Small Act

In the office next door, a co-worker is hammering at the walls. New art is going up. She strolls along the hallway glancing into our offices, gathering ideas. “I just want to do something about this big space,” she says. “It isn’t inviting.”
 
Another co-worker tells me that she left a plate in the sink last night. Unlike me (or just about anyone I know), her challenge is to become more messy instead of less. She has a tendency to put things like sleep further down the list than, say, dusting her bookcase. “And you know what else?” She smiles. “My husband took his shoes off in the hallway, and I just left them there.”
 
It is the last day of January. The New Year is well behind us along with most of the resolutions. Tomorrow morning, treadmills around the world will stand in blinking perplexity at their sudden abandonment. Thousands of just-started screenplays will languish on bedside tables. We return to our familiar selves.
 
Despite this tendency to regress, just about everyone around here is making improvements. Arriving on time, looking up bios of therapists, sending thank-you notes. Marathon training may have fallen off, but one friend actually does bring her own re-usable grocery bags now every day.
 
Sweeping transformations rarely take. Folks create a little more rightness in their lives one simple step at a time. It is the small act, trained into practice, that becomes the way we are.
 
I had fun doing a little research on habit formation recently. The piece I wrote on the topic is up on my department’s website here:
 
Habits in Training: Six Tips for a New Year
 
Hang a picture, hug a friend. The official start of 2013 is behind us. The real New begins right here.
 

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