A Big Fan of Small Change

Maybe you know, or maybe you don’t, but I like to imagine that there’s a big sign on my office wall that says “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” It isn’t actually there, but I like to pretend it is, and I quote it all the time. It’s not important to hit the track like you’re training for the Olympics. It’s not reasonable to think you should be able to lose 20 lbs. by next month. And it’s definitely not in the cards for you to become the next meditation guru. But it’s not necessary either.

Has anyone suggested recently that you try to carve out 20 minutes for a daily meditation? Have you felt like they had two heads? Okay, maybe 20 minutes is entirely unrealistic. What about 10 minutes? Still too much? What about 5? Still shaking your head? All right then, what about sitting quietly in your car, eyes closed, for just 2 minutes every day after work before you put the key into the ignition and head for home? Can you put yourself first for just two minutes, once a day? Maybe just a few times a week? In a few months, maybe I’ll be able to talk you into trying for 3 minutes.

Remember that even though 10 is twice 5, 5 is infinitely more than zero. I like that– it’s true not just mathematically, but conceptually as well. A few minutes of stretching is an awful lot more than none at all.

In general, I feel strongly that people do the best they can. It may not be a lot, but it’s good enough. It has to be. And, if you’re still not convinced, in any case it’s a start. One of my colleagues gets his extremely sedentary patients to agree to start walking 2 minutes a day, with a 1 minute increase every week. The plan is be walking 20 minutes a day within four or five months. And guess what? It works. That’s why I’m a big fan of small changes.

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