Why you should never ignore the small things

“A beautiful artwork, with extreme detail comes from one central idea…Not 50 million small ideas.”

There’s an infinite level of complexity in a life…
From atoms to metabolism and behavior…

Consequentially there’s an insane amount of information out there… So much so, I find most people expressing complete despair over the volume of advice available for what should be pretty straightforward process, particularly in health. Experts, scientists, preachers and the like tell us to eat this and that, do this and that, but not such and such when whosy bob over the hill falls through the goggleshnap.

So much rubbish, so much contradiction…

We want to be healthy, we want to be successful, we want to achieve things.
But when the path seems absurdly contrived, how can we ever move forward – it’s an impossible task.

This serves to demonstrate the absolute necessity for forging our own path, as opposed to following the script.

“Lose weight with this 10-week program”
“Gain confidence with these 8 steps”

I don’t want to discount the utility of education, process or even a coach, but more to point out the need to use these processes to create lasting behaviors that reflect our desired outcomes.

There is a huge difference between doing and being.

What I want you to gain from this article is a new perspective about how experiences make us feel and how those feelings control our behavior. Most problems we face are internal, no amount of information will be sufficient, in fact, more information will be crippling…

Following the script is not enough because we get caught in the detail and we lose the idea.

This is important, so when you look towards an outcome we want, when the outcome appears overly complex, confusing and contradictory. Or when it becomes a such a struggle,  there seems to be no credible path towards it and you’re ready to give up.
Remember the detailed artwork starts with a simple idea, reflecting the self of the artist.
Each stroke within a bigger picture creates the final piece.

The detail is important, just don’t focus on it…

A doctor didn’t know ‘how to medicine’ when they started. They didn’t know about the 50 bazzilion cell signaling pathways.
All they knew was they wanted help people…

Di vinci didn’t set out to paint one of the greatest paintings in the world. He painted himself, and he was one of the greatest people ever to live.

The wellness engineer uses “mental models” to simplify the ideas that govern their life so they can become who they want to be, as opposed to trying to live by doing each small thing and burning out or just following the script and learning nothing about ourselves.

I want to use just ONE of the many psychological ‘programs’ or bias’ we have to demonstrate my point.

Consistency principle

In a popular book ‘Influence: The psychology of persuasion’, the author Robert Cialdini describes the principle of consistency.

People try to act in ways that are consistent with the things they have already said or done.

Robert focuses on salespeople and how they have used this principle for a very long time to gain your compliance. He says by knowing the tricks, you can be empowered to not fall victim to them. But we want to look at this from a different perspective.

How can we use this principle to get the things we want and avoid the things we don’t want?

Can we become more aware of the role our unconscious plays in our behavior, the way it creates shortcuts in our psychology and how can we exploit it to help compel us to work towards our goals.

Consistency — What it means

The need for consistency has two major repercussions for behavior;

  1. If you commit to something in advance, you’re much more likely to follow through with it, to accept it, or to support it.
  2. If you choose an action, you will be far more likely to repeat it and find it much easier to take it further in the future.

So consistency can occur from both directions…Beliefs driving actions and actions turning into new beliefs.


1 — “Do you value your health and fitness?”.

This qualifying question asked by a salesperson immediately sets you up to make a purchase. By saying yes, the need to be consistent with your words compels you to buy the gym membership, the protein product or anything else to “improve your health or fitness”.

2 — It’s going to win… It’s a 51-1 roughly, but I have a gut feeling…I’m 100% certain

It’s been found that prior to placing a bet, a person has a reasonable level of doubt about a bet to be placed. But after it’s been placed, the person has dramatically increased their level of confidence.

3 — No one starts out robbing a bank. They start by stealing a pair of shoes, then a watch, mugging a stranger… It escalates.

Once you take an action, it’s then easier to take the next action and so on. This happens in white-collar crime, drugs, gambling… Any behavior has the potential to escalate to an unreasonable level.

Why do we feel the need to be consistent?

Consistency comes from the desire to avoid discomfort.

Decisions are always made emotionally before they are made logically. Each day, we are confronted with hundreds of decisions and it would be crazy to ‘think logically’ about each and every one of them.

So we have short cuts.

We create beliefs about ourselves and about the world, that allows us to quickly and easily navigate our experience by ‘feel’, without having to ‘think’ about everything.

We always feel good, or uncomfortable, angry, scared etc… Before we analyse the situation.

This is our intuition.

In example (1), the qualifying question creates a situation where you would feel discomfort in saying no. By not complying with the request, you are in a way going against your own beliefs and values. The feeling of ‘discomfort’ is created unconsciously, it’s there to push you towards things that make you feel ‘good’ which are the things you believe and value. In this case, the salesperson is exploiting your desire to not be rude, your honesty and your own wellbeing.

Beliefs are created in the unconscious mind, so we don’t have an internal awareness of them like we do our thoughts, but they appear through our emotions, actions and the things we say.

“I have pizza every Friday night”
“I must have a university degree to suceed”
“I can’t stop drinking cola“

Our enjoyment manifests from alignment. Our discomfort manifests from misalignment.
When things align with our beliefs and values; people, activities, ideas…We like them.

It’s rational to feel uncomfortable with a man walking towards you in a ski mask holding a machete.
It’s irrational to feel uncomfortable speaking to a group of your peers.

But since we form our beliefs in the unconscious, they are irrational. Making us susceptible to developing beliefs that not only hurt ourselves but also hurt others.

For this reason, we may develop a distrust for our feelings, placing a high value on our logic over our intuition.
Similarly, we may not see the value in facts when we know deep down how things are.

BOTH of these scenarios are dangerous…

Our outer actions will align with our inner beliefs.

Our inner beliefs and values determine how we feel about all our surroundings. When we take actions that align with the things we believe, we feel good, even when that action is causing ourselves or other people harm.

At some point in our life, more often than we care to believe…We’re directed away from the things we want by our emotions. So if we’re not aware of our beliefs and values — what we call self-awareness. Our emotions will derail our attempts to take action on the things we want through distraction, procrastination, and back rationalising.

When our actions are not aligned, we change our beliefs to restore that alignment.

Sometimes we can find ourselves in unknown, or unwilling situations where we feel tense about the choice in front of us. If we do indeed follow through with the decision by our own choice — to relieve ourselves of the tension we will adjust our beliefs so we feel good again.

This need for alignment can in the right circumstances, cause us to totally lose ourselves. Our environment be it corporate, military, institutional or gang related begins to mold our behavior as we begin to loosen and change our beliefs to accommodate the tasks in front of us.

In example (2) the punter, in order to somewhat relieve the tension of his decision, increases their perception of confidence and reduces their level of doubt without any regard to the evidence.
The same phenomena occur with any choice; beer, burger joint, politics…

What we must avoid at all costs is making our choices part of our identity.

“I eat pizza on Friday’s”
“I drive fast loud cars”

These are the small things we should not ignore.

When we ignore the small things our standards slip. When our standards slip we begin moving away from the things we want.

Setting standards

Standards allow us to form beliefs about the quality of our actions. When we create beliefs around the actions we know will drive us towards our goals, we’re limiting the margin of error we allow for and we create what is essentially gutter bumpers on the bowling alley of our life journey.

You want to learn a new language. You’ve talked about it for ages, but for the most part you’ve been totally ignoring it.

What is the limiting belief that makes the bridge to action insurmountable?

“learning language is difficult”
“I’m busy”

These underlying beliefs about the activity in itself, create the difficulty of the activity in an arbitrary fashion. Overcoming the unconscious belief of the intrinsic difficulty of the task becomes the difficult part onto itself.
Have you ever noticed that once you start it’s not so bad?

“I love learning Spanish”

Forging this kind of belief about the things we want, allows us to remove that difficulty. You’ll never hate doing the things you love, even if they are difficult.

Foster self-awareness

We know that beliefs drive our behavior, by shaping the way we feel about the experience.

By being aware of these feelings, our actions and the language we use in conversation. We can create an internal map of our beliefs. With this map we can predict how we will react to experiences, we can choose activities we will most enjoy and most importantly we can pinpoint the limiting beliefs stopping us from moving forward.

“I eat pizza on Fridays
“Learning languages is hard”
“I always screw up presentations at work”
“I can’t lose weight”
“I can’t give up drinking cola”

Stop making excuses – Excuses lead to irrational, limiting beliefs.
Instead search inward for reasons – Reasons lead to self-awareness.

Life’s difficult enough, there’s no reason to add false pretenses for inaction.
Read this article about the dangers of excuses

Wrap up

Never ignore the small things because you might end up someplace you don’t really want to be.
The consistency principle demonstrates just how fragile we are to both our beliefs and our actions.

But even though the small things guide us, they are not the focus.
The focus is on the whole, this is knowing who and why, so we can use our
intuition to its full effect.

To know who, we need to become self-aware of the beliefs driving our behavior.
To gain greater self-awareness we start by giving up excuses and searching for reasons
behind our feelings.

Is this a rational belief?
Is it helping or harming?

In the case of limiting beliefs, unwinding those limiting beliefs we hold requires ‘acknowledging’ and “reframing”, where we use alternate perspectives to shift the belief from burden to gratitude. Then we need to set clear standards about the way we wish to behave that reflect the goals we wish to achieve.

“Search for the reason, reframe the underlying belief and set high standards.”

We should never ignore the small things, for it’s the detail that makes life special.
But we shouldn’t ever define ourselves by those things because we need to be open to change if we are to fully express our true self. What we are, what we do, these things are arbitrary and flexible…

“Life is in the detail, but the detail must not become our life.”

Forge your own path, living life through the frame of who you want to be and allow the motivation of why drive you towards what you want.

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