It is easy to focus on what is “wrong” around us. Our situations and circumstances, the imperfect people in the world, and clear blunders of our institutions and organizations. There is a lot that could be better. Granted.
I think one of the things that set successful people apart from unsuccessful is the perspective they take around their circumstances. When I say “successful”, I don’t mean rich and famous. I mean those living peace-filled and meaning-centered lives.
Looking To Leap
One thing we hear often as we train leaders and work with college students is a desire for individuals to take a giant leap. We want a drastic change, a dramatic turning point. We want to find that marker in the sand, that line of demarcation from which everything changes for the better.
I recognize it in others because I see it in myself. When it comes to our infertility, the wellness of our marriage, and the students we counsel, I am constantly looking for that moment when the metaphorical confetti-cannon explodes, the fireworks ignite, and everything is clearly and obviously repositioned for the better.
Is there something wrong with this? Yes and no. On the one hand, it points to a clear desire for change, a motivation for a new future. It suggests we are willing to take a big risk to achieve our dreams and discover the life we long for. On the other hand, it can be dangerous because we often have a difficult time telling exactly where the leap is going (let alone where it starts from). We talk about this as a lack of vision. The other, and honestly more problematic issue, is that we live zombie-type lives while we wait for these big moments to arrive.
Chewing The Pachyderm
One of Kylie’s favorite sayings is the one that goes, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I don’t need to sell you on big moments. We are all looking for them. But what I mean when I talk about perspective is that there is a giant question we too often ignore: what do we do in the meantime?
The truth is, the small everyday decisions we make are more powerful and more significant for our lives than the giant leaps. This is for two reasons. First, the little steps are much more prevalent. They are the true nature of life. Big moments are rare and memorable, but the forgettable mundane is much more common. Therefore, it accumulates to become a much more powerful determinative factor for who you are than you might realize. Second, we often pretend we are just wandering in the desert looking for a big moment. It rarely happens accidentally. What is much more common is that our baby steps lead to our giant leaps. The small, everyday, mundane decisions we make are the runway for our takeoff. We usually look at that moment we lifted off the ground and treat it as an out-of-nowhere, life-altering moment. The truth is it is usually a moment born of a bunch of subtle moments. Our epiphanies are revelations that have been building. Our moments of repentance are the result of mounds of subtle exposure to the truth.
Life changes one baby step at a time. If we take this perspective, we see the colossal value of each moment, of every decision. Because the truth is our circumstances and relationships won’t change us. Neither will they hold us captive. They are just the arenas in which we make our decisions. Our ordinary, everyday choices that build momentum and lead to vast changes, dramatic improvements, and life altering revelations.
Let your small moments and your big ones work together. Let your baby steps and your giant leaps be connected. It is the only way to live a life of meaning.