Small Choice; Big Change
BY: Troy Murphy | October 2016 (edited October 2018)
We don't magically transform. The process of change is often slow and methodical. Slow down, watch yourselves, and let small choices create major changes.
Major events impact our lives and force change—loss of a loved one, a major illness, unemployment. Tragedy shocks our system, exposing us to different realities and compelling adjustments; we change. We are adaptable—for the most part. We meet the challenges of life and survive. Our tendency (when not confronted with a life-changing event) is, however, to maintain balance, allowing the trajectory of our life to continue uninhibited.
We believe we are in charge, pulling the strings of choice, but in the normal flow of living, we mindlessly give way to the same habits, behaviors, and thoughts. Life often unfolds without interference of intelligent choice. Until, of course, we encounter a major event--but we have to wait for tragedy to change?
We can intercede. Mindful exploration opens new possibilities, exposing hidden secrets, and bringing to light our blind obedience to habitual patterns. We create magnificent change with seemingly insignificant choice.
Persistent constructive small behaviors continued overtime inspires major transformations, slowly molding futures and smoothing rough edges. Acknowledging character flaws in need of changing is uncomfortable. We recoil at our imperfection. The new age mindset encourages acceptance—acceptance of everything. While self-acceptance has notable benefits, relieving anxieties and banishing guilt; but by re-categorizing errors as good, we miss the point and limit growth. Perhaps with progress in psychological theory, we’ve lost too much. With abandoning Victorian era biases, we also dispensed of social virtues. Everything we do is not okay. We can be hurtful, selfish, and ignorant. By not examining the self for character flaws and ethical deterioration, we may soothe guilt while smugly ignoring damaging behaviors. Some actions, beliefs and cultural givens must be challenged because they interfere with individual and group progress. We must evaluate, challenge and sometimes reject.
Through positive gentle changes, our relationships deepen, and wisdom expands.
"Perhaps with progress in psychological theory, we’ve lost too much. With abandoning Victorian era biases, we also dispensed of social virtues. Everything we do is not okay. We can be hurtful, selfish, and ignorant."
Small changes may seem insignificant but often are instrumental in larger revolutions of the soul. Behaviors don’t occur in a vacuum. How we act nourishes or infects others. Others respond to our behaviors and we respond to their behaviors. Each little behavior creates ripples, flowing outward, creating changes to the self and to the larger whole.
When we focus small behaviors on changing underlying character, these movements alter much larger trajectories. Shifting the possibilities of the future. The positive changes add color and richness to previously bleak hopes and dreams of an under-lived life.
Character changes demand accurate self-appraisals, spotting ego-protecting justifications. We begin these explorations of the soul by asking a few simple questions:
“Is this behavior compassionate?”
“Am I justifying a destructive habitual behavior?”
“Did I do my best to change today?”
When we honestly answer a few probing questions, we gain needed insight. A few small glimpses into the dark recesses of our souls illuminates areas in need of compassionate attention. Areas we can begin address with small changes.
Life doesn’t transform immediately. We need more than a fleeting desire motivated by the ache of the moment; but the first stirrings of dissatisfaction may be a starting point. If we follow-up with structured goals and designed measurements, we keep the motivation alive and begin a much greater work.
Our first successes give confidence. We begin to believe in our power to change. We begin the flow of transformation by adding to these first positive movements knowledge, skill and external support. The new engine of change begins to pick up speed, moving with greater momentum towards a better future. But all is not done. The earlier destructive habits are patient, waiting for opportunities to return. Once we believe we conquered the past, in a moment of fatigue, the poisons powerfully leap back into our lives, disrupting new successes and reminding that work is not done. Beware for moments of weakness, for when anxieties, fears and disappointments accumulate, they tear apart resolve. Kindly recognize momentary slips, avoid debilitating guilt, and reengage in the healthier desired paths, limiting opportunities for the tiresome patterns of the past to reinsert their influence over our lives.
We become through the small insignificant moments, through the small swings of the sculptor’s mallet our lives are shaped. Slow down, discovery a few small actions to implement today. Add a little compassion, force a little kindness, slowly open your heart and invite life transforming virtues to create the big change.