Small, Simple, Every Day

How do we become the people we need to be to live the lives we want to live, do the things we want to do, and face the challenges we want to (or must, because of forces beyond our control) capably face?

There are countless ways to pursue this type of outcome, but the one I’ve found to be most effective and sustainable (for me) is to implement small, simple, daily changes and maintain them over time.

In practice, this means deciding to put away yesterday’s washed dishes each morning before you do anything else because that makes you feel productive and accomplished first thing, leading into the rest of your day.

Or maybe it means deciding to take up a new learning path, formal or informal, and making reading/study/research/practice part of each afternoon, evening, or whenever else you consistently have (or can set aside) time for such things.

The key is to keep your plans simple so they don’t abstract away into pointless milestones or spiral into bigger, unsustainable, undertakings.

This approach helps reduce overwhelm and exhaustion.

Big, bold, brash ambitions are more appealing when we’re theorizing about and planning them, but tiny little bits of iterative growth—so small you can hold them in the palm of your hand—tend to be more achievable at a regular cadence, and over time tend to aggregate into something much larger (even if that might not be obvious on a day-to-day basis).

This small-ness has the added benefit of increasing the regularity at which you can pivot your approach based on what you learn along the way.

A journey of 1,000 steps provides us with 1,000 opportunities to change direction, while an impressive-seeming, dramatic undertaking involving just a few massive leaps leaves us with fewer opportunities to make adjustments in-transit as we acquire knowledge and capability that empowers us to make informed tweaks to our plans.

The “every day” component of this approach is flexible, and can instead mean “on a regular basis,” but I personally find when I’m unable to make something work daily, that usually means it’s not small and simple enough yet and I may be able to squeeze it in and make it work better if I rethink what I hope to accomplish each time I do this thing I want to do.

Importantly, making something small and simple and routine doesn’t mean you should do it thoughtlessly.

There’s value in mere practice and rote repetition in some cases, but ideally there’s opportunity to pause and assess periodically, even when going through the motions is the most valuable thing you can do each day, most of the time.

Also, pulling complex projects apart in this way so as make them fundamental to your everyday rhythm doesn’t mean you can’t also have more in-depth, time- and energy-hungry exertions blended in with those less-taxing daily doses.

The tidbits tend to benefit from larger, less-frequent, supplementary efforts and the same is true in reverse.

This approach is optimized for building a framework upon which understanding and skill can develop, while also weaving a new body of knowledge and capability into one’s lifestyle.

You might think of it as exercise that develops sturdy and resilient interstitial tissue and tiny core muscles, upon which you can then build whatever else you hope to build, safely and maintainably.

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