The Magic of Starting Small

You’ve probably heard the advice “think big”. In his classic book The Magic of Thinking Big, author David Schwartz describes how thinking big can help you overcome the fear of failure, achieve your goals, and awaken the creative power within you.

The problem is that big is overwhelming and intimidating. Human beings instinctively avoid change. When we feel overwhelmed, it’s less likely we will take action. With this in mind, I want to look at an idea that in my mind holds equal power: starting small.

It is relatively easy to envision an outcome that results from thinking big. For example, if I close my eyes I can imagine standing atop the summit of Mt Everest. The difficulty comes when you think about the journey – in this case the long trek and dangerous ascent through the Death Zone. Suddenly, standing atop the summit seems a much harder.

To overcome this problem, start small. As Lao Tzu once said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Here are 3 practical ways you can achieve big outcomes by starting small:

1. It’s About Evolution, Not Revolution

Instead of thinking “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want a million dollars”, try to focus on making small steps towards your goal. Small, seemingly insignificant accomplishments can snowball into something much greater. If you can lose 2 pounds, you can lose 20. If you can make one thousand dollars, you can make one million.

An area I once struggled with was confidence. When you struggle with confidence it’s extremely hard to imagine yourself becoming confident. I started to make take small steps in the direction of change: I practiced speaking up, I began to sit at the front of class, and I worked on maintaining eye contact. With these types of gradual improvements, I eventually got to the top of my own personal mountaintop and can today call myself a confident person.

2. Focus on the Next Action

Those who’ve read David Allen’s productivity bible, Getting Things Done, will be familiar with the idea of “next actions”. If you haven’t read this book, the next action is basically the next physical activity that needs to be done to move a project forward. Focusing on the next action is a simple and powerful way to overcome procrastination, gain clarity, and establish accountability. As David writes in his book, “without a next action, there remains a potentially infinite gap between current reality and what you need to do.”

3. Think Daily

What are you putting off until tomorrow/next week/next year? Perhaps it’s something tangible, like calling a friend or spending more time with your children. Or perhaps it’s something less tangible, such as happiness or love. If you’re waiting until tomorrow for “something” to happen, consider this: in so many ways, it’s your days that define your life. The way you live each day–the words you speak, the thoughts you think, and the actions you take–are what shape your life and determine what it will stand for.

Yes, it’s important to plan for tomorrow, but be sure that you’re making the most of the present. Don’t hold back living your best life till tomorrow . Start today, because what you do today that will determine tomorrow.

Peter writes about personal growth and self awareness at The Change Blog. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to download his free e-book, A Year of Change.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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