“Just pick one thing that you feel is really important, and do it.”
~ India Supera
As the New Year settles in, I’ve been contemplating what I want to bring along into this year, what I want to leave behind, and what I’d like to manifest.
New Year’s resolutions often come in a well-intended package, but too often become unattainable, frustrating, and forgotten. We may make grand, yet vague promises that we will exercise “more” or eat “better,” but by not getting specific and by being too idealistic we may doom ourselves from the get go.
In my late teens, my best friend Nikki and I spent a good amount of time philosophizing, setting goals, and trying to live our dreams. We had a working theory that we could change the world one cute boy at a time! Changing the world was indeed a worthy goal, but perhaps our method was misguided. As hormones have subsided and life experience has broadened my perspective, I’ve come to believe that by making a tiny tweak at a time in our behavior, thoughts, or awareness, we can change ourselves—sorry cute boys, you’ll have to do your own work—and improve our world.
That sounds simple enough….but how?
When we set our expectations of ourselves too high, we quickly foil ourselves because we can’t live up to them. Our real power to make lasting change and follow through lies in our ability to focus and adjust our lenses. Zoom out to determine your big dream and zoom in to set bite-sized and attainable goals that work towards that bigger personal mission. It’s easy to take one step, while it may be daunting to run a marathon—but you have to make each stride to complete the marathon.
Erich Schiffmann, when asked which meditation technique was best, responded, “The one that you’ll do. That’s the best one.” Instead of road blocking yourself with perfectionism and self-doubt—Which is better or best? Did I choose the right one?— just do what comes easy to you to get started. That’s inherently the right and best choice.
Think about the thing you want to improve, or the way in which you’d like to grow, and make one tiny step toward that end. Sit with it. See if how it feels and if you like it. You’ll do another or change direction. It’s not overwhelming and ultimately that one drop of positive change can have a true ripple effect.
This can be a mental adjustment to a thought or a physical adjustment to your body. One of my favorite small mental exercises is to adjust my own thoughts or words to help release me from the feeling of helplessness. For example, the word emptiness, which evokes fear and despair, becomes openness, which is full of hope and prospect. Each time I feel or think “emptiness,” I try to catch myself and think, wait a minute, this is a kind of “space” and it’s open space that can be filled with what I want. It’s space to create, it’s space to dream. It turns a problem into an opportunity. How fun and liberating is that!
Small tweaks work wonders in the physical realm too. Think about how the small physical adjustments while practicing yoga make all the difference between ouch and ahhh. The ahhh has lasting impact on your body. Or you can think, I’d like to be in better physical shape. Start with a short walk right now, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to run a marathon (or alternately do nothing). It’s all about bringing awareness and making those little adaptations to your actions and expectations.
We get opportunities like these all the time. So if we miss one, or even many, try not to get discouraged by our humanness. That’s totally okay (enter self-compassion).
So there you have it. My intention for this year is to practice awareness when humanly possible and to make one tiny tweak in myself at a time. And see if it makes the world an even more beautiful place.
Dandelion Effect Podcast
Speaking of the power of the smallest things in changing the world, check out Andy Vantrease’s wonderful interview with Chef Claudia Krevat. She shares with such passion her love of cooking food, developing community through its sharing, and how the tiniest of seeds, the diminutive, but oh so versatile lentil, changed her life. Enjoy!
Executive Director, Feathered Pipe Foundation