We all wait for those marquee moments. The moments where we carry day and rise above the competition are coveted for their prestige and renown. They testify to our friends, family, acquaintances, and the strangers who may happen to read or see or hear of our works about the greatness we possess and employ. These mountaintop moments of decision making are the public symbols of excellence which are glorified and enshrined in the forum of public opinion.
Excellence is not created in the mountaintop moments, though. The critical points of our lives where significant moral or ethical decisions, significant defenses of principle, and significant instances of achievement are made and realized are the products of extended processes. Excellence is the sum total of a series of small deciding moments stewarded well. The way these moments are stewarded determines the patterns by which our lives unfold. Those men and women whose heroic acts and historic successes are immortalized would not have succeeded as they did if their foundation of excellence in the small things was not firmly resolute. Here are five ways to steward the little things well so you may seize the large moments with confidence and achieve your potential.
1. Treat every task as your magnum opus.
Magnum opus. A great work. A masterpiece. To approach each task, however menial, as if it was your masterpiece is to approach every facet of life with extreme vigor and passion. Greater investment in the fundamentals pays off in the end. While not always overly fun or exciting, approaching the little things in this manner provides for excellence in the big things in two major ways.
First, treating every task as your masterpiece sharpens your abilities. Every great individual in any field is great because they have mastered the basics and advanced to more challenging skills and concepts. In order to leverage larger opportunities, there must be solid fundamentals in place. By treating every task as your masterpiece, particularly the more insignificant ones, your abilities will be sharpened because you will have mastered the simple and subsequently aptly tackled the complex.
Second, treating every task as your masterpiece opens up doors. Regardless of your talent level, you won’t excel in mountaintop moments if there aren’t any to be had! By treating every task as your masterpiece, others will notice your drive. They will notice the quality of your work, and they will be impressed by your capacity. Substance breeds trust, and succeeding on a smaller scale will instill this trust in important people who will open doors and provide opportunities.
2. Choose your activities wisely.
While expending extreme effort can be rewarding, it can also be overwhelmingly laborious. It is imperative that you choose activities wisely in order to prevent burnout. Doing a few things well is better than doing many things poorly or with mediocrity. Identify the activities which you love to do and have potential to develop. Other activities may seem attractive and pique your interest, but they are to be avoided if beyond the narrower scope of focus you should have. Concentrate your energy and resources to effectively satisfy every demand of a few areas of interest, and you will be found a faithful steward.
3. Have a plan.
Sometimes, indefinite timelines and plans become overwhelming. Preparing to graduate high school or college, for instance, takes roughly four years. Each experience is so individualized, however, that it is difficult to know definitively what will be required of the student in question in order to cross the finish line of graduation. Planning and scheduling well can thankfully stave off the pressures of this ambiguity and provide students with a framework within which to plan for and work.
Having goals and having blueprints for those goals is extremely helpful. By setting a course, you can see tangible progress toward a certain end or see tangible preparation and maturity to meet an imminent conflict or situation. Seek out seasoned veterans in your field or endeavors, and learn how they have similarly approached a context similar to yours (Also read: The Wisdom of Experience). Do some research, and then work with trusted friends and family to develop a plan. In doing so, you will be more conscious of the small stepping stones requiring attention in order to reach your mountaintop moment.
4. Keep perspective.
Doing nothing and waiting for big, flashy moments wastes so much time! Keeping perspective on the proportion of public moments to behind-the-scenes moments in your life is crucial. You are called to now. You are charged with the present. Understand how much more you will accomplish by living a lifetime faithful in the innumerable small moments than if you were to embrace only the handful of the larger moments. While the scale of the raw impact of each moment is drastically imbalanced in favor of the large moments, keeping perspective on the greater sum of the little things done well will keep you grounded.
5. Anticipate the big moments.
The time when you are called to greater things will come. Do not be discouraged with the menial, and do not find these suggestions restrictive or depressive! It is okay to look forward with excitement! This will provide energy to steward the little things well, and it will make the culmination of your efforts so much sweeter.
Excellence is realized in the little things. Treat every moment as your magnum opus. Choose your activities wisely. Have a plan. Keep perspective. Anticipate the big moments. If you steward the little things well, you will achieve your potential in the larger things.