My grandmother used to say “if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.” Back then, she was educating me in the ways of financial prudence, but now I find myself applying this maxim to other areas of my life, particularly wellbeing. It is often the small actions – the pennies – the daily choices that we make, which have the biggest impact upon our overall wellbeing, and which help or hinder us in achieving our goals. Things like how we respond to challenging situations, how we approach daily tasks, and how we manage the expectations we place upon ourselves and those around us, all contribute to our sense of emotional balance and purpose. Whilst life is full of ups and downs, I believe we can choose to focus on the positives. We can choose to get back up after we have been knocked down and we can choose to treat difficult experiences as learning opportunities.
Ambition, self-belief and long-term goals are important and we must never give up on the big “pounds” of happiness and success. But as my grandmother’s saying goes, it’s important not to forget about the little “pennies” along the way that when added up, represent the bigger picture of the meaning of success and happiness. Small things such as demonstrating kindness and respect towards ourselves as well as others, doing charitable deeds, making time to pursue hobbies and passions, and putting effort into maintaining valued relationships all count.
“If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed.” (William H. McRaven)
The importance of achieving small daily tasks is illustrated beautifully in a speech made by former US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven. He says “if you make your bed in the morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter.” Accomplishing small daily tasks builds a solid foundation for long-term achievement. So much so, that even if we later lose our footing when climbing the mountain towards our goals, we are less likely to fall so low. This is because we have built a robust and resilient emotional and mental framework, cultivated through repeated smaller accomplishments. Being able to regain control of our life direction when we slip, and to continue the pursuit of our goals with confidence, will reinforce our belief in our own abilities. Knowing what we are capable of and reminding ourselves of it frequently, through reaffirming actions and the achievement of small daily tasks, is a useful tool for maintaining momentum and purpose. A strong sense of purpose, and the belief in our ability to fulfil it, leads to contentment and happiness.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” (Confucius)
I believe that success is “liking who you are, liking what you do, and liking how you do it” (Maya Angelou). In this way, it is linked intrinsically to happiness. The attainment of both depends not just upon achieving one or two big life goals, but by systematically ensuring that the small things in life are looked after first. If we take care to do the small things right on a daily basis, strategically laying down the foundations for bigger goals, we have a better chance of succeeding in the long-term, whilst maintaining positivity, productivity and balance in our lives.