There is an old German saying that addresses the importance of self-discipline and your priorities: “Whoever does not respect the penny is not worthy of the dollar.” The essence of this quote seems to be: If you neglect or ignore the small things, you can’t be trusted with larger things.
Neglect in one area of your life might be inconsequential if it happens once; however, when there’s a pattern of neglect it becomes a habit, and habits are the routines and practices that either confine you or refine you.
Most of us are like a stringed instrument, and we need to be re-tuned from time to time. The word tune has several meanings:
- As a noun it means, “a succession of musical sounds forming an air or melody, with or without the harmony accompanying it; a musical setting in four-part harmony; the state of being in the proper pitch.”
- As a verb it means, “to give forth a musical sound; to be in harmony or accord; become responsive.”
It only takes a small incremental turn of the peg to make a big change in the tightness of a string and a dramatic change in the sound of a violin or guitar. The same is true with your life—small changes can make a big difference.
To make these changes, I suggest that you:
- Learn from Santa Claus: Make a list and check it twice. Which of your habits are being naughty or nice to you, and which one help you live in harmony with God?
- Focus: When you tune a violin or guitar, you don’t turn all of the pegs and adjust all of the strings at once. You focus on one at a time. Instead of trying to develop several new habits and make multiple changes, make them one at a time.
- Be Discriminate: Eliminate the non-essentials and practice the essentials. The one sucks the blood of life out of you while the other revitalizes you.
- Learn from the 7 Dwarfs: Whistle while you work, and find some joy in what you’re doing. Be Happy, not Grumpy!
- Circle the Wagons: When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Wagon Train. At the end of the day, Ward Bond would instruct the westward bound settlers to “Circle the wagons.” This provided a circle of safety for the pioneers. If Ward Bond was speaking to you, he would tell you to “Circle yourself with good friends and people of character.”
- Learn from David: In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch (Psalm 5:3).” Meet with God daily to pray, and plan for success.
The power of small acts is found in the words of Samuel Smiles:
Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
― Samuel Smiles