Making a Difference that Makes the Difference

Author: David Jessop

If you’ve ever played Jenga, you’ll know that it’s always that one block that tips the balance.

Or that one small rise in the water level that bursts the banks with huge consequences.

Or that small pinch of spice, salt, or other ingredient that significantly improves the taste of your favourite dish.

And we have probably all heard the phrase: “It’s the small things that make the biggest difference.”

We all know this, and have plenty of examples... we’ve spent hours getting ready but have forgotten the small matter of our favourite earrings, and so the way that we feel and the night we end up having completely changes. Or perhaps that’s just me at the weekends, and I’m sharing too much here.

Let’s go with not wearing your favourite tie.

Think about it now. Think about all those small things – no matter how trivial or personal they might feel – that you know make a big difference to how you feel, what you do, or how you think.

Often referred to as Pareto’s Law or Principle or the 80/20 rule, or in one training I’ve had, the Winning Edge, its essence is understanding that the smallest things are what make the difference in our lives. And yet not many of us really know what that means for us... do you?

Or alternatively we do know what our “small things” are, which is very often the case, but we ignore them, or we put little effort into actually implementing them.

How much time do you spend drilling down to find the real, tangible things that you need to work on that will have the biggest impact, for instance, on your own wellbeing?

Sure we might know a ‘top-line’ answer like: “I need to exercise more” or “I need to leave work on time” – but who really drills down to work out how they can make that happen?

Sir Dave Brailsford applied this process in the form of marginal gains during his career as British Cycling Performance Director and explains it so:

“If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

The 80/20 rule is what’s known as a ‘Universal Law’ meaning it can be repeatedly applied to almost every situation to assist with the process of drilling down.

So for instance, around the area of your wellbeing, ask yourself what ONE thing you need to do to improve this and then continue to apply the rule.

For example… What one thing do I need I to do to improve my wellbeing?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: “I need to leave work on time.”

APPLICATION OF RULE: “What ONE thing do I need to do that I’m not doing now to leave work on time?”

ANSWER: “I need to be more organised.”

APPLICATION OF RULE: “What ONE thing to I need to do that I’m not doing now to be more organised?”

ANSWER: “Start saying ‘No’ more often.” (I’ve shared tips for this in a previous blog here)

APPLICATION OF RULE: “What ONE thing do I need do that I’m not doing now to say no more?”

And so the process continues…

When you believe you have drilled down enough, and have got to the real essence of that one small thing that will make the biggest difference in your chosen area of focus, it’s time to set goals. When you set goals around achieving that one thing, and get into action, you’ll find many other changes will occur. It’s like a ripple effect of throwing a pebble in a pond, or pushing the first domino that sets off a chain.

Your aim is to be clear on the one small thing that will make the biggest difference for you and then act on it. Repeat the exercise for different areas of your life.

So, what one thing do you need to do to maximise the effectiveness of this blog?

Enjoy the results.


David Jessop has been a self-employed Success and Life Strategist since 2002, and before that had 20 years of corporate experience. Since 2004, David has worked primarily within the Education Sector, in particular with young people and staff in schools, colleges and universities. David’s work focuses on helping them get clear on what they want and why they want it, then teaching the skills, tools and techniques not just for academic success but for life balance. David is available for 1-1 Coaching, Workshops, assemblies, seminars and Keynotes.

Connect with David on Facebook at Phoenix Coaching

Follow David on Twitter @david_jessop

Find out more about David on his website

Read David Jessop's other blogs:

Teachers, Just say No

Don’t Read This Blog