Celebrate Your Small Steps

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all Small Stuff” is the name of a best-seller written by Richard Carlson in 1996.

I like it.  Big and small are relative terms.. Lifting 50 lbs might be a big deal for some weak people… but is a very small matter for a body builder. And yet, the flu virus attacks the weak man and the body-builder alike, and knocks them both down.  Or a luxury yacht and a massive cruise liner both encounter a storm at sea. The mighty waves lift them both equally effortlessly…

And when our astronauts leave earth and travel into outer space… as they look down on earth… and I don’t mean America, or China or India… I mean all of earth complete with all its oceans… as they look down on earth, they see a very small, small object.

As our perspective of challenges and problems change… and as we remove ourselves, further and further away from the problem… we begin to see that problem in the context of all its surrounding blessings… we begin to see the forest and not just the trees… and we can genuinely conclude, “It’s all small stuff”.

But whereas that is great negative advice… or put another way, that is a great instruction, on what not to do… I promote another perspective.

Celebrate the small steps.

And this is nothing new… It is something that you have either had done to you, and/or it is something that you have done for your little children. Instinctively, we celebrate the smallest first steps our children take… until we begin to take their little victories for granted. Then we devour them with our devastating demands and discouragement, and then pay therapists to help them recover by removing the debris we have dumped on them.

The last time I checked, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth. I have seen his parents being interviewed on television in Jamaica. When on Thursday, August 21, 1986, Mrs. Jennifer Bolt gave birth to Usain, he was not the fastest baby on earth… or at least, we don’t know that. He crawled and creeped and struggled to stand like every other child who eventually walks… And I don’t know that when he first began to walk, he was necessarily the world’s fastest walker…

But somewhere along the line, through encouragement, help, support, re-enforcement, commendations, reward and lots of hard work, each small step he took gave rise to bigger and faster steps… until finally at the 2008 Beijing Olympics… he became the first man in the world ever to set three world records at a single edition of the Olympic games.

I like the imagery of a step because it suggests that you are going somewhere, and it even suggests that you at least have an idea of where you want to go. There are steps or rounds on a ladder. Each step is deigned to take you higher or lower.  There are steps on a staircase, and again, each step is designed to take you up or down. And all on your own, the movement of your feet is called a step, and it is usually in the direction in which you are looking and heading.

Usain Bolt took 41 steps to win the 100 meters race in 9.63 seconds. Which of those steps was the most important step?

None of them. They were all equally important, most were different, but all were equally important.

Suppose he did not take the first step, or suppose he did not take the last step, or suppose he missed any of the 39 other steps, he would not have been victorious… in fact, he would not even have been in the race.

It is true that from a different perspective, the last step is usually seen as being the most important.

“It is how you finish that’s important”, and that is true, where winning in a competitive race is not the objective. And it is also true that in most of life, we compete only against ourselves, and there is room for every one of us to be a winner when we do the best that we can do.

But from both perspectives, each step we take builds on the last step we took… and that’s good reason to celebrate each small step we make in the right direction.

An understanding of the working of our brain instructs us that reward as a reinforcement for the positive is much more effective and beneficial than is punishment as a deterrent against the negative.  Humans thrive on the approval of other humans. And when we don’t get the approval of others we go out of our way, and sometimes even do silly things, just to be noticed, even if we are laughed at.

If you are a parent, and you did not always have your act together, and your child now suffers from deviant behavior disorder, call out the wrong things your child does in a whisper, but shout out the good things they do in a loud voice.

Stop punishing the wrong things, and start super rewarding the good things. Celebrate every small step your child makes in the right direction. We all have only 24 hours in each day. With each minute spent in doing one more right thing, there will be one minute less available to do a wrong thing.

But what about you. What happens when you are the one that is suffering from lack of approval of others.

Determine to do what is good and right. Set your goal and pursue it.  and celebrate each small step you make in the right direction. If you want to lose 10 lbs… celebrate the loss of the first half of a pound… and then the second and then the third. Just don’t celebrate with a whole chocolate cheese cake.

1 Samuel 30:6 tell us that when David found himself discouraged and deserted by his followers who spoke of stoning him because the Amalekites had burned their city and taken their wives and sons and daughters captive, David encouraged himself in the Lord.

It is ideal to bask in the approval of others. But if and when that’s not possible, even momentarily, you and I have an obligation and a duty to ourselves, to encourage ourselves. Don’t wait for the end game or for that final victory… Of course, we all want to be victorious. But don’t sit around waiting for that final victory. Throughout the journey, and especially when disappointments come, let us learn to celebrate our small steps.

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