One Small Thing (aka: Life-Changing Baby Steps)

Big things start with small steps.

It isn’t a new concept. From the moment we were born, we learned and grew in small increments. Before we could talk, we babbled. Before we could run, we had to crawl. Then stand, Then take our first wobbly steps forward. But at last, we could do it — we could run! After that, we mastered running. Owned it. Our childhood motto was: Why walk, when you can run? Some of us still run.

But first, we had to crawl.

Change requires baby steps. It is astounding how much we berate ourselves for not being able to reach our personal potential. Why can’t my body be fit and toned? Why can’t I lose twenty pounds? Why can’t I save enough money to do the things I really want to do? What’s wrong with me?

We blame it on our lack of willpower. Our genetic inheritance. Our own laziness. Or, we try — really, really try. We follow the latest fad diet and exercise like crazy until we tear a muscle, or gain back the weight. We start hoarding money, only to realize that we’ve forgotten to budget enough cash to pay the bills, or buy enough groceries for the family.

Instead of growing, we grow discouraged.

But we’ve forgotten that every positive change starts with small steps. Teeny tiny movements in the right direction. Like learning the sounds of each letter of the alphabet before we are ready to learn to read.

MSNBC’s news website has a lifestyle segment that I often enjoy reading, called Better. Each day, it features tips for one small change that we can take in order to improve in some area of our lives. Sleep better. Eat better. Have better relationships. Be better in the workplace. Manage our finances better. Each time I read one of the articles posted, there, I walk away with new ideas for one small thing to try. One tiny change that may lead me to better habits, and assist me as I strive for excellence.

Because isn’t that what this is all about? Not just trying to grow for the sake of growth, but to strive for excellence. To live our best life possible. To be all that we can be.

I have had a decades-long goal of becoming a better homemaker. I want for my family’s home to be comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and clean. Even back when I was a full-time SAHM/Homemaker, I was a terrible housekeeper. I could cook well, and sew adorable curtains to hang in the windows. I could paint walls and add special touches to make our house feel like home. But our home was rarely ever clean. I’ve certainly come a long way, as have my kids. But I’m still not where I’d like to be.

I began with baby steps. Start by making your bed. I don’t remember where I once read this advice, but after my ex-husband and I split up, I began to make my bed every day. And know what? I grew to appreciate having a well-made bed to sleep in each night. I also began to keep a very clean bedroom. Uncluttered surfaces, vacuumed floors. Each small change added to my daily happiness, and reduced my stress levels. Soon, I hope that this state of being always tidy spreads to the rest of the house. That’s a little tougher, since those are shared spaces, and my kids, well, they remind me of myself twenty years ago. Some days, I wish that they could just magically become organized teens, with neat bedrooms, and organized school binders.

And know what? Someday, they may get there. They just have to start with one small change. The same is true for you, too.

Miss Know-It-All

I’m almost certain that the first word I ever spoke was “Actually.”

Actually, you can’t catch a cold from cold weather.

Actually, there is no solid evidence linking coffee consumption to stunted growth.

Actually, it’s only a myth that sitting close to the television will damage your eyesight.

According to my parents, I was actually a frustrating kid to raise.

 

"According to my research, school buses can't transform into rocket ships." (Shows what you know, Dorothy Ann)

“According to my research, school buses can’t transform into rocket ships.” (Shows what you know, Dorothy Ann)

I was a total Miss Know-It-All. Sometimes, I still am. I have learned to bite my tongue when other people make grammar mistakes or express opinions based on faulty science or understanding. Mostly. But sometimes, the urge to correct wells up like a volcano, until I can’t help but blurt out that dreaded word, “Actually…”

It’s a fault that even annoys me. I mean, it’s obvious that I don’t know everything. I’m not a computer, though I live most of my life glued to one (like one of those scary teens in the book Feed, by M.T. Anderson). However, make one comment about the right/wrong or black/white way to think or do something, and my inner Siri is unleashed, spitting out alternate theories and empirical scientific evidence at 10Gb/s.

Little Miss Brainy

At times, being Miss Know-It-All comes in handy. Those Hermione Granger tendencies can really help me to do well in school or at work, especially when actual analytical thinking is required. It can also be useful having an entire dictionary/thesaurus built in to my brain when writing stories, playing Scrabble, or answering questions.

As my 11yo said the other day, “Why Google anything when we can just ask Mom?”

But it can also be a hindrance, especially in social situations. Who wants to engage in conversation with someone who refutes nearly everything, even if only to play Devil’s Advocate? According to my research, pretty much no one. Except perhaps, for other Know-It-Alls, who adore a good intellectual debate.

Lisa Simpson Know-it-All

Not long ago, someone made a comment that has swirled around in my brain ever since. “So in order to have a conversation with you, a person would pretty much have to have a PhD.” Oops. It would appear that my Smartypants ways can be pretty off-putting to other people. So I am learning – learning when to speak and when to listen. Learning when to counter someone’s faulty opinions and when to keep my thoughts to myself. Learning how to keep the volcano from erupting, no matter how much hot magma flows beneath.

After all, it may appear as though the Miss Know-It-Alls of the world really do know it all. But there is one thing we enjoy doing way more than showing off how smart we are — learning. Yes, actually.

annoying know it all

Actually, we know this, too.