One Small Step to Change

Last night during some web searching (for what I have no clue anymore), I came across a book titled “One Small Step Can Change Your Life:  The Kaizen Way” by Robert Maurer.  I’ll likely be ordering the book, but for now I had to make do with what I’ve found about it on the internet.  ( see: or )  Basically, the idea it gave me, was that instead of trying to motivate myself to do big things, like chores, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, learn some skills for earning money, etc., instead I ask myself questions like “What one small thing can I do towards improving [insert some goal]?”

For example, during this cold I lost the No S eating habits I had gained.  And I’ve been dreading having to start all over again, and so have been putting it off.  But last night, while we sat down for an S snack (pecan pie + french vanilla ice cream), I had just finished reading up on this Kaizen book, this concept.  Looking at my food, I was thinking, “What one small thing can I change about this to make it not quite as bad as it could be? (in terms of weight, health, etc)”  Well, the ice cream wasn’t tasting right, taking a small step to get rid of the ice cream was easy.  As I ate the pie with the ice cream removed, I was still asking myself the question “What one small thing can I change about this to make it not quite so bad?”  Well, the crust was actually kind of nasty.  It was really easy to just not eat that part and throw it away.  So, while I still got a bunch of really bad for me sugar . . . the total snack wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  No where near as bad.

Similar thing this morning.  We sat down for breakfast.  Saturdays we have cold cereal in large bowls.  Often times we get another refill of cereal to make use of the left over milk.  During breakfast I kept asking myself “What small thing can i change about this to make it not quite so bad?”  I really love the taste of the cereal, and knew that it would be difficult to not get a second helping.  However, I DID slow down my eating, chewed really well, and “sculpted my mind” by imagining being done with the meal when I finished this bowl.  In other words, not getting a second bowl.  And simple as that, as slowing down, really tasting and enjoying the taste and texture of the food, and imagining being done with the last bite, I didn’t feel a strong urge to get seconds.  There was still a small urge there, but it was easy to not act on it.  And so, breakfast wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Another example, last night when it was time to say goodnight to Manta, I introduced her to the concept.  I took her to her bathroom, and asked her “What small thing can you do here to help clean this room up some?”  Initially she said what she expected me to agree with “I could clean the sink.”  I said yes, she could, but I was thinking something smaller she could do, one small step.  After a little more guessing for what she thought i wanted to hear, and me saying “smaller than that, simpler than that”,  she finally said she could put a hair clip away.  Yep.  So she pulled out her hair clip box, and picked up one of her hair clips and put it in.  Then, since the box was already there, open, she grabbed the other two hair clips that were laying around and put those in too.  Then she said Ha, I did more  😛 .  lol   Then I took her into her room and asked “What small thing could you do in here to help clean this room up?”  She pointed to a pile of jackets and said she could pick that up.  I let her pick up a couple of them, hang them up, and when she went to pick up other stuff in the pile I told her that that was all I was looking for.  Just one small thing.  If she wanted to continue picking it up, she could.  But that she had already done what I was asking.  She went ahead and put a couple more things away and then left the rest of the pile there.

This morning, I told her that since it was too much hassle to try to get her to not be on the computer all the time, that she would be allowed to be on the computer for 30 minutes if she did two small things, or one big thing, in her bathroom and/or bedroom.  So we went to her bathroom, and picked up a towel on the floor that had been used to soak up some dripping water from the ceiling (prior to placing a bucket underneath to catch the dripping water).  While there, and since it needed to be washed, I mentioned that if she washed the other items that get washed with that (toilet seat cover, shower mat, bath towel), then it would count as one big thing and earn her 30 minutes on the computer.  She willingly put all those things into the washer.  Then she asked me if doing her laundry would count as one big thing.  I said yes, as long as she also dried and folded them and put them away.  She was happy.  So all morning, when her 30 min are up, she’s worked on her laundry a bit, and then gone back to the computer for another 30 min as her reward.  This has been very helpful so far.  Normally we wind up fighting about her leaving her stuff in the washer, and not doing any of her laundry, etc.  But so far this morning, she’s done her laundry without being reminded, and since what she’s doing is pretty small, she’s not freezing up nor freaking out over ALL the things she has to do, etc.

Myself, I’ve set myself the task last night and this morning that I had to do some small thing in each room, our bathroom, our bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room.  And sure enough, I did a small thing or two in each room.  And now have permission to not do anything for the rest of the day…though with a small urge to do another round later this afternoon or evening.

So far, I’m quite happy.  I feel relaxed.  And my mind has been running it through my head, and mentally applying it to other areas of my life.  It’s a simple question, with a simple answer, and can be done spur of the moment without requiring any planning, etc.  It’s similar to the Next Action of Getting Things Done, but is much simpler, imo… though it does have its limits, which something like Next Action can cover elsewhere.  I’m not beating myself up telling myself of all the things I’ve got to get done, and how in the world am I going to accomplish it all.  I feel good that when I’m in the mood to do something, I can just ask myself what small thing can I do right now to improve whatever (aka my life, home, relationships, etc).  Without having to feel as if I have to make a huge amount of changes all at once.


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