To think big, start small

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.” – Peter Marshall

In my clinical practice, I am often asked how to get rid of stubborn, bad habits, compulsive behavior, and addictions. People report previous efforts that have been unsuccessful, frustration with halting progress followed by relapse, and feeling powerless under the sway of an enormous foe. What can we do? Perhaps the answer lies in doing small things that can lead to greater changes.

In the Broken Windows Theory from the field of criminology, we learn that drastic reduction in big city crime rates is often a function of relentless focus on eliminating nuisance crimes that lay at the heart of heinous ones. Rather than allocating every resource to preventing murder and rape, some significant focus is also paid to stopping littering, property defacement, and fare-beating. It seems counter intuitive, but it makes sense. When a carjacker arrives at a littered street with graffiti tagged walls, he concludes, “Nobody cares here; this is the perfect place to rob someone.”

The same holds true for our own internal landscapes. Procrastination, chronic deceitfulness, compulsive shopping, and other destructive ills often take hold where a welcoming environment of lax, undisciplined, and unhealthy attitudes and behaviors forms the bedrock. Once the insidious habits grow, they become highly resistant to removal and feed on our hopeless efforts to cut them off. If we allocate more of our resources to getting up in the morning, having a healthy breakfast, and starting our day off on the right foot, this can be more effective than fighting the beast of depression. Rather than attempting to dislodge deep-seated procrastination, we can focus on resisting the tiny temptation of a time-sapping television show. It may seem insignificant when faced with greater challenges, but sometimes small deeds done are more effective and empowering than great deeds planned.

What small changes can you make today to create big changes tomorrow?

Credit // Author: Dr. Joel Núñez