Small Steps are Small, But Over Time They Add Up

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The small ways we waste our lives can really add up. But so too can the small positive changes we make. Are small changes, made every day, a good way to achieve radical change over time?

For most of us, most of the time, our lives are filled with the ordinary. The moments of transcendence and transformation are usually rarer than the mundane.

It is easy to overlook the everyday. It is the remarkable and what stands out that usually captures our attention. But the small can be precious, and we can cherish the small things.

I think too, that we often waste our gift and limit our potential, not spectacularly with major addictions, but in small ways — too much TV, say, or never quite getting around to sorting out that issue with our partner or friend. I find it difficult to know what to do about this in a way that avoids becoming obsessive. Living with the pressure of making every moment count I don’t find appealing. How is it possible to maintain a sense of perspective? The small things are small, but over time they add up.

My desire is to live with ease and elation — constant self-monitoring (or even attempting it) tends to destroy the ease and elation I feel.

If I want ease and elation and not to be obsessive, how can I avoid making a big deal of each little detail?

One way is to look at trends, to look at the direction I am heading. I may find that I am on a path to becoming more stressed, or unhappy or addicted or isolated.

Once I see the path I am on, it is possible to see how my thoughts, feelings and actions make up this path. For instance, my path to stress is made up of thoughts like, “I have to get this done”, feelings of pressure, and actions of keeping working and ignoring my need for breaks and rest.

My path of stress is based on some big decisions I made as a child (about why I am unworthy) and lots of little things too. These little things can be fairly easy to change. I can realise that taking a one minute break won’t make a big difference to when I finish but may make a major difference to how good I feel. Changing a little thing may be quick and easy — and we can then move on to the little things.

Just like the small ways we waste our lives add up, so too do the small changes we make add up. One small and easy change each week can mean quite a radical shift over a year or two. It can also mean that we build our confidence to take on somewhat bigger changes. This means we can have a path that is made up of successes — which it is easier to feel good about. If we attempt a major change and see ourselves as failing, it is harder to try next time. Changing in small steps is a lower risk strategy, and when the stakes are high, sometimes a lower risk strategy just makes sense.

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