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The Big Value of Little Steps

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As a reforming perfectionist, I’m all about a grand gesture.

I don’t want to clean one room of my house. I want the whole house clean. I don’t want to play tennis. I want to win a match. I don’t want teach school. I want to be teacher of the year. I don’t want to weed a flower bed. I want the whole yard landscaped.

Sometimes enormous visions are wonderful, but there’s an inherent problem with them. When we’re prone to demand big results, it often means that we do nothing. Often little steps have bigger value than grand gestures.

It’s better to vacuum my bedroom than to do nothing because I don’t have time to clean the whole house. It’s better to take a tennis lesson than to continue to sit on my ever-widening tooshy. It’s better to care about each child in my class than to look for public recognition. It’s better to pull a few weeds than to let them swallow the one section of thriving zinnias.

And (note to self) it’s better to take one little step at a time to make a difference in your world to do a little good than to do nothing at all.

As I wrote last week, my grand gesture was a trip to India, but I knew that God wanted me to continue to make a difference right where I lived. For some reason, that seemed so much harder. I knew so little, the needs were so big, and I felt paralyzed. Finally, I realized that to move forward I had to take some baby-steps.

Giving Up Grand Gestures

The first step needed was to give up my big ideas. I was limited by:

  • Time- It was easy to invest full-time on a trip, but at home I had family, friend, and work commitments that just left a few hours a week. Even that time had to be cleared with a “no” or two!
  • Resources- I didn’t have the disposable income to simply write a big check to my favorite non-profit or to go back to school to get a social work degree.
  • My Current Calling- While part of me thought it would be noteworthy and noble to dive all-in to serve hurting women full time, I knew that God had already called me to speaking and writing which is just a different way to build His Kingdom.

I finally found peace when I realized that I didn’t have to ditch everything to do what God was asking. All I had to do was take one small step at a time.

Seek God for One Thing

Even when I sought to take one step into serving in my community, I was faced with an enormous choice. Where should I invest my time? There are so many worthy organizations in Wake Co. that help women, and each one had merits of its own. I couldn’t decided.

In our book, Exhale, Cheri Gregory says that we each have a “need with your name on it.” Don’t you love that? We don’t have to do everything to do something. Finding that one thing to do often involves:

  • Finding an organization with values that fit yours.
  • Choosing a place where your natural gifts are needed

When I researched organization like that, I ran into one called Interact, an organization in Wake Co. with lots of services for women under one roof: domestic violence counseling, post-rape exams, Easter Seals, and even an organization that specifically reached out to women in my community from Southeast Asia.

God moved my heart and let me know that this was the place to invest. Feeling very humbled by my lack of experience (as in ZERO), I gave them a call to find out details about how I could volunteer, and then I dove in.

Have you ever had to give up over-the-top-visions so that you could take one needed step?

Note: My tech guru and I are playing with ways to make the emails readable for you. Thank you for your patience as we fine-tune! My 52-year-old eyes couldn’t read last week’s either!

Have you met these sisters, Breaking Up with Perfect and Exhale? If you’re a reforming perfectionist, just like me, who is working to end your own pursuit of perfection, the older sister is for you. Exhale is my newest book, and it’s really a continuation of that journey. I know the Scriptural lessons in these books work because they’ve changed my life! Give them a peek today.

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25 Comments

  1. Do you know a Christian Coaching (on any subject) that I could volunteer some time online to contribute to their ministry? Not as a coach, but in a supportive function of some type. Thanks for any advice you may have on this.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Nena, I love your servant’s heart and desire to use your gifts to help someone. I can’t think of anyone I know at this moment, but I’m praying that God sends you to the aid of just the right person!

  2. I needed this today. I, too am a recovering perfectionist, still deep in the recovery part. I get paralyzed, too in not starting because I can’t finish it completely and do it right. I’m so tired of that! I’m so tired of putting things on the back burner. I’m tired of planning and being so scared to step forward. Today………I am taking one little step. I’m doing it! I’m tired of procrastinating because of my fear of not being perfect. Your books are both great and it’s time I break them out again! Thank you, Amy!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Hugs to you, Diana! A small step is just the antidote we need for perfection paralysis.

  3. Susan clabby says:

    Just a wonderful endeavor! Now, as I approach 70, whew, I see needs for ladies in my church. The most evident is good old fellowship! We have bible studies, quarterly lunches, etc. But the personal needs need to be touched. Got my brain going, so yeah and thanks!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Yes! How blessed your group is that you’re looking for was to connect more personally, Susan!

  4. Love Giving up the Over the Top visions for The One smaller vision. For me when I get a grand idea I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. And nothing is worse than failing! (I learned that in “Exhale” and in life. I find I would rather take the risk to do the one smaller vision, do it to the best of my ability, progress not perfection, than do nothing of the Big idea. Love this post!!!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      You are a constant source of encouragement to me, Jane Ann! Hugs!

  5. I understand, I don’t want to do the work and discipline it takes to lose weight and get healthy, I want the end result. Thank you for the reminder of , BIG value in LITTLE steps!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      <3 Thank YOU for your encouraging comment, Mary!

  6. I’ve followed your emails for quite some time now, I’ve found them insightful & a blessing! I’m just wondering..have you considered looking into ACOA? I hope so! It would truly be a blessing to you 🙂 Rhonda

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      I haven’t, but now I will. Thank you, Rhonda!

      1. Amy Carroll says:

        Can you tell me what the acronym stands for Rhonda?

  7. It’s a small detail, but Thank you For the larger print ! That’s one very important “small step” to helping women too! I would delete not read because of the very fine print. I am inspired etc by your emails and today can read it. Amen !

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Lol! It’s been a long time coming, so thank you for hanging in there with me. I’m relieved to have the bigger print too!

  8. Your timing is perfect, as I am multi-talented/skilled and weary with doing so many good things. Need to find the one or two niches where God really wants me to focus.
    Same applies to our church as a whole also. Thank you.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      You’re welcome, Connie! Thank YOU for being on this journey with me!

  9. Amy – thank you so much for the encouragement to take these small steps. Sometimes my heart and mind tell me not to bother. They are so small they don’t make a difference, which makes me not want to keep taking them.

    And then yesterday when asked by another to take steps with them I thought, “I don’t want to. That makes me uncomfortable.” So I closed the email and procrastinated on answering.

    Hearing of your baby steps encourages me today, to take my own, and trust God to take care of producing positives results.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Love you, friend! Your steps are inspiring me to take my own.

  10. Thanks for the improving the emails to be more readable… much improvement!
    May God bless you on your new journey!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      You’re so welcome! I’m so glad that hurdle has been fixed!

  11. Robin Puchala says:

    Amy, I guess I’m a recovering perfectionist as well. God gives me grand visions & sweeping dreams, but until He moves, I must put one foot in front of the other and do the small things that will accumulate and manifest into larger things or build Foundation.
    I really appreciate your sharing your struggle, insight and wisdom. I am a sponge for truth these days and I want to soak up all the knowledge I can. God bless and thank you, sister!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Blessings back to you, Robin! I’m so glad we’re taking small steps together.