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Everyone has a mental list of “I should have’s”:

I should have written to my mother this weekend.
I should have told her how much I really care long before now.
I should have called that creditor and told the truth last month.
I should have started working out years ago.

Any day we choose we can go to work on the basics—on any one of a host of small activities that will start the process of self-discipline. The joy that comes from this small achievement will start the miracle process.

The early inspiration that comes from the practice of new and simple disciplines will start a process called “soaring self-worth.” It does not matter how small or how insignificant the activity is because it is within those obscure but important disciplines that the great opportunities exist.

This kind of simple progress will build a ladder leading out of the abyss of failure and neglect that once was our dwelling place. With each new discipline we will have constructed a new rung that will enable us to climb out of darkness where the failures, the complainers, and the confused and misguided gather to share their sad stories of how unfair life is.

Building the ladder is easy to do.

The smallest of disciplines, practiced every day, start an incredible process that can change our lives forever.

Related: If You Change Yourself, You Can Change Your Life 

Until we have learned to take care of the little opportunities life brings our way, we will never master the disciplines for becoming happy and prosperous. The major accomplishments in life begin with the mastery of the small disciplines. The mental, emotional and philosophical “muscles” required to write a letter, clean the garage or pay our bills on time are the very same “muscles” involved in running a company or managing a department. As a wise prophet has written: “Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not.”

We cannot rule the city until we can rule our spirit. We cannot rule the nation until we can rule ourselves. We cannot design our future until we have redesigned our habits. We cannot increase our rewards until we increase our level of intelligent activity.

The place to start is within ourselves through the development of new disciplines. That is where success really starts, by becoming the master over the small details of our lives. All of the great rewards in life are available to each of us, if we will discipline ourselves to walk through those early stages of growth without neglecting any of the disciplines. We must not permit any small activity to rob us of our future health and wealth and friendship and lifestyle. We cannot allow any error in judgment to delude us into thinking that “letting the little thing slide” would not make a major difference. We cannot say to ourselves, “This is only area where I am letting down on my self-discipline.” It is this “only area” that will start the process of erosion on all of our other disciplines.

One of the great challenges facing us all is disciplined activity. We must discipline ourselves to maintain a proper attitude, for we are surrounded by sources that can quickly erode the attitude we have worked so hard to develop. And we must discipline ourselves to convert dreams into plans, and plans into goals, and goals into those small daily activities that will lead us, one sure step at a time, toward a better future.

Finally, we must use the power of our imagination. We must ponder all that is possible. We must remind ourselves that to do what is possible we must sometimes challenge ourselves with the impossible. As an ancient warrior once wrote, “It is better to aim the spear at the moon and strike the eagle, than to aim at the eagle and strike only a rock.”

Planning, imagination and intense activity are awesome forces that have the power to dramatically change the quality of our lives.

Activity is a major part of the life puzzle. It is the power that gives substance and meaning to our philosophy and our attitude. Intelligent, planned, intense and consistent activity creates new energy and keeps us moving toward the exciting future that our thoughts and desires have already designed for us.

Related: 13 Ways to Improve Your Life

This post originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

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