Small Choice; Big Change The long term impact of small present choices By: Troy Murphy | October 2016
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Major events impact our lives forcing major changes—loss of a loved one, a major illness, unemployment. We have several life-changing moments; they create change and compel significant behavioral changes, not always constructive. But we are adaptable, for the most part. We meet the challenges of life and survive. Our tendency, aside from life changing events, however, is to maintain balance, allowing the trajectory of our life to continue, uninhibited without major change. We believe we are in charge pulling the strings of choice, but continue to nurse the same habitual reactions, behaviors, and thoughts. Life simply plays out without interference from forced directional change from self-motivated choice. Until, of course, we encounter a major event. But why wait for tragedy? We can do the work required for healthy change. Mindful exploration can create positive changes—not change from traumatic events but change from seemingly insignificant choices.
Small choice inspires transformational behaviors, slowly molding and smoothing the rough edges. Acknowledging characteristics in need of smoothing is uncomfortable. We are stuck in the middle of a societal flow towards complete acceptance—acceptance of everything. Perhaps we threw out too much of the Victorian era when we dispensed with social virtues in exchange for political correctness. Everything we do is not okay. We can be hurtful, selfish, and ignorant. Not examining the self for character flaws may soothe guilt but damages social connections and limits intimacy. Through gentle character changes, our relationships deepen and wisdom expands.
By escaping detrimental habitual behaviors, we transform. Small changes continue to expand. Behavior doesn’t stand alone. It nourishes, or infects, others. They respond to us and we respond to their response. Small character changes alter the trajectory of our lives. Accurate appraisals are essential—clearing our ego protecting justifications becomes essential. Simple self-directed questions expose unhealthy and conflicting behaviors. We must routinely ask:
“Is this behavior compassionate?” “Am I justifying a destructive habitual behavior?” “Did I do my best to change today?”
Change doesn’t happen immediately. We need more than a fleeting desire. The desire maybe precipitated by momentary recognition of a depressing trajectory. The desire quickly subsides when we have a better day, distracting attention from previous thoughts of change. The desire is a starting point. But needs structured goals and checks to develop the passing desire into sustainable motivation. Once we have hope in possibility for change, we add knowledge, skill and seek support—internal and external. Habitual behaviors are patient. We believe we conquered them, but they patiently wait. They powerfully break through the surface during moments of physical and emotional fatigue. When anxieties, fears and disappointments accumulate tearing apart our resolve, the habitual behaviors reemerge. Kindly recognize momentary slips, avoid debilitating guilt, and reengage in the healthier recently implemented paths.
We are slowly becoming. Small insignificant choices like small swings of the sculptor’s mallet shape our lives, create our future, and invite virtues.