We’re snowed in again and the power has gone. I’m looking out over a landscape made fresh by deep snow.
A new year is here. And as always, with it comes the urge to make changes.
Usually, we try to make big changes. Often, a few of them at once. Which, you know as well I do, rarely works out.
Obvs, right? We’ve all had that experience. But funnily enough, it doesn’t stop us trying the same approach again every new year.
You may have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Well maybe that’s a little strong. I know lots of people who do that, myself included, who (hopefully) aren’t really mad.
Still, it doesn’t work. We know that.
We’re much more likely to succeed if we make small changes. They’re much more likely to stick and become permanent. And they build up over time, surprisingly quickly.
You want to become vegan. Big change: Try immediately cutting out all dairy. You’ll struggle. Before you know it, the cravings will get the better of you and you’ll fail. That’s just human.
Small change: Maybe just drop milk in one of your teas or coffees every day.
You want to lose weight. Big change: Go on a crash diet, lose a lot of weight in a very short time and then put all it back on again in February.
Small change: Change one meal a week. Once a week, have a low fat, healthy breakfast.
You want to draw more (oh, that old chestnut!) Big change: Make yourself do one hour of drawing a day. Easy right? Keep it going for three days and then run out of ideas for things to draw. Or get interrupted. Or forget and miss a day or two, and then forget it altogether.
Small change: Simply open your sketchpad at the same part of your routine each day, every day for a week. Don’t even draw anything, just open it.
See? You’ve started to form a habit. And you’ve put your sketch pad somewhere you know where it is. Simple. You’re on the way.
What I want to change
There are a few things I’m dissatisfied with that I’d like to change this year.
Dissatisfaction is what drives me, in many ways. Dissatisfaction and fear. Were it not for that, I doubt I’d do much at all.
I know it’s not a glamorous admission, but I suspect that its the truth, a lot of the time.
So what am I dissatisfied with?
- My body. It doesn’t work like it used to. It doesn’t even look like it used to. In fact, it feels like I’ve got someone else’s body now. Illness has taken a toll. The meds I’m on affect me in strange ways. I’ve always been pretty fit and I’m used to being complacent about it. I can’t be any longer.
- My work. I’m not exactly dissatisfied with it. But I’m seeing something new I want to do, half-formed images of what it might look like are taking shape in my head and I really want to start exploring them.
- Our finances. We’re depleting our resources. It’s been a tough couple of years, so I’ve given myself a break. But it’s very easy to spend money, much less easy to save it.
- My routine. A long time ago, I realised that it’s my habits that shape the life I lead. Personal habits I currently dislike: I’m staying up late and not getting enough sleep. I’m not exercising. I’m not eating as healthily as I was.
My small changes
- My Body: get up a bit earlier every day, before the kids get up. Seriously, that’s it. I’m making the time at the start of the day that I’ll eventually use for exercise. I’m just going to start by creating the space for it.
- My work: Get a sketchpad-stroke-journal ready to start exploring the ideas with. Open it at the end of each day (no, I don’t actually have to do anything yet…)
- Our finances: Get back into the habit of doing the accounts every day. Because watching what we spend daily helps me make better decisions and spend less.
- My routine: Actually, I’ve pretty much sorted this one out already. I do the same things every morning now, before I open the laptop, even: Sit and feel grateful, write in my daily journal, do my drawing practice. Those three things are easy to remember and I do them in the same order every day. It took me about two weeks to get into a habit with them, but I’ve had a lot of practice at this. Creating habits is something that gets easier the more you do it.
But surely these changes are too small?
It may seem that small changes are the weaker path, that they won’t make enough difference. But small changes add up to very big ones over time and it’s by far the most effective way to make permanent change in your life.
Here’s my advice, for what it’s worth:
Then all you have to do is to decide on the next small step that will move you in that direction, and take it.
What big changes would you like to make this year? What small step will get you moving towards them?
Best wishes and thanks for reading,
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