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Creating Successful Leaders

In this big, complicated world, it’s easy to feel small and insignificant. Right now, we’re in the midst of global turmoil, political divisions, and environmental uncertainty. Everything seems tense, complex and, frankly, overwhelming. And we don’t necessarily need a war or a pandemic to feel this way. It’s certainly possible to feel overwhelmed and anxious in the face of a large, complicated work project or a major life change.

What can you do when you’re feeling small and helpless?

I encourage you to focus on mini action-steps and tiny progressions. Small steps can and DO make a big difference. Fundraisers often rely on grassroots donations of $15 or $25. Pollution can be cut significantly by reducing single-use plastics or switching to more sustainable modes of transportation. A few kind words or a helping hand can make an enormous difference to someone who’s struggling.

Thinking about this from a work angle, small action steps are essential to completing large projects. A 50-page report is written one word at a time. A sales goal is achieved one buyer at a time. When you’re staring down a big project, try reframing it.

Here are a few steps to try:

  • Break the project down into smaller components
  • Create a project calendar with deadlines for the smaller pieces
  • If you’re working with others, figure out the best way to divide the work and monitor your collective progress
  • Identify small tasks you can do NOW
  • If possible, delegate or automate parts of the process

We’ve established that small action steps can eventually lead to the completion of large, daunting projects, but that’s not all they can do. Small actions can also provide some much-needed motivation. If, for instance, you’re feeling disheartened by your ever-growing to-do list, try finding the easiest item on the list and doing it NOW.

It’s best if the item only takes a few minutes to complete—answering an email you’ve been putting off, cleaning out a certain file folder, tidying your office for an afternoon Zoom meeting. The act of accomplishing something (no matter how small!) will give you a jolt of motivation and will probably inspire you to keep going. You’ll get to cross something off your to-do list and have a small sense of accomplishment.

Though it’s easy to feel helpless and small at times, know that your actions do make a difference. Every significant thing on earth—from ocean beaches to the first airplane—is the result of smaller components and/or action steps.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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