“All good work is done the way ants do things. Little by little.” Lafcadio Hearn
Truth? I am simply the worst at mastering this concept. And I just tried to think of a time when I wasn’t so awful and came up with … oh yeah. Never.
I never perform small. If my kids wants me to make a cake from scratch, it’s going to be from scratch. I might be tempted to go buy the chickens to raise myself so I that I can also say I grew the chickens that laid the eggs that went into the cake I made from scratch. And then I’ll spend all day and all night rolling fondant and forming it into 62 perfect flowers with centers fashioned out of edible pearls.
If I’m going to reorganize the basement, then it’s going to require that I reorganize the house.
If I’m going to start a blog, it’s going to mean I post to it every single day and then conjure up some grandiose vision of what it needs to look like and what it should encompass and whom it will serve. (All of that coming straight to you in September, by the way.)
The point is, I have a really hard time with little by little because everything I want in life feels like it needs to be done massive by gigantic.
Has it served me well?
Mostly? Not at all.
Tackling everything massive by gigantically has a tendency to leave you melted into a puddle. It’s fine if it’s a marathon you run a few times a year or some major party you throw at the holidays or a room you remodel on your week off. There are projects and endeavors that require much of you in a concentrated amount of time. But for most of my life I’ve had this awful tendency to feel like I have to run some sort of marathon every single day.
Over the past year or so, I have made every effort to seek and destroy this tendency in me. (I’ve failed at this a LOT.) Not because I no longer want to achieve anything. But because, on the contrary, I do want to achieve. Everything. And when I look at everything the way I look at baking a cake from scratch, it undoes me before I begin.
So lately, I’ve been all about baby steps. Little bits. Projects spread out over time and divided into bites I can eat politely, rather that shoveling and stuffing everything in at once.
And I’m over here, like WHOAH. Ants are the real deal. They know how to get their crap done. Because by focusing on the small steps one at a time, I have essentially given vast areas of my life complete makeovers.
I still fight that tendency. The one that urges me to do too much at once. That one dreams fiercely and fast and tries to find that best place to start only to be too intimidated and tired to start at all. But I’m learning to see that for what it is. To take a deep breath and get back to center. To just rest in the idea that everything will get done if I am measured and focused keep it small.
So that’s what this quote is for this week. To keep my thoughts measured and my work small. Because little by little is the only way to move forward when the things you’re moving toward are massive and gigantic.