How Small Changes Make a Big Difference
Think of the daily habits you have now that are ingrained in your behavior. Eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, doing laundry, paying bills. Think of how these things make your life better and how your life would be if you didn’t do them. Also think about how
effortless many of these things are because you have formed these desirable behaviors into habits over time.
Now imagine if you could use that daily routine you have to make a change that you don’t have right now but that you really want to happen: losing weight, getting stronger, learning something new, writing a book. You know you have the power and resourcefulness in you to do it, but what has to happen for you to realize that potential?
What is true about most people is that they tend to use their talents and ingenuity to avoid bad stuff from happening, to prevent problems, to avoid uncomfortable situations and to deal with the occasional crisis life throws at them. We are very good at visualizing problems even if we have never encountered them. If I ask you to name 10 problems you are currently facing, you can probably rattle them off in about 30 seconds. If I ask you to name 10 things for which you are grateful you will probably get stuck at number 3 or 4. That’s how our brains are wired, more geared towards surviving than thriving. Trying to anticipate problems, looking for things that might be a threat to us. Worrying about everything. But what if we switched off the problem part of our brain for a minute and used our abundant gray matter, not just for self preservation or protection, but to do something entirely new. What if we visualize not problems but solutions, things we want for ourselves and others and start making a plan for that, instead of planning to avoid threats and problems.
Threats and problems still exist but we no longer have to devote so much mental real estate to them, they are not as abundant or severe as they used to be. Our ancestors really needed these avoidance based thought processes because they had to contend with real threats to life and limb on a daily basis. In the modern world most of these threats are gone. We don’t die anymore from tooth abscesses (that really happened), we don’t freeze to death for lack of fuel, we don’t go though periods of famine or migration or having to fight bears. But all these luxuries are relatively recent in human history and the thought processes that helped our ancestors survive have been passed on as desirable traits and therefore still exist in our heads today.
So what if you made a small change to your life and did that thing daily or weekly for a year, How different might your life be just by altering one habit, switching one activity for another, giving up something you know is neither productive or pleasurable? From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, amazing things can happen when people recognize the power of small changes compounded over time. If you want to change, sometimes all that is needed is a small step taken 100 times. Many self-help methods are based on just this, religions too, think of the daily awareness that daily prayer or meditation bring to a persons life, how it alters their thought process from surviving to thriving. How much money can you make if you sock away a small sum each paycheck, something you would never miss, for your entire working life? That small discipline makes millionaires out of ordinary people. All it takes is for them to start the process and repeat it over and over.
Many of the things I talk about in my book are just like this, small changes that lead to big changes over time, being more conscious of how you spend your time. Learning to enjoy new things in your life. And the reason I emphasize this is that many people feel stuck or trapped in a particular situation in part because they think it takes a big change for them to move forward “I want to go to the gym but I need to lose 50 pounds first”, “I want that vacation but I don’t have the money” “I want to learn to play an instrument but I don’t have time”. We say these things to ourselves all the time. This is the cautious, pessimistic part of our brain putting up roadblocks to the adventurous, optimistic part of our personalities. The truth is you own both those things and when you learn to be aware of how you think, and how these inner conflicts shape your outer life, you can make the changes you desire and live the life you truly want.
This blog is an excerpt from Paul’s internationally published book Five Ways to Wellness available on Amazon.