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Why Making Small Steps Matter

<em>Edit Blog entry</em> Why Making Small Steps Matter

Photo Credit: Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

There’s wonderful story shared in one of writer Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior series books about a man on a somewhat mystical journey. He finds himself walking down a beautiful beach in Hawaii, when he comes upon a huge mound of starfish washed to shore, and they are all dying.

Next to this mound is a Hawaiian woman, and she is methodically taking one starfish at a time and chucking it back into the sea. Overwhelmed by the thought of the task, he asks “Why are you throwing the starfish back. Most of them will die anyway? Aren’t you wasting your time?”

She turned to him with a steady grace and said “It matters to this one” as she threw another one back into the sea.

Perhaps the number one reason we either avoid or give up on any important endeavor is that we feel a sense of helplessness about our cause. These days, our sense of overwhelm is compounded by having entered the information age. In addition to busy schedules, we also get more data into our heads on a daily basis than ever before in human history.

Our world is now networked with an overwhelming amount of “stuff.” Just scrolling through our social media apps, we are aware instantly of a multitude of crimes, conflicts and battles (in-between the cute cat memes, of course). It’s relatively common to feel overload. For many of us, this overload can lead to a shut down—from almost everything that requires our attention and intention.

“What you do doesn't matter…You cannot make a difference, so just give up and take care of only yourself…You are powerless so why try to help and risk looking like a fool?” All of these statements rob the human heart of it’s true power, it’s spiritual significance.

Our spirit is as subtle as mist, but can move mountains. Begin to give yourself the power that you were born with. Our most powerful journey is made up of small steps. We begin to live our lives mindfully, through a thousand kindnesses, toward ourselves and toward others. This new way of living has impact. We are fully alive, but on our own terms.

In Malcom Gladwell’s Book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, he clearly helps us understand why our small choices can and do make a difference. The tipping point occurs, for example, when an obscure fashion trend takes off like wildfire and no one knows why. Good examples of the tipping point are the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (who’d heard of ALS before that?) or even something silly like pet rocks. Gladwell reminds us that: “Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.”

Rather than death by a thousand lost opportunities, our journey becomes life by a thousand mindful moments. We begin to change how we view the world, and then the world begins to change around us. We begin to understand this principle of power by being a simple witness to it.

We don’t have to upend our lives. Small changes and shifts make a difference. Small steps are always the best, and it helps to remember that the sailing vessel that shifts its course by even 1 degree will reach a different port. As you make small improvements in your life, if anyone questions you about the power of your choices, you can then say to yourself, “It matters to this one.”

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

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