Small Steps vs Big Muddles
Our lives are rarely simply good or simply bad. They are more often than not a mixed bag, or our feelings about the various elements of our lives are mixed. If there are many elements (and there usually are), it is easy to fall into a Muddle about everything. That Muddle is dangerous territory, when you are vulnerable to making poor decisions, rationalizing distracting activities, making unnecessary purchases, saying yes when a clear head would have you say no.
Signs of Muddle are common: cluttered houses, scrambled finances, always running late, too many obligations and not enough down time, piles of unfinished projects, fatigue, eating take-out while good food goes to waste in the fridge, and in general a disordered house and personal life. Many of us who organize and/or unclutter our homes are actually trying to get out of the Muddle. It becomes a practical way to assert some order and structure amidst our mixed feelings about things or life in general. And to a great extent it works, because the results are so clear and beneficial.
Yet even in the midst of uncluttering and simplifying, more Muddle can arise. The sheer joy of a clean drawer can turn into the nightmare of uncluttering a kitchen or your mother’s attic. The exhilaration of leaving behind the 9-5 job to become a professional writer/blogger can become fodder for Muddle when confronted by so many different approaches and bits of advice from more seasoned professionals. A clear task and goal becomes obfuscated by too many things to do to get there and too many different ways to do them. If we care about the goal, we begin to fear we won’t select the right method to achieve it, and thereby lose much time, money, and opportunity. How sad to fail, we think. And we don’t want another sad story in our lives. Muddle crops up, fed by fears, but it also numbs them, and we in turn are numbed into inaction, indecision, inertia.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’ve accomplished a small goal, you already know how to accomplish a larger goal. Start the same way, one small step, one small drawer, one small blog post at a time. Take satisfaction in the small things done, and go on to the next ones. Tackle one box at a time in Mom’s attic. Set aside the same time most days to write. You might not be able to see if the next step to take is the right one or not, but there will be signs along the way if you allow yourself to focus on each step. Things do reveal themselves to you when you take the small steps. It’s like seeing more of the landscape if you drive rather than fly, and still more if you walk or bike. You can’t help but see more of the possibilities as you go along.
If you have worked yourself into a giant Muddle by reading everything you can about simplifying or blogging or starting your own business, you’ve actually done a fairly constructive thing by expanding your knowledge of the possibilities. But that is what they are: possibilities, not guarantees. As you take each small step you will note the lay of the land, and assess what seems doable at that point: do you do more of the same? Do something a little differently? Do it in a way that better suits your temperament or subject? Does something you’ve read about or studied seem applicable at this stage? Or maybe you recall someone in a completely different field or project doing something that worked for them and it is inspiring you to give it a go in your own way?
These small steps are on a day-to-day human scale. They do not ask you to predict or gamble on the future, or to scale mountains in a single bound. They do not inspire fear or leave the mind utterly at sea. Tiny human steps forward build positive feelings, and those feelings make us stronger, clearer, and less Muddled. And that in of itself is a great success.
Check out my other blog: Minimalist Cooking