Have you suffered enough?
When I took the step of explaining my unwillingness to read the same superhero book every night to my son, he was absolutely open to entertaining my thoughts for a solid 3 minutes, which I felt was generous on his part. The gist of my explanation was that I was a little bummed by the message that heroes are different than he and his sister, and that the division into heroes and villains was confusing to me. Full-disclosure, I have my own embarrassing love for action movies and their heroes and heroines. My wife probably regards my willingness to sit through the first Bourne movie yet again with the same tired bemusement that I feel when asked to recite yet again all the villains that Spider Man has beaten.
While I respect the inspirational value of these myths (Bourne is not so far from Captain America, after all) I know that, if we really want to grow, heroic efforts are often pretty useless. The simple truth is that small, consistent behaviors are really the foundation of growth and development.
Changing thoughts and behaviors really means changing habits, and the science of habit is becoming more and more clear. One insight the research provides is that the advantages of starting small are numerous, and I suspect that the disadvantages of over-commitment are familiar to all of us. If anyone reading this has not had the experience of committing to a big change and watching that commitment crumble, I’d love to know about it. You’d be the first.
So. What is the smallest increment of change we could reliably commit to? There is no danger in starting too small. What would be the teeny-tinest of baby steps that you could take today, and tomorrow, and every day for (say) 30 days, to move you away from an unhelpful habit and towards greater peace, joy, and wellbeing?
My sense is that for many of us, it’s actually easier to commit to and even complete a single heroic effort than it is to sustain a small effort. The question, it seems, is have you suffered enough to do something small but consistent?