Start small? Hardly

Not once have I picked up the phone at my NYC therapy office and heard the words, “I’d like to make just a few small changes in my life.” And yet so many people seem satisfied to pass along that age-old, conservatizing little adage: “start small.”

Start small?

It seems beyond question to me that this is precisely the opposite of what needs to happen. Perhaps it’s easier to hear because taking on everything seems overwhelming. Call me quirky, but it’s taking on just this one little thing that seems overwhelming to me.

Let me explain:

It’s all connected

Just as the “leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone,” and so on, all the different parts of your emotional life are connected. There’s a relationship between your work life and your diet and your sex life and your relationship with your family and your mood and everything else. In fact, the relationships between these emotional parts are way more complex than the relationships between your body parts (which are, of course, way more complicated than that song suggests).

In fact, emotional stuff is connected to other emotional stuff (not to mention other people’s emotional stuff) in such a way that changes in one part can’t help but effect the other parts. It seems to me it would be impossible to actually  change just one or two small little pieces.

It’s more work. And that’s the good news.

If you give up the notion that it’s possible to change “just this one thing,” and recognize that the various bits and pieces or our lives are all part of a larger whole, then you can start to see change in a whole new light. Let’s face it, even when we’re determined to do one part of our lives differently, sometimes we fail (or at least get stuck). But if everything is connected, then that opens up a lot of other options. It’s sort of like a house with many doors. If the front door is locked, you’ve got other ways to try to get in. The more you embrace just how much everything in your life is related to everything else in your life, the more ways there are of getting in.

You’d like an example:

Sara is trying to loose weight. Try as she might, she can’t seem to stick to a diet. My advice? Take a look at what’s going on around the issue of diet. What emotional issues related to food (or not related to food) are going on her life (mood, frustration)? How’s her social life? What’s Sara doing for fun? How does Sara feel about her job?

You see how not all of the questions relate directly to food? What’s prioritized here is helping Sara make lots of changes in her life, not just with eating. If we’re stuck in trying to make changes with food, we have to look for other things to work on, and that doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the issue of food. What we’re doing is saying, “Hey, everything’s related to food (and everything else).” We’re finding another way in.

It’s just like shoveling snow

It’s more like shoveling ice, to be precise. If you’ve lived in a wintry climate (or owned a car in NYC), you know well that when shoveling a driveway or walkway there are often patches that have gotten compressed and are harder move. Hack away as you might, you just can’t get that one particular chunk to budge. You learn quickly to move on from that very spot, and start going at the chunk of ice from another angle. You keep hacking until you find a spot that will move. If you keep doing this, eventually, you get back to that first chunk and, more often than not, it budges.

Now you’ve got something new to think about with all that stuff you’re stuck on.

What are you waiting for? All you have to do to get started is to just make lots and lots of really huge changes.

That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?