HR Discussion

The Power of Small When the Small Is Really Big

Mohamed Tohami

Think big!

Have you heard this motivational advice before? It sounds nice, it seems to make sense. However, when you really think about it, the small is usually bigger than the big.

One day, I was reading a very interesting article by Laura Vanderkam, titled “How to Change Your Life Before Breakfast.” Her insight was an eye opener.

She claims you really can change your life by making the best use of the couple of hours before breakfast. She believes early mornings are the secret key to building habits that will make us happier, more productive, and successful—exercising, doing spiritual practices, reading, writing, for instance.

Laura’s insight led me to think of the power of the small: Success is usually achieved by doing small things–consistently. It’s not always easy to get out of a comfortable bed to hit the gym.

We are always encouraged to think big and have big dreams. Indeed, it’s important.

However, a person often gets stuck when it comes to getting started. Having a big goal can paralyze you. When it looks big, it’s difficult to know when, where, or how to start.

The hard truth is that if you don’t start, you’ll never get where you want to go. When you have a big goal, don’t just think about how you’re going to achieve it. Focus on doing one small action that gets you started. It could be any action in any direction. It doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is to get the ball rolling and start building momentum.

Once you set yourself in motion, things tend to become a lot easier. For engineers, thinking in terms of the basic laws of physics makes a lot of intuitive sense. So just think about one of the laws you learned in high school physics: “A body at rest wants to stay at rest, and a body in motion wants to stay in motion.”

There is a wonderful quotation from Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 (one of the great leaders during the Second World War), that says, “It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”

A perfect example to illustrate the power of the small is when you buy a new book.

Reading a 300-page book is a big task to complete. A typical tendency is to keep on procrastinating and waiting for a time when you’re free and relaxed or when you take a vacation at the beach to start reading the book.

And guess what? This ideal time never comes!

Shift your focus from the big task and just start reading the first page. Soon you’ll find yourself finishing 10, 20, 50 pages and maybe the whole book in one sitting.

When your goals seem too big to achieve, think of the smallest action possible to begin. Then, think of the next—and the next. The key to achieving the big is to get started with the small—or the smallest.

Don’t wait until you have created your perfect plan, because there is no perfect plan. You can start anywhere and anyhow.

Never ask yourself, “What is the first thing I need to do?” Instead ask yourself, “What is the smallest thing I need to do to get started?” Pick the smallest, easiest action, and go do it. Then move to the next easiest, then the next, and so on.

As you get going, you will find yourself being able to achieve big goals faster than you could imagine possible. As your momentum grows, the cumulative effect of small actions will be really big.

A quotation from Confucius, the great Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher (who was born in 550 BCE and died in 470 BCE), summarizes this mindset. ”When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”


Mohamed Tohami received his degree in telecommunications from Ain Shams University, Egypt. After working for 7 years at multinational companies in the telecom industry, he decided to pursue motivational speaking full time. Tohami is known for his series of interviews with successful people including, among others, Jim Cathcart, Tony Alessandra, Michael Gerber, and Mark Sanborn. He is the author of three books, including The Pharaohs’ Code, a highly ranked motivational book.