Not every difficulty is a trauma or a drama. Though from the articles, videos and adverts describing EFT, NLP and other techniques you would think that was all these approaches were for.
But I think it’s possible to make real progress to feeling happier and less stressed by starting small and working on the everyday difficulties of life. The kind of issues that would never make it into a testimonial or a You Tube video.
In my late 20s I decided to take up running as a way to keep fit.
At school I was a miserable athlete: a combination of asthma and a profound lack of interest in sport. My experience of running on the school track was that me and the fat boy (there was only one fat boy per class back in those days) would be way behind the rest of the class as we wheezed our way around the track.
That Christmas I got myself a track suit and every morning I walked the short distance from my house to the school track I’d hated as a kid. Four times round the track was one mile. My target was eventually to run a mile.
I started by walking and jogging, walking and jogging around the track. At first there was a lot of walking and not much jogging. With persistence, the amount of walking diminished and the running increased.
After a month of daily practice I ran (slowly) four laps of the track. I was so amazed and pleased with my performance I remember I sang the tune from Rocky as I ran down the final straight to the finishing line.
Three months later I ran in a 10K race coming 79th out of 120 people (not too bad for a first attempt).
Since then I’ve ran off and on for 20 years, completing four half-marathons, a feat that would have shocked my PE teachers.
If I had decided to take up running for health and tried to do a half marathon as my very first run it would have been a disaster.
I started small and built up my strength and skill as I went along. I think that it can be the same with your self-help tool of choice.
There are seven good reasons for starting small :
- It’s easier: At the beginning of any process you are a learner and your level of skill is modest. Applying what you know to small difficulties gives you the best chance of success. You don’t need to be a super-skilled practitioner to make small changes.
- It’s encouraging: Every success is encouraging, it gives you the motivation to persist and you make even more progress.
- It gives you a bit of wiggle room: The more of your unhelpful reactions you release the more room to manoeuvre you get. The easier it is to be in the world and the greater your flexibility and capability. With more wiggle room you can do more and address more difficult issues.
- It’s safer: If whatever difficulty you are facing is challenging, it is much safer to work on small stuff first so that you have the skill and resilience to handle whatever arises. You don’t have to tackle overwhelming challenges while you are learning the ropes. As you learn more and get more confident you can tackle bigger difficulties.
- You can experiment: If you are working on smaller issues it’s easier to build up your understanding and experiment with whatever process you are using to get the best results. It’s difficult to become adept at a skill if you have been thrown in at the deep end and have to struggle to stay afloat.
- You can make changes for the better: Even small changes will improve your life. It’s better to make progress than be paralysed by the scale of some of your bigger problems. (If the problems are that big, it’s probably better that you get some professional help with them).
- It’s habit forming: The more work you do, the more practice you get, the more likely you are to turn to your tool of choice when you need to. Each benefit makes the process self-propelling.
So, if you are looking for something to work on, what is the smallest thing that you could change to make a difference?
Start with that … then move on to the next … and the next … and the next.Image courtesy of Chalky Lives