When we set out on a journey we are mostly concerned about our destination and not so much about the steps along the way to getting there. We type our destination into the car’s GPS (Global Positioning System), and away we go – sometimes with disastrous results, ending up driving the wrong way up one-way streets or getting directed up mountain tracks where only the brave or foolhardy would venture! How much more so then when we type our destination into the ‘GPS of Life’ aiming for the mountains of spiritual achievement often without due consideration of the ‘little things’ that make up the steps along the way.

Yet it is those small steps, and the qualities associated with them, that make up the larger journey and determine how we finish up at our destination. Spiritual teachers tell us that it is best for us to take small steps rather than being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the spiritual challenges confronting us. For example, Taoism advises that it is always better to deal with facts and situations while they are small, before they become bigger and more difficult.  If one is planning to reach a big goal, one should establish a series of small steps that would guide one safely to the destination.  This is essentially the principal of ‘Kaizen’: progress through small increments. As the great Taoist teacher, Lao Tzu, says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

We all know this from family life where the seemingly small things tell us a lot about the quality and sincerity of our relationships. Does your partner remember your birthday, special family moments, or dare I say, Valentine’s day or the wedding anniversary after a few years of married life! We all know that such ‘little things’ mean an awful lot in bringing a relaxed harmony into married life and all the hugely important consequences of this for family peace.

Isn’t it true that we tend to judge people in business and working relationships generally by the little things they do, or forget to do, which tell us so much about their real character and priorities? We all tend to judge people more on these small things rather than the grandiose plans they may ‘shout from the roof-tops’. This too was recognized in many religious traditions, for example, in Christianity where Jesus is reported to have said: ‘By the fruits of their actions you will know them’ (Matthew 7: 15-20). In Hinduism, from the Bhagavad Gita (2:47): “Your right is to work only, but never to claim its fruits.  Do not become an instrument for making your actions yield fruit, nor let your attachment be to inaction.” In other words, just get on with doing our seemingly small duties in life without a selfish concern for the outcome of our actions and you will be safely guided to your spiritual goals selflessly. Indian political and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, gave us some practical advice about the importance of doing the ‘little things’ in the right spirit of non-attachment and how they can become the ‘big things’ in life, when he said:

Your Beliefs become your Thoughts; Your Thoughts become your Words; Your Words become your Actions; Your Actions become your Habits; Your Habits become your Values; Your Values become your Destiny.

Some quotes on the importance of ‘The Little Things’:

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

“Never underestimate the power of a simple smile, a kind word or the acknowledgement of another. Little gestures can move mountains.” – David Cuschieri.

“It’s always the little things that make the big things happen.” – Jeffrey Fry.

“Never overlook the littlest things that can mean pure happiness to someone else.” – Mischa Temaul.

“Do you suppose, that part of the constant delight of Heaven, will be the ability to be truly thankful for everything, no matter how minuscule? Even in this life there are an enormous number of very pleasant things that happen to us throughout the day, that we accept as being nothing out of the common way, and thus do not regard; not realizing that the very fact of their being so ‘common’ is in itself a blessing of the very highest magnitude!” – Meredith Allady, Letters to Julia.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh.

Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.” – Booker T. Washington.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault.

“The true and sincere one always remembers how to make you happy by doing little things.” – Ghazala Muhammad Ali.

“From little things, big things grow.” – Paul Kelly and the Messengers.

“It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but impossible to find it anywhere else.” – Schopenhauer.