Small Subtle Changes of Personal Growth
BY: Troy Murphy | October 2015 (Edited January 23, 2021)
Over analyzing the meaning of simple joys and disappointments interferes with living—and growing
“Things are getting better,” we tell ourselves, stringing a few good days together. Occasionally agitations settle—at least temporarily, and we feel peace. But does this peace represent long-term change? Change often occurs by imperceptible improvements, a few happy moments may be the dawn of a new day—or just a few isolated happy moments. We can read too much into normal ebb and flows of feelings. Perhaps, we should just enjoy the good days without agonizing over the deeper meaning they imply about days not yet arrived.
When we expect each pleasant experience to inaugurate the arrival of problem free futures or evaluate each setback as impending disaster, we are over analyzing normal ups and downs, giving each experience more importance than it deserves. By dumping too much expectation on an experience, even enjoyments disappoint. Overanalyzing setbacks burdens with undue stress. Our over analyzing of single events dampens the liveliness of experience.
See The Joy of Being for more on this topic
Assigning Universal Meaning to Single Events
Our side commentary, judging a break in the storm as permanent, squashes the joy, and quickly is followed by disappointment when the rains begin to fall again. The momentary respite quickly dissolves and the normal humdrum resumes, reminding that things aren’t improving, or not improving fast enough. Like the stock market, a few losses don’t indicate a long-term direction. Life is complex full of good and bad days. We must broaden our view, accepting the momentary frustrations, and enjoy the passing pleasures.
See All or Nothing Mindset for more on this topic
By panicking over disappointments, sadness, or frustrations, we disconnect from the moment, swallowed up in thoughts and agonizing over routine setbacks.
Over analyzing is excessive calculation of the meaning of small events. In wellness, over analyzing of growth or failure interferes with necessary motivation to continue moving towards goals.
Growth Occurs in Small Incremental Steps
Measuring progress is difficult. Growth occurs over months, years and decades—not moments. The minute changes that subtly transform our lives are not observable from the close inspection at a single point in time. The changes are obscured by the smallness, and ordinary setbacks. Over analyzing the moment misses the grandness of change.
Consistent small movements in the right direction, while not magically transforming, play out over time. We move forward, slowly adapting to the new circumstances. We can’t see improvement until we step back and view our lives against the backdrop of years and decades, only then seeing great progress. When watching a flower bloom without the aid of time lapsed photography we never see movement—but movement is occurring. If we return in a few days, we see a beautiful flower where a closed bud only existed.
See Small Manageable Steps for more on this topic
"Consistent small movements in the right direction, while not magically transforming, play out over time."
Constant evaluation of insufficiently small pools of data (a single days success or failure) discourages efforts, we fail to recognize sustained growth or decay from the moment to moments snapshots.
We must focus attention on positive action instead of over analyzing immediate consequences. We continually must work to do the things we know are right. Constructive behaviors create change; but only over time. Things improve in their own time and in their own way. While momentary setbacks disrupt and hurt, they don’t necessarily destroy progress. A few happy days don’t signal success or failure. We just keep doing the right things, taking the good day and bad days as they come, enjoying pleasures and working through the sorrows. When positive behaviors accumulate, they eventually reach a tipping point where life begins to dramatically change.
See Tipping Point for more on this topic
We must courageously continue to do the right things even when desired consequences fail to immediately materialize.
Maintain faith in proven methods through the momentary gains and losses. Keep going. Keep gathering wisdom from reputable sources. Surround yourselves with helpful others. And in your later years, as your hair begins to grey, you can look back over the contents of your life, and see the beauty of a life well lived. You then know that the adventures of joy and sorrow, both the mountains and the valleys, were steps of growth, an example for your heritage, and a standard for all.
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Originally published as Things are Improving