I was out for a walk the other day when I saw an empty plastic bag riding on small gusts of wind towards me.
Being an environmental enthusiast and wanting to do my part, I made the snap decision to grab the plastic bag and hang on to it until I could find a garbage can to properly throw it away.
I hung on to the bag for five minutes, feeling a bit like a superhero for actually taking action. For the walking the walk and removing this piece of litter from the street. As I put the plastic bag into a garbage can, I enjoyed a little sense of pride, silly as it might be.
But just seconds after I dropped the lid of the garbage can back in place, my eyes found the patch of grass steps away. My heart sank. It was covered in stray garbage. Plastic bottles, fast food packaging, random pieces of paper.
My sense of accomplishment instantly disappeared. Getting rid of one plastic bag couldn’t have made an impact when there were at least another dozen pieces of trash sitting right here.
And to clean up this little patch of garbage safely, I would have needed rubber gloves or a trash picker or something. Who was I fooling? Grabbing one plastic bag didn’t make a difference.
…or did it?
That’s one plastic bag that won’t get tangled up in a bird’s nest. One plastic bag that an animal won’t try to eat and choke on. One plastic bag that won’t make its way into the river and eventually out to sea.
I quickly remembered that every piece counts. Every piece makes a difference.
The same kind of thing happens to us in life, work, and creative projects too. It's so easy to be overwhelmed by the big picture we’re staring at. We lose ourselves in it and forget that even our smallest actions matter.
So take a step back and remember that yes, one single thing will make a difference. One good deed could improve someone’s day. One compliment you give someone could be remembered by them for a lifetime.
Every word you write. Every compliment you give. Every painting you paint. Every good deed you do.
It all adds up.
PS: On a related note, The Importance of Celebrating Every Small Success