Small Steps to Change

“All or Nothing”

That’s been my life motto.

Eat the whole bag of cookies or none.

Either do the project perfect or not at all.

Speak up and do it loudly or keep quiet.

Show up and run the show or don’t bother coming.

It has worked OK for years. There is something to going big or going home. It means you are committed and you are going to finish it, darn it. But does this really work? Hmmm.

As I grow as a mother, wife, and artist, I’m starting to see flaws in this way of living. It’s ridiculously hard to keep up with and there is very little grace for myself or those around me.

This “all or nothing” mentality can lead to other things too: perfectionism, pride or shame, isolation, depression, anxiety and fear.

“All or Nothing” is pretty ingrained in our society. We especially tend to do this at the beginning of the year, which is why I’m thinking about this topic right now.

“I’m going to stop eating sugar”

“I’m going to march into my boss’s office and demand what I deserve, no compromise”

“I’m going to start a business and make a million dollars by the end of the fiscal year”

“I’m going to be the perfect parent who never yells, never spoils, never…”

“All or Nothing”

When you write it down, you start to notice how ridiculous it is, but when it’s in your head it seems completely plausible and attainable. It feels like there is no other way to approach the big changes we want to see in ourselves. We might be able to maintain these grandiose plans for change for a week, month, even a year, but long term, we will collapse under the pressure. I don’t think we were made for dramatic, overnight change. I think it can happen, but it’s not the norm we should expect from others or ourselves.

I think there is a better way. Small steps to change. I used to get so irritated at this idea because it just didn’t feel substantial enough, but I see the value in it now. I’ve tested the idea and it has come back fruitful. Each day we have thousands of small choices we can make. At first this may seem terrifying….how am I going to make all of those right so I can stay on the right path? Or they feel so insignificant that it doesn’t matter. How does this small thing help me make this huge change?

I think a better way to look at it is that you get a lot of chances to make the right choice. Sometimes you will and sometimes you won’t, but you get lots of tries and that’s something. There’s grace in that. And each time you make that small, right choice, it will get a little easier next time.

How do I see this playing out in life?

As a wife, I have the small choice each day to look my husband in the eyes when he gets home and smile and say “welcome home.” Or not.

As a parent, I can choose to say yes to my child’s request for me to sit down and play, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Or not.

As a friend, I can send a quick text to let her know I’m thinking of her. Or not.

As an artist, I can attend an art opening with some business cards in my pocket and show up with a smile. Or not.

Small steps will take me on a journey to be the wife, mother, friend and artist I dream of being, and that’s no small thing.

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