Build Brick by Brick

John Heywood was an English playwright who lived hundreds of years ago.

Today, Heywood is known for his poems, proverbs, and plays. But more than any one work, it’s his phrases that have made him famous. For example, here are some popular sayings that have been attributed to Heywood:

“Out of sight out of mind.”
“Better late than never.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Many hands make light work.”

There is one phrase from Heywood that is particularly interesting when it comes to building better habits:

“Rome was not built in one day.”

Build Brick by Brick

Typically, people use the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” to remind someone of the time needed to create something great. And it’s true. It takes time — sometimes years — to master a skill, craft, or habit.

While it’s good to keep perspective on your dreams, I think it’s better to remember the other side of this story: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.

The problem is that it can be really easy to overestimate the importance of building your Roman empire and underestimate the importance of laying another brick. It’s just another brick. Why worry about it? Much better to think about the dream of Rome. Right?

Actually Rome is just the result, the bricks are the system. The system is greater than the goal. Focusing on your habits is more important than worrying about your outcomes.

Of course, there’s nothing necessarily impressive about adding another brick. It’s not a fantastic amount of work. It’s not a grand feat of strength or stamina or intelligence. Nobody is going to applaud you for it.

But laying a brick every day, year after year? That’s how you build an empire. You can start small. You can focus on improving 1 percent each day. You can simply put in another rep.

You don’t have to build everything you want today, but you do have to find a way to add another brick.

This article originally appeared on JamesClear.com

Liked this guest post? Subscribe to our free newsletter for more great content on productivity, motivation, and how to work better!

Image: Fabiana/Flickr