Little Things

Bill Abbate

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There are times it can help to start small and work your way up to the bigger things in life. While some of these little things can grow large over time, others can remain small but pay big dividends. The words from one of the most epic films of all time continue to ring true:

"Big things have small beginnings." Lawrence of Arabia (film released in 1962)

Whether small or large, you can miss a great deal in life if you are not paying attention. Simply noticing the little things can affect your life in a way little else can. First, let's discuss how these little things can change your life.

Change happens in relationships and is behavioral

So far as I can find, all change involves relationships. One of the most crucial things in any relationship is behavior. It, therefore, makes sense that practically all change consists of a behavioral change or modification involving a relationship.

At the root of professional leadership and life coaching is noticing or paying attention to what is happening in a relationship or relationships, and changing, modifying, or eliminating behaviors. As almost any coach or coaching client will tell you, it takes a small behavioral change or adjustment to effect real change in a person's life. Hopefully, more significant changes will follow.

To begin building true success in life, find one of these little things that can make a real difference. Realize they are all around you, permeating your life. These little things exist in every relationship, whether personal, at work, or elsewhere.

To identify these little things, you must, of course, "see" them. This is where noticing comes into play. After you notice them, you must be willing to put forth the effort to reap the tremendous promise these small things can hold.

Noticing

To notice is to use your mind and senses to become aware of something. Noticing is the result of focusing your attention on the present moment. What you focus on can be in the physical, mental, or emotional world.

Simply put, noticing is pausing and "looking" at something you usually do not perceive because you allow it to pass by unnoticed.

Noticing makes the invisible visible.

Here's a great question to ask yourself to recognize the small things you have not seen before:

What do I notice about __________?

For example:

  • What do I notice about how I act at work versus at home?
  • What do I notice about how my wife and I interact?
  • What do I notice about my recent life?
  • What do I notice about the feelings I'm having about this?
  • What do I notice about the way people work at my company?
  • What do I notice about how I act around my boss/subordinates/colleagues?
  • What do I notice about the pattern of sleep in my life and how it affects my mood?
  • What do I notice about the foods I crave?
  • What do I notice about the way he said that?

You can add virtually anything you wish to this list. Most of the above will pay great dividends if you go to work on them.

The simple yet powerful question of "What do I notice about __________?" can uncover your thoughts and bring the hidden reality to light.

Take Action

To begin working on any of these items to enhance your behavior, use this simple four-step process:

  • Notice (see it)
  • Pay attention (what are you doing or not doing, and what is triggering it?)
  • Name it (give the behavior a name to make it real)
  • Modify or change the behavior (plan and go to work on the behavior)

Start with one item on the list today. Use your journal to record when you started and the changes that will inevitably come. If you put forth an earnest effort, you will be delighted with the results!

Example

Let's look at how using one of the questions above with the four-step process can benefit you. The question that stands out most to me is:

  • What do I notice about my recent life?

Step one - notice

Something I have noticed lately is how fast time is passing by.

Step two – pay attention

In the last couple of years, it seems that weeks pass like days, and months pass like weeks. Before I know it, a new year has begun. This is concerning because I don't want life to fly by and end too soon. Although I am retired, I am very busy writing and helping my wife with her YouTube channel while preparing to launch my own channel. I believe all of this work makes time appear to go by more quickly.

What triggers my need to be working so much is my past. I have worked for so many decades I feel as though I am being lazy if I am not doing something.

Step three – name it

The behavior behind time flying by so quickly is my need to stay busy. I will therefore name this behavior busyness.

Step four – modify or change the behavior

I am at the time in my life when I should be enjoying it more, although I do get some pleasure from working. Jane and I recently took a 16-day cruise from Los Angeles to Miami and had such an enjoyable time together. Time seemed to go by at a much slower pace than at home. I have noticed that vacations lasting at least two weeks are better for slowing down to a nice pace.

On our walk this morning, Jane and I discussed how we need to vacation more, leaving the work behind. And I completely agree. In the past couple of weeks, Jane has booked two more cruises, and we plan on doing more driving vacations this upcoming summer and fall.

The behavior I am working to change is to take more breaks (vacations) and leave the work for when we return. I intend to make this a more regular part of our lives. Additionally, now that the weather is getting warmer, Jane and I plan to take more long walks to slow down and add more time to our lives. I would love to find more ways to stretch out my time and will continue seeking them.

Final thoughts

Why not try the above exercise. Choose something simple and straightforward from one of your answers to the above fill-in-the-blank questions and run it through the four-step process.

You can repeat this process as many times as you wish and enjoy the benefits it can bring into your life. As with most such exercises, it is always more powerful to team up with someone close. Together you can help one another think it through and perhaps bring in some accountability to strengthen the results.

Give it a try and watch what happens. Working on just one small thing can change your life for the better and perhaps change its entire trajectory!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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