What’s your goal for this week?
I’m deliberately not asking about this month, or the rest of this year, because I think everyone is a bit nervous about making big plans right now. And actually, that’s not a bad thing.
When we tend to focus on big changes, we can put ourselves under a lot of pressure and before too long feel overwhelmed. Equally, if we settle for ‘quick wins’, we might find that long-term it doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped.
In their book, The Power of Small, Aisling and Trish Leonard-Curtin explain the importance of making tiny changes, which can be just as powerful. They say that the key is in our psychological flexibility – the ability to move, bend and respond to whatever is going on in our present moment, even when things aren’t going so well. You might know already that there are lots of ways to avoid what we think and feel.
In fact, in their book, the authors explain there are four main strategies we use to avoid pain in our lives: distraction, opting out, thinking traps and self-defeating actions – what they call D.O.T.S.
So what do we do?
Here’s something you could try:
This week, maybe set the intention to Make it Small.
According to Aisling and Trish, there are three key steps to psychological flexibility: awareness of the present moment – how you’re feeling and how this affects what you do next (mindfulness can help); openness to unwanted experiences – for example, leaning in to the more tricky feelings in a safe way; and, engagement with what matters – connecting with your values through a sequence of small actions.
One way to do this is to do what they describe as a five minute breakout. Essentially, put an appointment with yourself in your calendar this week for five minutes to do something that’s just outside your comfort zone, but still within the range of self-care. It might be slowing down for five minutes, or deliberately taking conscious steps towards something you’ve been putting off. It might be opening or sending a letter you’ve been delaying, resetting your priorities with a values-guided to-do list, or preparing for that big conversation where you need to bring the roar. It might be creating what BJ Fogg describes below as the Maui habit: one tiny action attached to the motion of your feet literally hitting the floor each day. Write it down if it helps, something that will take you just outside your comfort zone, but feels small enough – and manageable enough – that you feel safe to commit to engaging in it. Don’t forget to connect with your values – your why – to motivate you forward when you’re ready.
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Copyright Delphi Ellis