Small things can make a big difference.
So many people I talk to seem stuck. They can’t get moving. It may be they want to lose weight, start exercising, learn a new skill, or read a book. But ask them a few weeks later if they have done anything about it and … you guessed it…nothing has happened.
Maybe you’ve been there yourself. I have. And then I remembered some teachings Jesus gave. He liked to talk about how small things—like a mustard seed—can grow into something big. He was talking about his Kingdom but the principle works in other places too.
A few years ago a number of pastors in our community wanted to find something that was a “need” in our community and see if we could work together to meet the need. Nothing seemed to happen mainly because we tried to get a large number of people on board and we couldn’t find the “need.”
Movement finally happened when just four of us—a small number—decided to do something. The need we discovered was this: our schools needed help surfacing mentors for kids. One elementary school had over 100 “at risk” kids and only 4 mentors.
We decided to start small. One step at a time. We got training curriculum secured. The school district gave their blessing to it. Training sessions were planned and advertised. And the first year we trained about 60 people to help with kids.
We started small. And now over 100 have been trained.
Jesus also said that the person who is faithful with little will be given more. And I think that’s the problem most people have. They want to make big changes but they haven’t been faithful with little ones. And the little ones—added together—can eventually become big.
BJ Fogg is a professor at Stanford University. He studies behavior. And he has helped thousands of people make behavioral changes through what he calls “tiny habits.” You can sign up for one of his online courses here. He says behavior needs three things:
- Motivation. You have to have some level of desire for the behavior.
- Ability. The behavior can’t be too hard to do or you will never try.
- Trigger. Something that reminds you to do it.
He decided that the trigger was the most important of the three. He says that if you add the new behavior to an existing behavior you’ll eventually develop the new behavior. You let the existing behavior become the trigger.
It would work like this. Let’s say you want to learn to play the guitar. You have some motivation to learn. Right now you may not have skill yet but you believe you have the ability to learn. All you need is a trigger.
So you decide the best time to learn is after dinner. You already have a habit of putting the dishes away. You do that behavior every night. So you make that your trigger. Now, after putting away the dishes, you sit down and work on one chord for maybe 5 minutes.
It’s small. It’s tiny. But eventually it will become a habit.
What behavior do you want that you don’t currently have? Instead of making a big goal that will defeat you try making a small one you can accomplish. Find a mustard seed and let it grow.
Question: What behavior would you like to change or add to your day?