I heard a story last week about a grain of rice, a king and a chess board.
The king offered a reward to a man who was in his debt. The thoughtful man asked for a single grain of rice, doubled for every square on a chess board. So, 2 grains for the first square, 4 for the next, 8 for the next, 16 for the next, and so on. The king was initially insulted as this didn’t seem like much of a reward – until he was later informed by his staff that to honour this reward required more than all the rice he had in the country!
I have no idea if the story is true, but it resonated with me because it emphasised the seemingly insignificant impact of something small, as well as the surprising, cumulative compound impact of consistently repeating small things.
At the start of the new year, we can tend to think about making big, new year resolutions, and for some people who prefer an all or nothing approach, that works!
If that is you, well done! and do keep going!
But as the rest of us mere mortals begin to feel the strain of big resolutions, I would like to suggest that, instead, we think about reducing some of those big hairy audacious goals, and focusing instead on just making one or two very small and achievable changes.
Changes that are seemingly easy and sometimes seem almost too good to be true, perhaps even as insulting as the king would have thought.
If we have struggled in the past with making bigger goals, I wonder, In 2018, what would happen if we gave ourselves permission to stick at smaller, more consistent changes, whilst also putting ourselves in the way of good things?
Instead of giving up all alcohol, we intentionally start the day with a glass of water and have at least 2 dry days a week.
Instead of giving up food altogether, we intentionally have a piece of fruit at breakfast and limit the chocolate to one small bar over the week which we really savour and enjoy.
Instead of giving up swearing, we are intentional in seeking out one or two opportunities to be kind, to say something positive and encouraging to someone, and set up a charity swear fine box for everytime you do let something blue, or negative slip out.
Instead of planning an hour reading or meditating, we start by being intentional in sitting quietly for at least 5 minutes every day before breakfast.
Instead of giving up the couch and declaring to run a marathon when we haven’t yet run a mile, we’re more intentional about going for a minimum of a 20-minute walk every day, taking the stairs or getting off the bus a stop earlier than necessary.
When we can make one or two of these, seemingly small but consistent and repeated daily choices, rather than attempt to go all out on crash diets, crash exercise plans and unachievable marathon goals, we actually make significant progress in the long term. Real, sustainable, life-changing progress.
Because we are creatures of habit, each one of these new small behaviours soon become unconscious habits; become part of who we are, the normal way for our future-self to live.
Before we know it, we could even find ourselves becoming the person who can enjoy a glass of wine without getting drunk, able to enjoy chocolate without eating to excess, become the person that can sit quietly, and who edifies and encourages others we meet along our journey. Who knows? We may even find ourselves training to run marathons!
All resulting in a healthier, happier life.
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