The importance of making small changes
Making small changes can have a huge impact in our lives.
Early this year, many in the congregation of my church celebrated a 21-day fast. We each gave up something we
appreciated and used awareness of the absence to consider how much more we need to appreciate everything the Lord does for us, then express gratitude by spending time with God—especially, in prayer. The fast was not required to be arduous. Some people gave up lunch, or dinner, or television, or social media, whatever would yield or remind us to take a little more time. Ultimately, we expected to develop, or strengthen, a habit of earnest prayer.
I gave up the main dish of my evening meal. Instead of a full meal, I’d eat a salad and a piece of fruit. This small change made for a quick meal. At first, I’d been reluctant to cut back like this on my food, but in the end, I was very pleased with the result: The point of the fast was to make (more) time to pray. Since I didn’t need to wait for my turn to use the microwave (It sometimes takes awhile.), I could eat quickly and have that time.
At the end of the three weeks, I decided to make this small change in my eating a habit for two reasons: (1) I want to continue to use the extra time to pray, and (2) there were secondary benefits.
I’m sure you already know that when you make any change, it often affects more than one area of life. Sometimes, there are unexpected results. In this case, I discovered I didn’t become tired and sluggish after eating. That was a great benefit! I take my lunch break around 3am (about halfway through the shift), and I’ve spent years fighting off weariness during the last four hours of work. If anything, I thought not eating a full meal might make me feel more tired. Well, I’ve done a bit of checking on the effect of my dietary change, and as it turns out, it’s rooted in science. Another benefit has been that I’ve save a bit of money. I’m not carrying in leftovers, so we’re cooking less (to avoid having leftovers that will just go bad). In addition, there’s no need to buy lunchmeat and cheese for the occasional sandwich I used to bring. Dropping the entrée from my meal gave me the spiritual benefit I wanted. This one small change had more than one advantage. It, also gave me secondary physical and financial benefits. (How cool is that?)
The importance of making small changes
It’s funny how this post has come together. Today as I was driving home, I noticed a loud rubbing sound coming from my driver-side front wheel when I applied the breaks. I knew what the problem was. (I’ve been through this before.) I needed new breaks. To make a long story short, I stopped and had the breaks repaired before I came on home. And, I paid cash.
How did I manage to pay cash on such short notice for such a large expense?
It’s because of one small change my wife and I made many years ago. We began to save money. At first it wasn’t much (I didn’t earn much.), but I could see the importance of an emergency account, so we committed to it. That was the beginning. We saved money so we would be prepared for when life happens. It wasn’t always easy. In time (because we got better at it and because of pay increases), we developed a budget with more categories than “Emergency” and “Everything Else.” As we learned to budget not only for emergencies, but for recurring expenses and planned events (all accomplished through small changes), saving became natural. The changes always began small, but being persistent and finding ways to increase our funding (taking on second jobs, reviewing our budget for areas of excessive or the need greater contributions) continues to serve us well. Often, the small changes by themselves are not much, but added up they make a huge impact on life.
******** Just a note *******
Benefits of saving money include:
1) You have it when you need it.
2) You don’t pay interest because it’s your money.
3) You don’t have to worry about being approved for a loan.
4) ”How I am going to make this payment?” doesn’t have to be something you worry about.
5) You don’t have to be resigned to giving up something to fund bill payments.
*********End of note********
I tend to get annoyed with people that use the “What I can do is not significant” excuse.
Think about it like this: If you saved ten dollars a week for a year, at the end of the year (52 weeks later) you would have five hundred and twenty dollars.
Let’s examine this a little closer: Ten dollars isn’t a lot of money. Really, there is not much of significance that you can do with ten dollars (unless you consider lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet significant). But…If you saved ten dollars a week, every week for a year, at the end of the year you would have five hundred and twenty dollars. Could you do something significant with that amount of money?
In my case, I could register my car and get license plates, or pay my auto insurance for a year, or buy a set of tires for the car, or have a decent Christmas fund, or I could get my passport, or take a mini vacation. Actually, I did the last two: I got something I’ll need in the future—a passport. And something I really needed—a little R&R.
At the end of a 52 week period, a small change (saving ten dollars a week) can have a huge effect. It creates a multitude of possibilities.
Going back to the example about my breaks going out, ten dollars would not have even begun to cover the cost of the repair. However, my budget has a car repair fund. I regularly contribute a set amount of money to it. While first few contributions would have done next to nothing to help us out of a fix, regular contributions (that, admittedly, have increased over the years) have yielded a fund that could—and has—covered a number of maintenance issues. My car was fixed, and I paid cash to have it done.
More about making small changes
Finances are not the only life issue that benefit from small changes. I’ve used money as an example, but you have other resources. Two major ones that come to mind are time and relationships.
Let’s talk about these. I’ve already written a couple of articles that address maximizing time how to get more done in less time and how to get organized. Take a look at them.
Time and relationship issues often blend (or you could say blur).
When I was in the Navy, I spent a lot of time at sea. In case you don’t know, that means I was assigned to a ship, and when the ship, went to sea I went with it. I may have been gone for a few days or several months. Once, I was out for a year. My point is that I spent a lot of time away from my family. That makes for relationship issues…
My children were young while I was in the Navy. When I say “young,” I mean toddler thru teenager. When I was not at sea, it was important that I spend as much time with them as possible, including attending as many of their events as I could—family days at school, ball games, cross country meets, marching band, etc. My wife kept a schedule for me. I always knew what was going on: What, when, and where things were taking place.
Now, when we were in port, work was always demanding. (That’s true for most of us—right?) As the kids reached the age for participating in these activities, I had to figure out a way to get the time to attend their events.
The solution was pretty simple. I started communicating with my boss about my home life. I let him know what was going on with the kids and asked him if we could work out a way for me to be there for them. Often, there was. Sometimes I’d go into work early, or stay late. Sometimes, I could work out a sort of “split shift”—leave and come back. Sometimes, nothing more was required than I just go and have a good time. I didn’t always get what I wanted, but I did attend a lot of my children’s functions. A secondary benefit was that my boss and I developed a fairly decent relationship.
There were other personnel in the command who had kids. Not all of them went to their events. I heard a lot of grumbling about it—mostly from people who didn’t like to be on the supervisor’s “radar.” Those guys missed out on more than one level—family time and a chance to get in with someone who (probably) knew tricks and methods to make their jobs easier. I got the benefit of both—time and expertise—simply because I made one little change: I asked my boss.
We tend to overlook the importance of making small changes—probably, because they rarely yield immediate results. A “long view” and persistence is required, but with time, small changes can make large contributions to our options.