“I have a dream, but I just don’t know how to make it happen.”
Maybe you want to clean out your garage, once and for all. Maybe you want to start meditating in the morning, eating healthier, or reading to your children at night. Maybe you’d like to spend more time with your sister, or learn how to bring more laughter into your interactions with others. Whatever it is you want, it’s likely that you’ve wanted this for a while. You know that by acting on this dream, life will be better. You will experience a sense of integrity.
But these great ideas don’t drive us on their own. Life often gets in the way, and old habits are hard to break. We begin on the right track, and then lose steam. We start cleaning the garage, get distracted, and then it sits for another two months. We eat really well for two days, and then cave in and go right back to the old patterns. With each attempt and failure, we are likely to get down on ourselves and feel less and less excited about our dream. What was once an exciting vision now starts to feel an uncomfortable reminder of our weakness. It seems like an enticement that, when reached for, will only leave us feeling worse about ourselves. One common coping mechanism is to suppress the desires as soon as they arise. As a result, the more we suppress these desires, the more and more we lose our sense of integrity.
How do we get out of this cycle? How do we follow through with those dreams?
One strategy involves a change in our perspective of the situation. Instead of seeing it as an all-or-nothing event (I’m either healthy or I’m not, the garage is either clean or it isn’t) it can help to see our goal as a compilation of a million tiny steps, each one a victory on its own. If just picking up one piece of trash from the garage is a victory, then you will have no reason to get down on yourself if you decide to stop after that one piece. Chances are, though, if you feel victorious after that small action, you will feel motivated to accomplish one more small victory. And little by little, as you do the very small step that you set out to do, your sense of integrity will grow and grow and grow.
Finally, it can be helpful to remember that what we do with the little things will have strong repercussions on what we do with the big things. As Jesus said, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”