Did you ever wonder how you ended up where you are? A missile scientist with NASA was asked what the result would be if a shuttle was just 2 degrees off of its mark en route to the moon. His answer? You would miss the moon by over 11,000 miles! John Trent asserts that if you add in enough time and distance you can end up far from where you intended in his book “HeartShift: The 2 Degree Difference That Will Change Your Heart, Your Home, and Your Health”.
The smallest of actions can result in the biggest shifts for good or for bad in your personal life, your church or your work life. C.S. Lewis said that “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.”
In our culture we wait for big breaks. We look at status updates on Facebook and envy the success of others because we are seeing their highlight reel while failing to understand that it likely took that person hundreds of mundane steps to get to the exciting place they are in their lives.
Having an understanding of 2 degree changes helps me understand the stories of people who start out with promise but fall far short of their redemptive potential and bring ruin into their lives. It also helps me understand how ordinary people are renewing their marriages, careers and relationships every day and exceeding the expectations of those around them.
Instead of looking for the big, wild-card, instant changes in your life (those options never work anyways), think of the small, doable, sustainable changes that you can make in your daily life that put you on a path towards renewal. The small steps you take today are either moving you towards light or towards darkness.
The Bible talks frequently about the power of small changes that accumulate and become big changes, for example:
- Instead of calling his followers to change the lives of all children in the whole world, Jesus said that whoever received one child in his name received him (Mt. 18:5). It is the small things that matter.
- The proverbs warn us about how a little sleep, a little slumber and a little folding of the hands can lead to financial ruin (Prov. 24:33) and encourage us to consistently, slowly build up our net worth.
- Small things are often tipping points for large miracles, as in the case of Naaman who was told by a lowly servant to consult a prophet of God then take the small, perhaps demeaning, step of dipping himself in the river to obtain his physical healing (2 Kings 5).
Why do 2 degree changes work? They work because positive actions result in positive feelings, which build momentum towards more positive actions. They become the ‘stuff’ that large changes are made of. They work because most worthwhile projects and goals by nature require sustained effort over time.
If you are like me, you often get overwhelmed by big projects, dreams and aspirations. I begin to get traction, however, when I harness the power of 2 degree changes. For example, becoming a writer has required writing one blog post or one paragraph for a book at a time (my first print book comes out this fall with Friesen Press!). The same can be said of the small (often boring) weekly steps of building a brand, increasing professional qualifications, gaining physical strength or even improving one’s social life.
How may your life be changed by harnessing the power of 2 degree changes so you end up where you want to?
Here are some ideas to get you started as you brainstorm your own 2 degree changes:
- Relationships- If you behave towards people as though you love them, you will come to love them (or at least dislike them less!). Small, loving actions towards a person you find difficult to love will empower you and change your heart towards them.
- Marriage- A spouse’s coldness can be melted over time with consistent, thoughtful, small acts of kindness (like pulling out a chair for them or taking them a cup of tea).
- Health- Take a walk before you settle in for an evening of relaxing in front of the television.
- Finances- Buy quality used items rather than paying full retail price when possible or close the window on your computer screen offering 0% financing.
- Spiritual life- Take a moment each night to whisper a brief prayer or commit to get together regularly with others for a period of time for fellowship.
- Vocation- Subscribe to a blog that inspires you in your career pursuits and implement one idea that you learn about.
When you are driving a car, you know that in order to stay on the road you need to make constant, minor course corrections. If you have begun to drift in your ministry, your studies or your friendships, it is time to tend to those 2 degree changes!