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A small act is worth a million thoughts. by Ai Weiwei

“A small act is worth a million thoughts.”

An Ai Weiwei quote

Reading time: Just under three minutes

What does this quote mean?

We often think a great deal about our goals, ambitions, and the things we want to achieve. We think about how we can improve ourselves, how we can help others, and how we can make a difference in the world. Thinking about these things is essential, but it’s only the starting point. This quote, “A small act is worth a million thoughts,” encapsulates a simple yet significant truth that it’s the actions we take that genuinely matter.

What the author, Ai Weiwei, is emphasizing with these words is that while thoughts form the foundation, they must lead to action to have an impact. Thoughts alone, regardless of how many we have, do not create change in the real world. They are ideas, aspirations, and intentions, but without being put into action, they remain unrealized.

Conversely, even the smallest action can have an immediate and tangible effect. Whether it’s offering a kind smile to a stranger, planting a tree, or writing the first line of a book, these actions represent a concrete step toward something more significant. These acts, small as they may be, are what bring our thoughts to life.

While thinking is essential for planning, strategizing, and forming our intentions, it’s only through taking action that these thoughts manifest in reality. In business, for example, a company may have a vision or mission statement filled with impressive goals and ideals, but without taking specific steps to implement those goals, they really just remain words.

This quote is a reminder to all of us that we mustn’t get trapped in the world of thoughts. Thinking is vital, but it’s the bridge to action that brings those thoughts to fruition. It urges us to move beyond thinking and start doing. It encourages us to recognize that no matter how small the action may seem, it’s in taking those actions that we make progress, create change, and truly live the values and ideals we hold in our minds. By focusing on action rather than just thought, we can turn our aspirations into real achievements and make a meaningful difference in our lives and the lives of others.

How can I use this quote in my life?

Imagine you’ve always wanted to pursue painting but are held back by fears and doubts. Instead of letting these thoughts dominate you, you take a small step and enroll in a weekend painting class. This small act, though it may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, becomes the turning point in your journey toward becoming an artist.

Think of a young professional aspiring to a leadership role in their company but unsure of how to achieve it. Instead of merely contemplating the steps, the individual takes the initiative to lead a small project within their team. This small act leads to recognition, further opportunities, and eventual growth into a leadership position.

Even in personal relationships, a small act like a heartfelt compliment or lending a sympathetic ear to a friend can strengthen bonds more than endless thoughts about being a good friend.

In all these examples, the real magic happens when thoughts are converted into action, even if it’s something small. It’s in these small acts that real change occurs, and dreams are realized. It’s not about waiting for a perfect moment but making the moment perfect by taking action. Every small act you make pushes you one step closer to your dreams, proving that indeed, “A small act is worth a million thoughts.”

What small act are you going to do today?

About the Author

Ai Weiwei was born on August 28, 1957, in Beijing, China. An artist, sculptor, filmmaker, and activist, he has become known for his critical social and cultural commentary through various mediums. His famous works include the Sunflower Seeds exhibition and the design collaboration on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. His art often challenges political and social issues, reflecting his commitment to human rights and freedom of expression.