Three Little Actions Make For Big, Big Steps

Photo by Kary Schumpert

Follow your dreams. Live your bliss. The memes fly across Facebook feeds, the inspirational quotes get tweeted and retweeted. With all of these positive thoughts, why are we still staring at our screens?

It is fear. Of change. Of upheaval. Of not knowing. Of growth. Of disappointment. Of work.

I lived with that fear for a long time and then one day I realized I wanted things to be different. Realizing, though, and doing, are different things. There are lots of think tanks, but how many “Do Tanks” are there? We love nouns, but verbs are scary. They mean action. They mean doing. In fits and starts over the last four years, I have slowly, but surely, begun to live my dreams. In the day-to-day realm of things, my life does not look that different. Examine my heart, my mind, my soul and it is as different as night and day.

Here are things I did and do and keep doing. The process is constant, the effort continuous, the results contagious.

1. Write down what you love.
Three years ago, after an especially depressing set of news headlines, I turned off the radio, shut down the computer, and closed the newspaper. I pulled out my journal and instead of reflecting upon the bad news, I made a list. I made a list of everything I love from the small to the substantial. I kept writing and the list grew longer. Eventually my hand cramped and my writer’s bump on my left middle finger swelled. The list included quilts, thunderstorms, Mr. Rogers, Dolly Parton, and road trips. I still come back to that list to remember all the special things on bad news days or just days that I want to savor beauty and love.

If writing an exhaustive list seems intimidating, start with five things you love in that moment. Keep a journal nearby so that you can jot down those special things as you think of them.

2. Make time for creativity.
Some people paint, knit, draw, take pictures, sculpt. Some are intimidated by the process. What creative things do you like to do? What is something new you would like to try? For me, it was writing. I loved to write as a child. As an adult, I loved to read, but was too intimidated to really admit I wanted to be a writer. Finally, I realized the beauty of writing is the writing. Whether or not the results get published is an entirely different thing, but I can write. I started a blog. Eventually, I shared that blog with friends and got brave enough to submit articles for publication. I am far from making my living as a writer, but I love doing it and now I make time for it. Stringing together words is what I love. Typing sentences, finding just the right phrase, is the fun and the beauty.

Give yourself five minutes for your creative pleasure. Let the five minutes grow to a longer session. Keep practicing. What you make will not always be beautiful. Don’t worry about the results. Instead, enjoy the process, the mess, the blessedness of creativity.

3. Applaud your little steps.
Celebrations are all about marking the moments. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. We remember the grand events, but what about the moments that lead to the meaning? Celebrate knitting one row. Celebrate writing one blog post. Celebrate painting one corner of the canvas. Celebrate the day that you started doing. Celebrate that you have dreams that are becoming actions. Realize that little steps lead to marathons, paragraphs lead to books, paint droplets lead to masterpieces.

Changes do not always have to be big and sweeping. Those little things can help us lead more creative lives. Making time for the things we care about can help us become more caring people. Keeping track of the things that we love and excite us can help us to live more loving lives. Giving ourselves grace and freedom help us to live more freely and gracefully.

Life is a big and beautiful journey. Let us celebrate our part of that.


  1. Great post, Kary. This is definitely meaningful to me, as I definitely get jittery when verbs start showing their faces!

    No. 1 is a great idea. It occurs to me that making a list like that might also tend to make us focus on what is really the best use of time. Do you think it has that effect? I hope so, because I am dreadfully distractible and often find I have just frittered away all my time and never really gotten around to the things I enjoy. Making a list like that sounds like a good way to increase an attitude of thankfulness, also.

    I love your paragraph on creating. That’s something I’ve thought lots about. Creating is so vital. God, the ultimate creator, created us creators in his image—I believe that’s why it’s so necessary that we create. It can take so many forms—writing, drawing, playing an instrument, gardening, baking a cake, whittling sticks… but if we aren’t in a creative process in some form or fashion, I think we tend to stagnate.

    No. 3 is really encouraging to me. I tend to discard or disregard the things I’ve already accomplished, which leaves me with a feeling of never really being satisfied. That’s something I definitely need to work on. I also tend to focus too much on an end result, forgetting that the meaningfulness is in the journey itself, as you suggest at the end.

    Again, wonderful post—thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Donnie. Despite its positive tone, I wrote this in a little bit of a funk. I was hoping to write myself into a positive and grateful mood, and it worked! Sometimes it helps to take stock and start with simple. I like your point that we are all creative and that creativity can be many things. That the Creator is creative is comforting! I wish you well in your journey!

  3. In elementary and secondary school we were readily instilled with the knowledge that a verb was defined as an action. I have never analyzed it as being a doer of the word in one’s spiritual existence. The next time I read the Epistle of James I will keep verbs and behavior in mind. Thanks for bringing that thought to my attention.

    Under “Applaud Little Steps”, I related significantly well that “little steps lead to marathons, paragraphs to books, and paint droplets lead to masterpieces”. Additionally under the same heading you expressed yourself well by “keeping track of the things we love and excite us….giving ourselves grace and freedom helps us to live more freely and gracefully”. To me , the operative phrase in that statement is ‘keeping track”. Finally, but never in a secondary position is your continued excellence in photography. That ground level view of the New Mexico terrain was very good.

    Have a good one!

    1. Thanks for reading and providing your insights, William. Yeah, I do believe very much in the little things and actions, because that is what we can do in the moment! You might try photography, since you seem to enjoy! Even snapping a shot with an old camera or your phone is another way to appreciate the beauty of every day! 🙂 Thank you!

      1. Thank you so much, Kary! That means a lot to me. Kind comments like this one is what inspires me to post my photos on the blog 🙂

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