I’ve been reading The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff by Andy Andrews…and getting both convicted and motivated with every page. Why? Because significant change can happen one small degree at a time.

In the book, he tells the story of a time he and a few buddies sailed out to sea in search of a prime fishing spot beside an oil derrick. Despite relying on the boat’s computer navigation system to keep them on course, they found themselves lost, then ran out of gas on their way back to shore. After being rescued late the next day, it was discovered that the autopilot navigation compass was off by two degrees.

Now, travel back to geometry class in school and picture with me that half-moon shaped plastic protractor. Imagine using that tool to draw an angle that is just 2 degrees. Near the starting point, the lines would be virtually indistinguishable. Yet, travel out to the edge of the paper and you’ll start to see the gap widen. Now, imagine sailing 50 miles in a course just a few degrees off from your destination.

Can you see it? The longer you travel on even a slightly wrong path, the further you stray from your intended goal.

Besides a lesson in sailing and why you should make sure your navigation system is calibrated correctly, the point is eloquent in its simplicity. A small slip here and there can really add up to a big change. That’s why you really should sweat the small stuff in life. (And why I highly recommend the book.)

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how I’d tried a fast metabolism diet in September. With today’s lesson in mind, it was easy to see how small changes like cutting certain foods from my diet and eating at regular intervals really added up to visible change. Or should I say subtracted? Because I lost ten pounds in 28 days but more importantly five inches collectively from my waist, hips, and thighs.

To be honest, this diet was more than a tiny degree of change. It was more than cutting down on caffeine or drinking more water or taking more steps in a day. It was like taking a sharp veer to the side in order to reach my ideal course faster…and now it’s time to realign my long term eating habits to stay on track with my health goals. After all, in addition to fitting into my jeans without comical gyrations, I’d like the mental and physical energy to pursue my other goals. And that requires an overall state of health fed by quality nutrition.

But a diet isn’t the only place where a little change can either keep me on course or send me veering off the target. Am I continuing to grow personally? What am I reading and learning? Am I finding opportunities to serve beyond monetary gifts to keep my empathy muscle flexed? Am I having meaningful conversations with the people closest to me? Am I investing in relationships? And speaking of investing, am I putting money aside regularly for retirement? (Can we say compound interest is a little thing that really adds up?) Am I regularly circling back to recalibrate my direction and evaluate what is working or what needs to change?

Professionally, am I continuing to market daily? Am I writing? Are the word counts adding up? Is my craft getting stronger so I can produce better words faster? Even if I only have my Turtle Power hour each day, are those chunks of time being turned into significant word counts and edited pages?

Significant change happens one degree at a time.

What about you? Have you ever gotten off course? What did it take to get back on track? What small change can you make today that will have a huge impact down the road?

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