The little things that can have a huge impact

Written by Oyin Oyetunde

It’s bitter-sweet, how little things can have a huge impact on our mental state and self-esteem.

In January, I made a rule for myself; I would not go to bed if there were dirty dishes in the sink. For the first couple of weeks, it was an easy thing to do; I was very motivated about starting this new regimen. One month into it, came the days when I had to remind myself of the decision I’d made, suck it up and go do the dishes. As the months have gone by, I’ve been able to maintain that commitment and in turn, this small change has positively affected my life.

I finally realized I had it in me to be committed. I remember listening to a video on YouTube titled “The Laws of Growth”. In it, the guy explains that sure, a lot of people are motivated, but motivation only lasts for a while; he also mentions that committing to a goal is what makes it achievable, especially if it’s a long term one —thanks John. I could relate very easily to this sentiment. In the past I had tried, like many a person, to lose some weight. I was very motivated initially but my go-getter attitude wore down as soon as I was faced with a little adversity—I actually gained 3 extra pounds the first week. Motivation wasn’t enough to get me through this difficult time because I hadn’t learned how to commit in the bad times, not only the good. I had to move beyond my motivation’s shallow pits, to a place of absolute commitment in order to achieve my goals. This is where dreams are ultimately actualized.

I felt pride. A friend showing up unannounced at my home didn’t embarrass me any more, because the kitchen was untidy. In fact I couldn’t wait to open the door and show-off a little. In the past, I would always give a little announcement to guests explaining why the kitchen was untidy. With my new-found discipline (that I’ll talk about a little bit later), I didn’t have to do that anymore. I also experienced pride in the mornings, when I looked over at the sink and saw it empty. This feeling provided positive reinforcement that kept me, and keeps me going.

On difficult days I reminded myself of my why’s, which constantly pushed me to get up and continue. My main reason was very simple: I wanted to be a person of my word. If I said it, I had to get it done. In the past when I committed to doing something, even as little as laundry, somewhere in my mind I’d whisper to myself, “but you know you are not actually going to do this thing”. But as I went to bed every night with an empty sink, the negative voice in my mind became quiet. I could say to myself that I’d do something at a particular time, and trust that I would in fact get it done. I was developing integrity by learning to trust myself.

Unknowingly, I was developing the habit of discipline as well, because I was learning to stick by the rules I had set and refraining from doing things based on my current mood, or just feelings. It turns out that my emotions had little to do with washing the dishes because most of the time, it was really laziness that I had to learn to combat. Thinking about it now, I grouped tasks together to help me achieve my goal. For example, I did the dishes as I cooked, and washed things as I used them so there was never a huge, daunting pile at the end of the day.

I also learned that there is a direct correlation between the state of my home and how successful I am in life.  I became aware of this fact after watching “De-Clutter your Home” on YouTube. Clutter and messes in the home drain the mind, and prevent it from concentrating on creative and productive activities, as a cause of the anxiety that you may feel about the situation— thanks Terri Savelle-Foy.

Four months since I began, there’s been a difference in how I feel about myself. I am way more confident than I was at the beginning of the year. It’s like doing the dishes was the proof I needed to show myself that I am capable of sticking to my word in other areas of my life. These little changes have helped sow the seeds of some core values that I need to uphold, in order to be successful. Commitment, integrity, discipline and confidence are only some of the ones that I hope to eventually conquer. I’ll admit that all of these values were things I had been trying to cultivate for a long time, although I was continuously failing miserably. With a seemingly small decision lay the building blocks needed to kickstart my development, even though it all happened in the strangest way possible.

I don’t know what principle you want to begin living your life by, but I advise that you go for it. It could be something a little as drinking x cups of water a day, brushing your teeth before bed or even charging your phone every night. Nothing is too small, because all tasks require some set of values to achieve. If you miss a day, who cares…. just keep going and do it the next. I assure you, doing what you commit to has the ability to change your life. You can do things that you never thought imaginable.

I hope changing how you complete one little task will transform your life, as doing the dishes is transforming mine.


Oyin Oyetunde is a Nursing graduate from the University of Windsor. Aside from learning about science, she is also very passionate about inspiring and motivating people – young and old to be the all they were created to be.