Do little actions add up? Do the small things we chose to do, or not do, even make a difference?
A similar question was asked in one of the most notable works of the Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus’ The Praise of Folly:
If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”
Erasmus seemed to think that little things add up. And so does author Gretchen Rubin.
Rubin uses the lesson from The Praise of Folly to explain what she calls the One Coin Loophole. “Often, when we consider our actions, it’s clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless, yet at the same time, a sum of those actions is very meaningful,” says Rubin.
Skimping on your diet for one day may not seem like much. Just as one coin may not seem like the difference between rich and poor. But say you skimp on your diet one day a month. At the end of the year you ignored your diet for nearly two weeks worth of days.
At the same time, the One Coin Loophole can be positive. It may not seem like writing once a week for an hour could be that beneficial. After all, it is such a small chunk of time, what difference could it make, right? Not so fast. After a year of following that little pattern, you’ve written for 52 hours. That feels like a much bigger chunk of time, doesn’t it?
As Rubin points out, for good or bad, the sum of our actions add up.
In this world where bigger is better, it is important to be reminded that even the smallest actions have meaning.