Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Baby Steps

The term "baby steps" has been bugging me lately. I think it's because it's absolutely everywhere. The concept is a good one. Break large tasks, projects, and so on into chunks you can easily manage. But "baby steps"? Can't we figure out some grownup thing to call it?

Probably not. It seems that if we call it something grownup, it will end up sounding like work. "Work?"-choke, as Maynard G. Krebs used to say. (OK--how many of you know who that guy is? lol He was a character on a very old TV show, Dobie Gillis. The guy, Bob Denver, who eventually became super-famous for being Gilligan on Gilligan's Island played the character. I was too young to watch it, but I got to see the reruns when Nickelodeon started running really old TV shows. Great show!!)

Back to "baby steps". I can't think of a better term for it. I'm thinking that my problem with it isn't really what it's called, but that I don't seem to be able to do it. My brain sees the whole project and wants to get there--NOW!! I can break things down into little chunks, but I can't seem to do "today's chunk" and be happy with that. I want to do all the rest of them, too. Thus, my problem with doing habit-changing projects. Their nature is "baby steps" because they don't have a time when they're "done".

Our houses will always have something that needs cleaning. We will always have to exercise. We will always have to make food choices. We will always have to deal with that kind of thing, whatever our particular thing is. And the nature of that bugs me. I like being "done".

Life doesn't work that way. Many projects are never done. So, it's something I have to deal with. And many projects don't get done fast. Many, like writing a novel, making a movie, writing a symphony, and so on, by their nature, take months or even years of small steps to complete. But we can finish the small steps. If I plan to polish my sink, as the Fly Lady suggests for her first day's baby step, and I do it, I've finished something and it doesn't matter if I didn't do other things that weren't one of today's baby steps.

It's so easy to only see what didn't get done and not realize what did. We're all too prone to beating ourselves up because we didn't blah, blah, blah. But do we give ourselves credit for what we did get done? Rarely. That's why most systems of habit-changing suggest we reward ourselves. Or at the very least, pat ourselves on the back. Notice when we do what we want to do, instead of whatever thing we used to do that got us in the mess we're in. Paying attention to the good stuff, instead of the bad stuff is a powerful tool to help us make changes in our lives.

One of my new baby steps is to note in my journal when I do those baby steps. And to stop complaining when I don't do them. I think good planning is the key to being able to do what I want to do. And paying attention to when I follow the plan will make me more likely to keep doing it. I tend to get too hard on myself, like a lot of people do.

Anyway, baby steps, for lack of a better term, do work. If I don't plan more than I can reasonably expect to do and pay attention to the successes, I should make progress. And progress is all anyone can hope for. None of us can ever be perfect and trying to achieve some mental picture of perfection guarantees failure.