Thing 5: Act Like An Ant (b215)

Henry Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” This is true in every area of our lives from education to careers to health to relationships. Success is not achieved in one giant step. It is the sum of small steps taken consistently toward a larger goal.

In this chapter, Henry Cloud talks about the trouble he had working on his dissertation…

It was the first major task of his life that was not structured by someone else. The doctoral candidate must choose a dissertation topic, get it approved, do deep research to find out the current state of knowledge on the topic, design an experiment, recruit subjects, and on and on. There is no teacher grading the individual steps. Nobody sets intermediate deadlines for you.

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. (Proverbs 6:6, ESV) Click To Tweet

Dr. Cloud found inspiration in an ant farm. It started out as ants and dirt. Then the ants started working. No ant built the entire tunnel system in a blaze of concentrated effort. Each ant picked up a tiny piece of dirt and moved it. Then, over weeks, a complex tunnel system emerged. He was drawn to the ants by Proverbs 6:6-8 (ESV)

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.

It’s All Small

It’s not just that successful people handle large projects this way. In every area of life, successful people reach large desires and goals through small ongoing actions.

Lasting weight loss is rarely achieved through dramatic intervention. Weight loss and health are achieved through small decisions made day after day that change one’s lifestyle. Add a little exercise. Cut out a bit of food or drink. Then a bit more. The question isn’t “Can I lose 30 pounds?” The question is “Can I walk for 10 minutes per day this week and increase it to 15 minutes per day next week.” Weight follows life, not the other way around.

The ant is the one who gets the job done. Click To Tweet

John Grisham was a busy lawyer but wanted to be a writer. He wrote a little bit every day. A novel is made up of chapters. Chapters are made up of paragraphs. Paragraphs are made up of words. Who ends up getting the novel written: the one who tries to blitz through it and gives up (or never starts it because it’s too daunting) or the one who sits down and writes a few paragraphs per day? The ant is the one who gets the job done.

“All or Nothing” Will Lead to “Nothing”

Wanting it all right now will keep you from getting it. Successful people move forward in tiny steps over time.

If it seems like you will never reach that weight, have that much money in the bank, be able to have that job, go to the ant. Set your goal. Figure out what tiny steps you can take (tiny like a single phone call, a walk, putting a $5 bill in an envelope). Then do a tiny step each day without worrying about your big goal. Every once in a while, check the progress, step on the scale, count the money, and you will be joyfully surprised that by acting like an ant, you are moving toward your goals.

Set your goal. Figure out the steps. Forget your goal. Do the steps. Click To Tweet

If these blog posts are helpful to you, I encourage you to read the book or listen to the audiobook… even if you don’t use my affiliate link. I have found this book very helpful. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m finding it helpful again as I review it for these blog posts.

We have passed the halfway point in this series of blog posts. Let’s review the first four things that lead to success in love and life. Thing 1: Dig It Up. Successful people get inside themselves to find out what’s really going on. They are self-aware and continue to grow in self-understanding. Thing 2: Pull the Tooth. Successful people face into difficult things and deal with them instead of putting them off (unless waiting is the most appropriate thing to do). Thing 3: Play the Movie. Successful people see their decisions and actions in a long-term context. Thing 4: Do Something. Successful people take responsibility for their own attitudes and actions. Things may happen that are beyond their control, but successful people move forward rather than blaming their circumstances.

Also, please forward this post to others that you think might benefit from it.

Oh, and by the way, an ant farm is called a “formicarium.” I learned a new word today! 🙂

Peace to you,


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