In today’s news, economy, and workplace, we have a lot of big things. We have continuous big, breaking news. We have bigger and bigger companies, from Amazon to Google. We have a call for big initiatives or big changes within our organizations. We seem to have a fascination with bigness, and it gets in the way of keeping things small.

The Problem of Bigness

Too many big things cause problems. We miss this fact because we are swallowed up by what looms large around us. Think about it. We hear about the big stories, and too often, the smaller stories go unheard or unread. The dominant news snuff out the acts of kindness or small impacts in towns or neighborhoods. No different from our economy. We hear about the big trends or what the big companies are doing, and we can miss the great art and work of the artisans. The same happens in our workplace. All the resources and attention goes to the big projects, yet the smaller initiatives keep the business running day-to-day.

The problem of big things is the opposite of being able to “see the forest for the trees.” If all we see is the forest, we miss the trees. We miss the individuals. We miss what is happening locally. We miss the small store tucked in on main street.

Bigness overwhelms and overshadows. Anxiety rises while important work goes unnoticed.

The Antidote to Bigness is Smallness

It’s obvious but tough. The antidote to bigness is smallness. We need to get better at recognizing the value of small things. We can begin right away.

Purchase from small businesses and artisans

Rather than easily clicking on “Buy Now” on Amazon, go to a local store. While at the local store, talk to the people. Ask them about their business and how long they have either owned it or worked there. Find out how they started it, bought it, or keep it going. In other words, do more than just buying locally; find out the local story while your there.

More than buying from a small business or artisan, you gain something a little more unique than from the big stores. And you support an artisan, artist, maker, or independent business person. Another important element to this is you are less likely to get tracked with suggested other things to buy that you don’t need.

Break complex problems into doable chunks

We will always be confronted with big problems and challenges, whether in life or work. Doing big things is still important. However, to accomplish the big things, we need to breakdown the work to what we can do today and this week. As the days and weeks pass, we look back with satisfaction on how the small actions stacked up to achieving a bigger initiative.

The same goes to problem-solving. Getting overwhelmed by big problems is easy. Staying calm is only part of the answer. Breaking down the big problems into smaller pieces and then solving helps us and our teams make progress. Always remember to break things down and then do the work.

Read or listen to the local news

If I had the magical power to make one change in our society, it would be to pull the plug on the 24-hour opinion “news” shows. We have turned news into entertainment. Unfortunately, it is not even entertaining anymore. It is an arena sport where there is glee in watching divisiveness and in encouraging it.

Although the local news can take similar tones, we need to move beyond the front page and dig into what is inside. We can read about the lives coming together in marriage, or we can read about the lives lived in the obituaries. We can read about the volunteers and the local happenings. More than just reading, watching, or listening, we need to engage locally.

If we want to see change happen, begin where you are.

Call someone instead of using a platform

We share too much too often. Big technology makes it easy. Posting a thought or a happening on Facebook is simple. We get a brief blip of feeling good, but it disappears after the likes and comments fade. We need to take the less traveled communication approach. Call someone and let them know.

A simple social media rule may be this:  If we cannot take the time to phone a friend and tell them about what just happened or our random thought, then maybe we should keep that off Facebook and Twitter. Social media has its benefits, but we need to tone it down. We are not that important or interesting.

Don’t sweat the small stuff; do the small stuff

We can be over-sensitive, and we need to stop it. We focus on a simple action or word and take it to heart in the wrong ways. The result is a rise in our anxiety. Social media indeed can make us sweat the small stuff. It is another reason to spend less time on these big social platforms.

Rather than getting caught up in the soundbites or the tidbits, we need to do the small stuff. When we focus on the tasks and activities that move our work forward, we gain greater satisfaction, lessen anxiety, and gain a sense of fulfillment. Progress overcomes too much over-thinking or over-obsessing on what doesn’t matter. Progress in our work and thinking matters.

Keep the Big Things Small

Yes, we live in a big world with many big attention-grabbing things. We need to return to a sense of smallness. In doing so, we gain perspective, meaning, and results. The reality is simple. We can only achieve great things when we do small things. We can only have a vibrant community when we spend our time and attention where we are. We can be the positive news by what we do and how we do it.

Here’s to engaging the value of smallness.


Photo by Jon Mertz, 2016, all rights reserved. Photo is main street in Bowdle, SD, my hometown.
Pinterest Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash
Too many big things overwhelm and sidetrack us. It is time to keep big things small and do what matters most in our life and work.