Starting Small with Anything

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
–Plato

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.”
–Mattie Stepanek, American poet (1990-2004)

Have you ever wanted to do something but didn’t know where to begin? Like maybe take up a new hobby? Or create a small business or not-for-profit organization? Or learn a new language? Or write? You think about it for a few days. You mention it whenever you can to your friends. You even tell your grandma about it. In fact, granny likes your stories. She often says in her granny voice, “That’s nice, dear.” And sooner rather than later, you just give up. Another dream in a pile of forgotten dreams. You give up before you even begin. Well, been there, done that.

There are two main reasons why I would give up so early. Firstly, I tended to focus too much on the end result and I would overwhelm myself thinking about all the work needed to get there. And so I would quit even before I began out of sheer exhaustion of just thinking about it. Secondly, with my action-oriented personality, I would often try to do too much at the onset. And so I would burn myself out pretty quickly.

Having understood these two issues, I’ve since changed tactics. If I want do something, I now take small and simple steps forward. I still keep the end goal in mind. That’s important for direction. But I don’t overwhelm myself thinking about every single step I need to take to get there. Additionally, I try not to do too much and instead spread the tasks over a long period of time. I simply focus on what I can do today and move forward one simple step at a time.

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Over the summer, I picked up distance running—something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. When I started out, my plan was very simple and manageable. I decided to run for just 15 minutes a day (yes, I’m that out of shape). 15 minutes was my small step forward. And slowly but surely, I began to increase my running time and distance as the weeks went by. 15 minutes became 20. 20 minutes became 30. 30 minutes became 45. And before I knew it, I was running for 1 hour and 20 minutes, which is my current maximum. The small and manageable goals I set kept me going and provided me with constant inspiration because I could clearly see my progress.

This concept can often apply to different areas of life. If you want to do something, start small. If you want to mentor people, start with just one person. If you want to write a book, start with just one page. If you want to have a closer relationship with God, start with just 15 minutes of prayer and Scripture reading. And once you get into a good rhythm, slowly increase the time and energy you spend in doing those things. I think you’ll find far more enjoyment and far less burnout that way.

Simply start small.

What small steps can you start doing today to reach whatever God-given goals you have?