The Small Stuff / by Michelle Cowan

Sometimes, a small change does the trick. Sometimes, you only need a baby step. Creativity queen SARK would call it a “micromovement.” Just do the tiniest part of a thing—and then stop. You don’t have to do any more. You can continue if you want, but you don’t have to.

I’m practicing this now, with this very blog. At the moment, I am not resorting to small-stepping for lack of motivation, but for lack of time. I need (and desire) to eat dinner and finish other things, but I want to get some thoughts down, too. So I’m writing at least a portion of this blog first, urging us all to celebrate the little accomplishments in our lives before moving on.

Every tiny action we take leads to the fulfillment of a greater goal, just as even the shortest sentences, put together, create an entire blog. The achievement of the goal needn’t be elevated above all the steps it took to get there. The pieces make the whole.

When the whole overwhelms us, it’s time for tiny movements. And I disallow the berating of ourselves for only making a small movement! Be proud. A little is more than nothing.

Sometimes, when unmotivated, I have to give myself a break and let the laziness or apathy run through me, absolutely embracing the doing of nothing. Then, the motivation mysteriously returns on its own. On the other hand, when chronic procrastination or lack of enthusiasm sticks like a cold I want to kick, I can often peer into my heart and find one small thing I don’t feel so apathetic toward. Completing that one item often gears me up to do another or satisfies me enough that the guilt over my inaction dissipates. In the midst of general indifference, something usually sparks a passion—even if only a fleeting passion—when I search for it.

By taking the steps I want to take as I am motivated to take them, I buck what I think society or other people think is best. I tend to harbor little boundaries or schemas of how things “should” be done in my subconscious. I act and face challenges based on those lies sometimes. Of course I’m not going to want to follow a method or live up to a standard that seems unfair! If a project seems too terrible to begin, it’s usually because I have pre-formed some idea of how it has to be done or what the finished product needs to be. Investigation of that idea often reveals it to be founded in fear or carried over from childhood along with all sorts of other fantasies that don’t actually correspond with reality.

Examine the boundaries you’ve put in place or the rules you think must be adhered to. Maybe those boundaries and rules are helpful. Maybe they are not. Are they even realistic? More than likely, they help at times and hinder in other instances. After identifying boundaries or rules that seem like lies, break a couple of them. Feel liberated, knowing that you can retreat to the safety of those boundaries at any time.

Moving at our own pace, according to beliefs that coincide with our authentic selves, allows us a kind of freedom that removes the need to rebel against external standards. If we are operating according to rules and notions that help us ad reflect life as it truly is, the boundaries of work and law and time don’t seem so oppressive. We can see what needs to be obeyed and what can be fudged or abandoned. When we have opened enough doors to satisfy our naturally roaming, exploring, inquisitive natures, a few padlocks don’t seem so harsh. Perhaps they can even be unlocked later, when we’re done running wildly through the worlds we’ve already made available.

Tasks we had trouble starting because it seemed like they “had” to be done or “should” be completed in a certain fashion aren’t so difficult to begin when external measurements fade in importance. We can tackle challenges and responsibilities freely, at our own pace, with an outcome that may not match other people’s standards or even our own initial impulses. This is the power of allowing (and appreciating) small steps and investigating the validity of our beliefs and standards.

So take a small step today; move into action, even if for only half a second. Then, take a rest. Check out Planet SARK for ideas. Use tiny things to your advantage, from the small steps you make to the tiny changes in your routine that keep you alive. The smallest change can make the most surprising difference. A little reminder from me to you…and me.

(See, all those sentences really add up!)