Have you noticed how certain people really change their lives in impressive and inspiring ways?
People travel the world. Sell everything and move to a tiny house. Simplify their lives down to a backpack’s worth of possessions. They run marathons, raise money for charities, rescue animals, switch careers and move across countries. If you think about it, there are some truly amazing lives being led. Look at all those dream chasers!
And I’m over here just trying to remember if I brushed my teeth today.
People are simplifying their wardrobes down to 33 things and I’m whispering the “please let there be enough clean underwear for everyone” prayer each time I approach the laundry basket. (I swear the washer eats underthings).
I am decidedly not in a radical changes season of life. And it bothers me that sometimes my initial reaction isn’t happiness for the folks doing these awesome things. Sometimes I’m jealous.
Now I hope I’m self-aware enough to recognize those flashes of jealousy for what they are: discontent.
And probably not the most mature response to someone else’s hard work and commitment to a goal.
I’m desiring something else for my life. Or maybe I’ve just had a really long day and what I’m jealous of is their ability to change, even if I wouldn’t want that specific change for my life.
Do I want to run a marathon? Nope. Not really. But feeling healthier sure would be nice.
Do I really want to travel the world? Well, okay, I do but in the current moment what I am really sad about is that it has been too long since my husband and I had a date.
Couples are flying off to Paris or London and I just want to go see a movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I have made life-altering decisions: I’ve gotten married, I’m a parent, and for the past three years my special needs adult sister-in-law has lived with us.
My life is not what it was 20 years ago. I’ve flipped that 22-year-old’s world upside-down and then some.
And I love it!
So, when I’m not feeling that twinge of envy, when I step back for some perspective, I can acknowledge that my life has gone through periods of major change. There have even been moments when outsiders have peeked in and thought what I was doing was radical.
I can also realize that small changes in my life are a pretty sweet deal, too.
I am starting to see, and maybe for the first time in my 42 years, that I honestly appreciate the small gesture. The evening of babysitting so a couple with young children can have a real date. Letting your spouse sleep in on a Saturday morning. An extra twenty dollars for the emergency fund. A compliment.
So I’m trying to teach myself during those envious moments to stop and ask why? Why is this causing me jealousy? Especially when I don’t even desire that specific milestone for myself.
What am I feeling discontent about? Have I been adding up the small changes in my own life?
Because small change does add up. And while I’m not in a radical life changes season, I am in a small victories season. Small victories matter.
Yesterday’s small victory was that no one who lives here had a potty accident. And that, friends, absolutely is a life-changing event compared to the day before. The quality of life for the mama and caregiver on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor improved greatly, even if just for a day.
It doesn’t have to be a major event to make an impact. I keep underestimating the power I have: I can improve life in small, but significant, baby steps.
I can take care of them every day and see results. I need to be reminded of that, of the low stakes but potentially high impact decisions. The value of mindfulness.
- Saying I love you.
- Cutting the crusts off.
- Buying used.
- Thank you. You’re welcome.
- Sticking to the budget.
- Getting up earlier than the kids.
It isn’t going to be a viral sensation and it won’t change my life in a drastic overnight kind of way, but it’s an improvement, a positive thing, a moment that’s worth it.
- An expression of adoration.
- A small kindness.
- A social responsibility.
- Good manners.
- A step closer to our financial goals.
- A calmer start to the day.
- Good for my health.
And every single one totally doable, totally worth the small amount of time, effort, or even inconvenience.
I was listening to a podcast recently about a mother who loved to sew but was frustrated because it didn’t seem to fit into her life now. She set up her sewing machine in a corner of the living room and put a baby gate around it. The toddler couldn’t get into it and she didn’t have to waste the 20 minutes of precious free time she got setting up her machine each time she wanted to sew: it was already set up and waiting for her. A simple, but genius change!
And that list I made initially? Those marathoners and world travelers? The career changers? They didn’t just wake up one day and run or launch or move. Those things came after what I am going to guess were several months, if not years, of baby steps and preparation.
The end results I’m sometimes jealous of? I’m not witness to the struggles, the sleepless nights, the study sessions, the sacrifices, and the daily decisions that led to the outcomes, so I don’t always think about that part of it.
People pay off their debts or save for travel adventures one weekly budget at a time. How’s that for the literal power of small change?
There is always a “behind the scenes” and a backstory. And most of those backstories are written with the ink of hundreds of smaller decisions. The miles run or traveled started one baby step at a time.
Let’s hear it for the small victories! It doesn’t have to be radical.