Revisit: Starting Small is a Big Deal

Today we’re revisiting a post from a while back. This morning, I sat down to write about making subtle shifts and taking small steps because it’s a theme that has seemed to be coming to the surface more and more frequently in our conversations. Then I remembered that I already wrote this post! Some things really do bear repeating, I suppose… Enjoy!

Philosopher and author Albert Camus said that “a work of art is a confession.” So to take a page from the monsieur, I’d like to start by confessing that as a partner, parent, and professional I find the tension between long-term goals and the baby steps it takes to get there really, seriously challenging. In  each of these roles, I firmly believe that we change, heal, transform through wandering our way towards these goals. Still, there are some days when I would happily get on the express train to happiness and wholeness! And it isn’t just because the journey takes more time…

Think about what “greater health” means to you. Less anxiety? A more trusting relationship? Stronger motivation? A break from constant pain? Whatever the outcome might look like, if you have a goal to change your life, it’s going to require exactly that: change.

And here’s where it gets tricky. We live in a world that promotes some destructive myths around the idea of change. Myths like, “if you want it bad enough, change will come easy” or “anything less than a total renovation is a waste of time” or “just do it.” If these were more accurate they might read, “if you want it bad enough, with help, support, and time you will reach a point where you decide to start moving in the direction of change” or “in life outside of HGTV, total renovations start with one room” or “just do one thing at a time” but these tag lines wouldn’t sell.

Just so we’re clear, there is definitely a place and a time for major life overhauls and there are very real ways to make a change in one fell swoop; when it concerns our health, financial crises, emergency responses. However, even when a drastic change is made, there has to be slow and steady maintenance that happens after the fact and a lot of times, this is the harder type of transformation to sustain.

When we start small, we are giving ourselves the time and space to be intentional in our changed thoughts and behaviors. We are agreeing to try something new even though we may not receive the external validation responses that something like rapid weight loss or a brand new job might provide us. We are investing slowly and steadily rather than suddenly so we’re constantly returning to the dialogue of whether the change is worthwhile or not instead of saying, “well, I threw everything into this so it better be worth it!” We are being thoughtful, doubtful, and (here comes the buzz word) vulnerable. We’re becoming skilled at the small stuff in a world that tells us to go big or go home.

And despite all contradicting messages and lack of instant validation, we’re doing it! We’re starting small every day. And I know this because you’ve shared some of your small steps with me . Here are a few of them…

Not cutting or self-harming. Just for the next hour.

Setting the table.

Leaving a note in her lunch.

Putting the baby down in her crib and taking a five minute walk.

Getting on the treadmill for ten minutes.

Calling a friend.

Not starting fights after 8 pm.

Asking “how can I help?” (instead of walking away)

Even though these things may seem small, I know they require a large amount of effort and I have seen them culminate in the lives of individuals and couples, to create a strong foundation that new and lasting change can be built on.

I hope that you are encouraged in your tiny transformations, that you allow yourself to question, doubt, and have the cost-benefit conversation with yourself, and that slowly and steadily, you begin to feel the difference these small steps can make.