Small change, small victories.

Have you noticed how certain people really change their lives in impressive and inspiring ways?

People travel the world.

Sell everything and move to a tiny house.

Simplify their lives down to a backpack’s worth of possessions.

They run marathons, raise money for charities, rescue animals, switch careers and move across countries.

If you think about it, there are some truly amazing lives being led. Look at all those dream chasers!

And I’m over here just trying to remember if I brushed my teeth today.

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People are simplifying their wardrobes down to 33 things and I’m whispering the “please let there be enough clean underwear for everyone” prayer each time I approach the laundry basket. (I swear the washer eats underthings).

I am decidedly not in a radical changes season of life. And it bothers me that sometimes my initial reaction isn’t happiness for the folks doing these awesome things. Sometimes I’m jealous.

Now I hope I’m self aware enough to recognize those flashes of jealousy for what they are: discontent.

And probably not the most mature response to someone else’s hard work and commitment to a goal.

I’m desiring something else for my life. Or maybe I’ve just had a really long day and what I’m jealous of is their ability to change, even if I wouldn’t want that specific change for my life.

Do I want to run a marathon? Nope. Not really. But feeling healthier sure would be nice.

Do I really want to travel the world? Well, okay, I do but in the current moment what I am really sad about is that it has been too long since my husband and I had a date.

Couples are flying off to Paris or London and I just want to go see a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I have made life altering decisions: I’ve gotten married, I’m a parent, and for the past three years my special needs adult sister-in-law has lived with us.

My life is not what it was 20 years ago. I’ve flipped that 22 year old’s world upside-down and then some.

And I love it!

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So, when I’m not feeling that twinge of envy, when I step back for some perspective, I can acknowledge that my life has gone through periods of major change. There have even been moments when outsiders have peeked in and thought what I was doing was radical.

I can also realize that small changes in my life are a pretty sweet deal, too.

I am starting to see, and maybe for the first time in my 42 years honestly appreciate, the small gesture.

The evening of babysitting so a couple with young children can have a real date.

Letting your spouse sleep in on a Saturday morning.

An extra twenty dollars for the emergency fund.

A compliment.

So I’m trying to teach myself during those envious moments to stop and ask why? WHY is this causing me jealousy? Especially when I don’t even desire that specific milestone for myself.

What am I feeling discontent about? Have I been adding up the small changes in my own life?

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Because small change does add up. And while I’m not in a radical life changes season, I am in a small victories season. Small victories matter.

Yesterday’s small victory was that no one who lives here had a potty accident. And that, friends, absolutely is a life changing event compared to the day before. The quality of life for the mama and care-giver on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor improved greatly, even if just for a day.

It doesn’t have to be a major event to make an impact.

I keep underestimating the power I have: I can improve life in small, but significant, baby steps.

I can take care with the every day and see results. I need to be reminded of that, of the low stakes but potentially high impact decisions. The value of mindfulness.

  • Saying I love you.
  • Cutting the crusts off.
  • Buying used.
  • Thank you. You’re welcome.
  • Sticking to the budget.
  • Getting up earlier than the kids.
  • Exercising.

It isn’t going to be a viral sensation and it won’t change my life in a drastic overnight kind of way, but it’s an improvement, a positive thing, a moment that’s worth it.

  • An expression of adoration.
  • A small kindness.
  • A social responsibility.
  • Good manners.
  • A step closer to our financial goals.
  • A calmer start to the day.
  • Good for my health.

And every single one totally do-able, totally worth the small amount of time, effort, or even inconvenience.

I was listening to a podcast recently about a mother who loved to sew but was frustrated because it didn’t seem to fit into her life now.  She set up her sewing machine in a corner of the living room and put a baby gate around it. The toddler couldn’t get into it and she didn’t have to waste the 20 minutes of precious free time she got setting up her machine each time she wanted to sew: it was already set up and waiting for her. A simple, but genius change!

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And that list I made initially? Those marathoners and world travelers? The career changers? They didn’t just wake up one day and run or launch or move. Those things came after what I am going to guess where several months, if not years, of baby steps and preparation.

The end results I’m sometimes jealous of? I’m not witness to the struggles, the sleepless nights, the study sessions, the sacrifices, and the daily decisions that led to the outcomes, so I don’t always think about that part of it.

People pay off their debts or save for travel adventures one weekly budget at a time. How’s that for the literal power of small change?

There is always a “behind the scenes” and a backstory. And most of those back stories are written with the ink of hundreds of smaller decisions. The miles run or traveled started one baby step at a time.

Let’s hear it for the small victories! It doesn’t have to be radical. Tell me about a small victory.

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34 Comments

  1. Seana Turner

    I used to feel that way if we had a day when no one was sick… (we had a lot of allergies, sinus infections, coughs, etc.) I think learning to celebrate small things is actually a secret to happiness. Furthermore, while giant changes are wonderful, it is the tiny ones, that we continue over time, that often have the greatest impact. Love this thought for today!

    • Robert

      This article rings True with me as well. Somehow as I progress in simplicity things get bigger . Mostly my appreciation for little things. Recently I have started hiking . There are countless trails and Parks located in my area. It seems I have been able to get to a different one each week. It is pretty simple when you think about it but taking those pictures and looking forward to the next hike has made my life more rich and exciting. I am able to do this I believe in part because I have time and space in my mind and soul again. I am not so concerned or worried about taking care of my ” stuff”. Mainly because I have less stuff to maintain. I just put on my sneakers and head out.

  2. AnnMarie Johnson

    My adult SIL with special needs moved in with us 2.5 years ago. I would love to find a community of people like us–raising our own children and having a sibling or in law with special needs join the family as an adult. Do you know of any?

    • Krystal

      AnnMarie, depending on where you live, there may be a Sibling Support Group set up through SibSjops, your local Arc, or the Sibling Leadership Network. I would start there. We have an every-other-month group in Seattle, for example.

      • Krystal

        *Sibshops, oops. Designed for kid sibs, though they might have resources.

  3. Gillian Lee

    Love this … great reminder that we need to focus on the little things, and be grateful.

  4. Catherine

    I write 3 gratitudes in my journal every day. It helps me be mindful to celebrate the days my husband makes bed, nobody pees their pants or my daughter compliments me instead of dwelling on the day when I feel like I did every crumby task required by a mom and no one said thanks. And now that I do it every day I find that throughout the day I think to myself “This could be one of the things I’m grateful for today.”

  5. Rose

    Today I took all my medications for depression and anxiety. I packed our lunches. I ran. I worked.

    • JillAnnSarah

      As someone who struggles with depression… you have done very well for today!

    • Lynn

      Big victories… well done ??

  6. Adrianne | The Shelton House

    Wow, it’s like you wrote out my heart today! Thank you for reminding me that the little things everyday are significant and meaningful. Beautiful, real post for those of us who can feel small.

  7. Linda Sand

    We will be moving later this month. Every box packed feels like a victory.

  8. Mandi

    This was good for me to read today, as I am coming out of a season of big changes and entering one of small changes, which has left me feeling a little lost and, at times, unsatisfied. It was good to be reminded to celebrate the little victories. So, I’m celebrating hanging the very first thing on the wall after living in this house for three months. It is a simple display that is meaningful to me in a personal way, and it makes me smile when I look at it. It didn’t really seem like a big deal, but now that you mention it, it kind of is. Thank you.

  9. Mary Grace Otis

    This is such a lovely message, and one I completely agree with. Small changes are where it is at right now! If I can incorporate little pieces of things I love, I feel accomplished. Maybe I can’t travel the world, but I can take my kids to a nearby museum, or read them a book about another culture. And on it goes…

    And I might add: having a day with no potty accidents is truly, truly beautiful. (I’m right there with you on that one.)

  10. Suzanne C.

    I would love to share a Ted Talk I watched yesterday by Shawn Achor on Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness. Sometimes we can get down about life’s trials and I thought I might try to commit to the five things he says to do daily for 21 days, to retire our brains for a more positive view….starting today!

  11. Rebecca

    I also put the playpen around my sewing machine when my children were young works great! I am now at the stage in my life with very elderly parents (88 years) and find that I am having to make sure I fit my textile activities in as well as assistance and being there for my parents.

  12. Betsy

    The older I get the more small gestures bring more delight to me than the big things. Case in point I had a trip to Italy in the spring for the first time. It was lovely. When I came home my granddaughter came for a visit and told me she missed me and the way I can always make her laugh. I have to admit that those loving words from my granddaughter meant more to me than the trip.

  13. Jean Marie Bauhaus

    I can so relate to this. I needed the reminder to celebrate the small changes and victories. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Abbie

    Meals on the table every night this week. (When I had more babies and fewer big kids, once a week was a victory!)

  15. Theresa

    Lovely. It really is the small things sometimes that need celebrating and that can ultimately change our focus.

  16. Beth Werner Lee

    Recognizing my toxic anxiety last week and 1. Reaching out to a counselor my friend recommended; 2. Slowing down Friday and Saturday as well as Sunday.

    I’m doing well at meal planning this fall! Change in attitude about finances and a few deals on cooking magazines helped.

  17. alexa

    I have much appreciated your thoughtful post. I put together a little notebook at the start of January called ‘The Little Book of Small Victories’, sensing that it was going to be a long journey this year recovering from a broken shoulder whilst looking after my 92 year old father with vascular dementia. Celebrating every centimetre of movement I got back, even if each took weeks, cheering myself on facing my fear of falling again in icy conditions when I got to the end of the road by myself for the first time … So important to notice them all :).

  18. Steph Holko

    Agreed! I just started a habit tracker for some little things that will make a big difference in my life…like go to bed on time. I’m with you!

  19. Kathee

    I once was jealous of all those spectacular things that people do and then realized that sometimes it takes a tragedy to make such a dramatic change in life. I decided I’d rather take the slow steps and celebrate each day at a time. I, like one of the other posters, try to have two or three things to be grateful for to my journal each morning.
    Today, I rode my bike. I bought it a year ago because I enjoy bike riding. I had been on it three times. I finally decided to actually do it before winter comes. Big accomplishment for me. Thanks for the great article.

  20. kim domingue

    I started decluttering my home after Hurricanes Katrina and Lily devastated cities to the left and right of us within a month’s time. People lost everything they had and needed stuff, I had extra stuff……it was a no brainer. Gather up my extra stuff and give it to those who needed it. I gathered up almost seven pickup trucks loads of furniture and other household goods. And it seemed like other stuff just flowed in to fill the gaps I’d created. That opened my eyes to exactly how much stuff we had and how crowded our home was. But I have a “Great Depression” mentality. Without the impetus of a disaster to motivate me, letting go of things has been hard and emotionally trying a lot of the time. I learned to celebrate the small victories…..one empty drawer, half an empty shelf, one full bag waiting at the front door to be donated. I celebrate every time I leave that “thing” on the shelf at the store instead of bringing it home with me…..and very little comes home with me any more.

    All the small changes and small victories have added up over the last ten years. A lot of them have been baby steps but baby steps work as well as giant steps do…..it just takes a little longer to get where you’re going! Lol!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep celebrating the small victories!

  21. W.Barton

    I am so glad that I read this today. I have decided to do some changes and this definitely gave me some good thoughts. Beautiful post, thank you! : )

  22. JillAnnSarah

    Reading this this morning is very timely! I was just going over my finances this morning. I have paid off almost $15,000 of debt this year – on a less than $45,000 income. I’m struggling to REALLY relish the accomplishment although for me it is big… maybe because it is not something that I have talked about with friends and family. I have just done it… not buying things I wanted, making extra money whenever I could, plodding through each day…
    Oftentimes, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments! When I have those days where I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing, I try to re-play the day in my head; listing off what I have spent my day doing. Almost always the list is reasonably long – maybe not grand and important things, but things that needed to be done in my life.

  23. Lisa Foster

    I resisted several impulse purchases of things I don’t need. I feel really good about it.

  24. Susan M

    You nailed it! Loved what you said. I have 3 adult special needs children that live at home. They all have Down syndrome and are amazing. My time is spent making sure they get back and forth to their jobs or job training. I would love to be traveling the world or just having a date night like friends my age are doing and btw I am 68. But my family trumps everything else and I am so glad I am mom to all 6 of my children. All of my kids make me stretch, grow and keep learning all kinds of new stuff.

  25. Kat

    I appreciated your post! And I laughed a little with this line: “People are simplifying their wardrobes down to 33 things and I’m whispering the “please let there be enough clean underwear for everyone” prayer each time I approach the laundry basket. (I swear the washer eats underthings).” In the last two years, I’ve donated and removed many of my belongings and even tried a uniform for my job (and spent more money, regrettably). I’ve spent the weekend adulting with my finances to reduce my debts … not having a car is helping (and reminds me there’s a limit to how much I can carry home from Target.) It’s an ongoing reminder, right?–to work with what exists and that recognizing those daily wins with gratitude and an open heart can bring the biggest joys. Here’s to having enough underwear, doing the dishes, and remembering to brush the teeth!

  26. Yvon

    My little victory–eating really good, organic celery for a snack instead of chips. At 67 with many physical challenges I can’t lose weight as easily as in the days when running 3 miles was fun–but I will do it!

    one little celery stick choice at a time.

  27. Angela @ setting My Intention

    This is such a good reminder to appreciate the small victories in your own story. It reminded me of that saying, “don’t compare your middle to someone’s end” or something like that. It is so easy to do. Thank you!

  28. Sam

    I really enjoyed the message of your post! At first I thought you were simply telling us to appreciate our small victories, it wasn’t until the end I realized you were telling us those small victories are what leads us to big ones. Great post with a great message!

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