form larger bodies. From the moment of our birth up to the here and now, we have been creating ourselves and our reality bit by bit. It’s the same way that we read—we don’t read entire pages all at once. No. We read individual words, which form sentences, which form paragraphs, which form pages.
So, it’s the little things that create the big things. And, most of the time, it’s what we do consistently that produces the largest results. Take teeth, for example. We cannot brush them for a solid hour on the first of the month and then call it good for the next four weeks. No. If we want pearly whites, we need to take time each day and brush them. Every day. Bathing is no different. We cannot just shower really well on a Sunday and then expect to smell good on Friday. It’s about consistency—small actions adding up.
Add to this, in a physical sense, we absolutely need the little things; we are, after all, made out of atoms. And, given that there are 78, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 atoms in a single grain of sand, imagine how many there are in our bodies. In that way, it would seem that we humans really need and rely on quite a few “little things”.
That said, while a single atom all by itself is, in its own right, miraculous; it is the collection of atoms that we are talking about. It is in groups of atoms that we experience the physical world around us; it is their collection and organization that provides the grandeur of life as we know and recognize it.
Metaphorically, that is how we live and experience time. Our lives are collections of single moments added up. We experience life one moment at a time, which, when taken collectively, creates an outline, which creates a pattern, which creates an architecture of who we are in the present—memories, relationships, identity, and meaning. We generally establish our sense of self, our preferences, our beliefs, our inner-reality, and our view of life over the course of many years.
Any time we decide to make a change in our lives, we are wise to remember this Law. Doing so allows us to enjoy the ride and truly live the journey, as opposed to feel annoyed and frustrated by it. Progress is progress, period. And, if we are focused only on outcomes, we can miss the incremental changes that come as a result of our efforts. When we feel like we are not “getting anywhere” we are likely to give up.
In some ways, it boils down to the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being: One bite at a time.
Given the choice, who among us would want to feel all of life’s happiness at once and all in one shot? Isn’t it better when it’s spread out over the course of many decades with other emotions sprinkled in. Or, would anyone want to eat a life’s worth of desserts in a single sitting and then never eat them again?
Probably not. It seems that a huge part of the value and meaning that we experience comes as a result of things happening over a period of time, which, when gathered up, collectively create a larger, more poignant message about who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.
Again, it’s the little things adding up that create the big things—even if we don’t always see it as such. Take a wedding, for example. Anyone who has ever helped plan a huge ceremony knows that it functions like a clock with a thousand gears. It’s the countless moving parts all coming together and working in concert that creates the day. However, most guests at the wedding experience it like a single sweeping moment. One big thing, not hundreds of little ones.
And, last but not least. This Law relates to the words that we say to one another. Take LOVE for example. We cannot just shout “I Love You” really loud at someone and then never say it again. Letting those around us know how we feel about them is not a matter of volume or force, but instead it is one of consistency. Like brushing our teeth, telling folks that we care about them is done best as a daily practice.
A question that we can all ask ourselves is this: Are there any little things that you’ve been taking for granted?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.