Sometimes my life seems monotonous.
When I was younger I had dreams of making the world a better place. I was going to be some corporate big shot, and all of the people were going to stand in awe of my brilliance. Hey…a girl can dream. When my time on earth was done, I thought I would have some great legacy to leave… or at the very least a small Wikipedia page.
Fast forward to today, and here I am wondering how my sink can possibly be full of dishes again. I’m wondering why I work so hard writing posts, but I never seem to have as many ready to go as I want. I’m wondering why the dreams that I had envisioned for myself seem so far off. I’m wondering if I’m making a difference at all.
Society gives us a narrative, that fame and fortune are the peaks of success. Even if you’re not into fame, being the best at something is still probably a goal. Maybe you’ll be the one to finally discover a cure for that disease. Or you’ll write the next ‘Romeo and Juliet’, or even come up with the next ‘cronut’.
Some of us will do those things. Some of us will change the world on a grand scale. But even if you will, shouldn’t you appreciating the little things while you’re on that journey? Here’s the truth of the matter, the bitter pill that I’m about to make you swallow.
I propose that most of us will never save the entire world, but we all have the ability to make our small part of the world just a little bit better, and sometimes, that’s enough.
1. Sometimes, what seems small to you is huge to someone else. It’s all about perspective.
I heard a story once about a man who was contemplating taking his own life. He felt invisible, and he was sure that no-one would miss him if he was gone. Well on his way back to his home, he passed a lady. She smiled and asked him how he was doing. That’s all she did. But that smile made him feel seen, and he didn’t follow through with his plan. He doesn’t know the lady, never saw her again, but unbeknownst to her she save his life.
She didn’t know that she made an impact. She may NEVER know. But sometimes, that’s the beauty. With big things we know the difference that we make almost instantaneously. But those little things, not so much. Just imagine how many little things you’ve done in your life that may have impacted someone else in a HUGE way.
And you don’t even know it.
One Sunday, a lady at church told me she thought I was doing a great job with my son. This was after a particularly rough week; one of those weeks where I just felt like nothing I was doing was important. Well I’ll have you know that I went straight to my car and cried my eyes out. I felt so thankful that she had said that. She validated me, she saw me, and she thought enough of me to tell me. She didn’t know that I needed that that day. I did go back later and tell her. But at that time, to her, it was probably a small act. Insignificant even, but it’s something that I’ll never forget.
2. There are some people in your life that only you have the ability to influence
Imagine if I drove over to your best friends house, right now. I’d get out of my car, march up to her house (with my mask on) and knock on her front door. I’d then proceed to tell her, that it was my humble opinion, that she was in a toxic relationship and needed to get out of it.
Yep. Wouldn’t work.
You know why? Because she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t trust me, and quite honestly, she’d probably think I was a crazy person. I have no influence over her. But you do.
We all have this network of people that we have influence over. People we love and respect. We have the opportunity to be there for those people in ways that other people can’t, just because we know what they need. We have that relationship.
I’ll tell you this, those people are your little part of the world. Family, friends, children, and the list goes on. You can help those people, encourage those people, make their little part of the world better. That’s a unique role that was given specifically to you.
It may seem like a little thing. But oh man, that’s huge.
3. Your self worth is not determined by your accomplishments
I went more in depth about this a few weeks ago, but this point is very valid here too. One of the reasons that the little things seem so unimportant, or aggravating, to me is because these little things don’t often give me a sense of accomplishment. And when I don’t have any accomplishments to speak of, I feel a little bit less worthy.
So if my whole life is boiled down to my list of accomplishments, it just feels a little better if that list says, I got my doctorate, or won a Nobel prize, or became an accomplished author, than it does if I say, I smiled and possibly made someone feel good inside.
But why is that?
For me it’s because the little things don’t get you acknowledgment. I think that’s my problem. I like acknowledgement. But that’s the wrong reason to do anything. That shouldn’t be my motivation.
This means doing ‘little’ things, is creating an opportunity for me to grow. It’s making me uncomfortable, which is one sign that it’s challenging me to learn something new and become a better person. So even though I know my self-worth isn’t determined by my accomplishments, now I’m putting my money where my mouth is.
4. You never know how far your little action will ripple.
Today, you may be at a sink washing all of your family’s dishes. Again. (Can you tell I have strong feelings about dishes?!) It seems like an annoying task. But that dinner you just fed your son, helped him grow. And what if he grows up to be the next president?
What if you smiled at someone in the grocery store today? And your smile reminded that person that there is still good in the world, and so they went home and decided to reconnect with their estranged family members?
Maybe you are a teacher and you feel as though you aren’t getting through to one of your students. What if years later they come back and tell you that being in your class changed the whole trajectory of their life?
Things ripple. The world doesn’t revolve around me, or you, and that means that our actions don’t just stop with us. Every move we make, every day we live, we are affecting something; you are changing someone else’s life. You’re doing that, just by being you. So when you start to wonder about the mundanity of it all, think about how you are leaving a legacy after all. Maybe it’s just not the one you expected.
So there it is. The little things matter. If we all focus on making our part of the world better, we’ll all make a big difference. The things that we assume are ‘little’ aren’t really little at all.
Some of us will change the world on a grand scale; we’ll become world renowned and live out our wildest dreams. But I’m here to tell you that until you become that person, and even while you are that person, you can still improve the ‘little’ world around you. That’s how you can make the world a better place, and that’s something to be proud of… even if you never get your own Wikipedia page.