Starting Small

Sometimes in life we have problems or tasks that seem impossible and insurmountable. It seems like we’ll never accomplish them. For some people, it might be paying off debt. For others, it might be losing 100 pounds. It could be decluttering your house, recovering from your eating disorder, or training for a marathon. It can be anything! Whatever it is, when you look at it, it seems pointless to even start trying to address the issue because it is going to take such a long time or might never happen in the first place.

If you’re like me, when you are faced with one of these problems, you might look for inspiration on how to fix it. What you’ll probably find is stuff like this:

l995366325 Pinterest is chock full of motivation.

Everyone likes a good motivational quote, but motivational quotes don’t necessarily tell you how to tackle your problem. They pretty much just tell you that you should. Well, duh.  They also don’t really help when you’re in the trenches and cannot envision a day when you won’t be counting calories, scrimping to pay off debt, or can’t find your 2013 tax information under all the piles of crap in your house.

I get it. I’ve been there. I am there right now.

Luckily, a blogger passed along a revolutionary piece of advice to me, so I’m going to pass it along to you with my own thoughts in hopes that it helps you the way it helped me. My girl Emily over at Authentically Emmie wrote a post about taking steps to find her “center” and feel more balanced in life as she navigates her divorce. In it, she made a comment about making a commitment to declutter her house by donating or throwing out 10 items per day. For some reason, that really clicked with me, although 10 things seemed like a lot. AJ and I struggle with keeping the house clutter free – not so much because we buy a lot of things, just lots of junk mail or things we need to file or random wires and cables and boxes are always lying around. So, I told him we were going to aim to declutter 5 things per day.

And you know what? We suck at it. We don’t do it every day. But we do it some days. And each time we do, that is 5 fewer things lying around the house than would have been there had we not bothered at all, or if we got discouraged because we can’t be completely consistent and just gave up. We’re better off now than we were before, even if we only do it once. It’s not as bad as it would otherwise be.

We’re also in the midst of trying to pay off some debt. Debt panics me immensely, but that doesn’t mean I never have it. As much as it panics me, not being able to hop on a plane whenever I want also panics me, so I don’t always make the financially prudent decision. As we are combining our lives in preparation for the wedding, it made sense to sit down and really go through our finances and take a hard look at what we’re spending. We made the unfortunate decision to do this in November, right before the holidays. The results were sobering. Part of me wanted to say “Well, let’s just start after the holidays because there’s no point in trying to stick to a budget right now.” But the reality is the situation would only be worse after the holidays. At least if we try to stick to a budget now, we will probably spend less than we would otherwise. And that’s something. We’re better off now than we were before, even if we only spend $100 extra instead of $200. It’s not as bad as it would otherwise be.

Some would say that this attitude encourages mediocrity, and maybe it does. But if you, like me, are the type of person who is easily daunted by the idea of doing something forever or making a really big, hard choice, it’s easier to set small goals along the way with the expectation that it isn’t always going to be perfect.

So, I’m encouraging you to start small this holiday season. When it seems impossible and/or stupid to eat healthy for an entire day because you know you have a holiday party at night and are going to drink too much wine anyway and blow your diet, just focus on eating a healthy lunch. That’s one more healthy meal than you were planning on having otherwise, right? When the thought of taking the time to address 50 Christmas cards is laughable, just do 5. Just say no to one item in your Running Warehouse shopping cart. Just run one mile.

It all adds up, and you’ll be better off than you were before. What’s a big task you need to take on? How can you start small to accomplish it?