Why You Should Focus on Small, Daily Habits Instead of Big Goals

Image of tools arranged neatly.

We all have at least one big goal in life – it may be making lots of money, buying a house, getting married, traveling overseas, becoming a famous YouTuber, raising great kids, or having the best marriage.

While it’s great to have goals, we often don’t achieve them.

Why is that?

Because we focus on the goal instead of what will get us to the goal.

We forget about the small, daily actions that move us toward buying the house, getting married, or raising great kids.

We underrate small things because, well, they’re small, and they don’t produce big results right away.

What creates success in life?

The truth is, success in life depends on the repetition of small actions.

Now, I get you. Small things often feel like a waste of time, but are they really?  

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear drives home the importance of small actions and small steps forward using the example of an ice cube. Picture said ice cube on the table. The temperature in the room is below freezing. Slowly the room begins to warm up, but the ice cube doesn’t melt. It gets to -1 degrees and still the ice cube hasn’t melted.

And then, as the room hits 0 degrees, the ice begins to melt. Amazing!

Now, because the ice cube begins to melt at 0 degrees Celsius (apologies to all my Fahrenheit friends – that’s 32 degrees btw), does that mean that all the warming up before the temperature got to 0 was a waste? No. Without it the ice cube would never melt. All of that “work” was not wasted. It was stored.

All the action happens at 0 degrees.

It’s the same with small, daily actions. Even though we don’t see massive results, our actions are being stored, and one day we will see results. 

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before.” Jacob Riis

Why are small efforts or habits important?

The Bible gives us a simple answer: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”  Luke 16:10

You’ll only be as good in the big things as you are in the little things.

Our problem is we want overnight success.

We want our homes to be clutter-free without any effort.

We want our relationships to be healthy without doing the work of resolving conflicts, communicating, and meeting each other’s needs.

We want to get that great promotion without faithfully performing the duties that lie right before us.

But that’s not how success happens. It “is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” [i]

To be honest, life is made up of the mundane. The daily repetition of things that seem unimportant.

Massive success doesn’t require massive action. It requires small, daily improvements.

Someone once gave me good advice that went somethings like this: “Do the work that lies nearest. Pay attention to what lies within your reach – no matter how humble it is. Put your mind and heart into doing that thing and you will see results if you persevere.”

What you are doing today matters more than where you want to be.

Where are you headed?

So, let me ask you this:

Where are your daily actions and habits leading you? Are they leading you to where you want to be, the kind of person you want to be?

‘You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” [ii]

Because your trajectory will determine your results.

We get stuck because there is a delay between what we do now and what we get later. But the truth is, we get what we repeat.

Our outcomes are a delayed result of our habits – our weight is the delayed result of our eating habits. Our knowledge is the delayed result of our learning habits. Our clutter is the delayed result of our cleaning habits. Our messy relationships are the delayed result of our communication habits and failure to deal with issues.

How do we start repeating better?

Aim for excellence in small things, for 1% improvements daily. Look for ways to be more faithful, to do a better job in the small things.

Here’s a list of small things to get you started:

  • Wash the dishes
  • Make your bed
  • Spend time with God
  • Communicate with your spouse
  • Listen to your children
  • Keep track of finances
  • Let go of resentments
  • Forgive
  • Tidy your kids’ toys (better yet, teach them to tidy them up)
  • Evaluate your thoughts and actions
  • Read for 10 minutes
  • Tidy your workspace
  • Fold today’s laundry
  • Surrender everyone and everything to God, multiple times a day
  • Set the table for breakfast the night before
  • Leave the kitchen tidy at night
  • Read emails for 10 minutes
  • Answer emails or messages right away if it will take only 2 minutes
  • Put your clothes away instead of throwing them on the chair
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Think of 3 things to be grateful for before you go to sleep
  • Put your tools away

What difference will this make?

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”[iii]

Small actions, repeated, bring big results. If you exercise today, you won’t build stronger muscles by tomorrow, but if you persevere you will see your muscles develop.

Daily work in the garden produces a harvest. Small attentions to your marriage creates a solid relationship over time.  Giving consequences when your kids disobey will create obedient children in time. 

You get what you repeat.

Instead of worrying about big goals, focus on the small things you can do today that will put you on the path toward your goals.

What small things are you neglecting? What do you need to start doing today?


[i] James Clear, Atomic Habits, 18

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] James Clear, Atomic Habits, 7

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Denson Shumo | 27th May 20

    Fantastic

  2. 7 Simple Ways to Ditch Depression and Feel Better Fast - Love More to Live | 13th Jan 21

    […] For more on the importance of small, daily habits, read here. […]

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