“Little Strokes Fell Great Oaks”

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We’ve all done it. We commit ourselves to making some serious changes such as losing some weight, becoming debt free, or reading our Bible every day. So we make the choice, we get ourselves pumped up for the change, and start putting a plan in place. Maybe we even write down specific goals and read books to help us do it right. For the first week or so things look really good and our motivation stays high, then problems arise. We get sick. A major problem gets dropped on us at work. We get tired and stressed. The next thing we know, our motivation is gone and so is our goal. Many times this is where it ends.

One of the most difficult challenges in life is self-improvement. This is the case because our goals seem so enormous and we usually we try to tackle too much at once. Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “Little strokes fell great oaks.” The changes we want to make are often these massive oaks in our lives and the plan we put in place attempts to chop it down huge chunks at a time with massive swings. But soon we tire out, our motivational axes become dull, and we give up at the gigantic goal tree in front of us.

The problem is our mindset. The goal just seems to long, too big, and too hard. So when the first challenge hits us, it’s a challenge to bounce back. This is when a change in thinking is most valuable. Perhaps the best frame of mind is to focus not on the big goal, but simply on becoming 1% better every day. That’s it, just 1% each day. So, if a person’s goal were to do 100 pushups, then they would start with one on the first day, two on the second day, and so on until they were doing 100 pushups each day.

While there is certainly value in eating better and losing weight, as Paul pointed out, “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). We need to be the people who are striving daily for spiritual gain. The problem is, this is hard to do. These oaks are sometimes the largest of them all. Praying with consistency. Reading through the Bible. Really studying the word with depth. Once again, taking “little strokes” will help us to take down these “big oaks.” If we strive to become just 1% better every day, we will make huge improvements over time. This is typically more than we could say after we’ve burnt out and quit with previous goals.

Psalm 1:1-3 says it well, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” We know must be people who are learning and growing from Scripture (Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 6:1). But how does a person get to the point of meditating on Scripture day and night? By attacking it with small strokes.

We can take amazing steps in our spiritual growth if we keep working. Perhaps just striving for 1% improvement per day is the best mindset. No matter which method works best for you, let’s just make sure we keep learning, growing, and striving towards heaven (2 Peter 1:5-11).

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