When I was much younger, a family friend did a little demonstration for me that I will never forget. He asked me to take a piece of standard, ruled notebook paper from my folder and place it on the dining room table. I did it in about 5 seconds and he then asked me how difficult it had been.
Of course I thought it was a trick question at first! But I knew he was a very smart guy and wouldn’t ask unless there was likely a good reason. So I humored him and said it was beyond easy. (I had learned to humor my elders a lot by that age as they seemed always to be either baffling or boring.)
Then he asked me if I thought it would also be easy to do that every day for a year. Of course I quickly said it would be too simple to even think about.
Then he asked me to count out 365 sheets of paper, one by one, right then, and place them in a stack on the table.
You can imagine my response.
“No.” was an understatement and the demonstration had quickly changed from a curiosity to something that looked suspiciously like work. But that was exactly the point.
What was easy as pie when done over the course of a year, every day, suddenly became boring, misery-making work when attempted all at once. And not only was it work, it was, more importantly, something that I wouldn’t even consider doing at all.
That lesson has never left me. I know now that when I take small actions, make small steps consistently, even the tiniest actions keep building and building over time. And if those actions are positive ones, things that move me toward my fondest wishes and desires, before I know it, I can have a hell of a lot more than a stack of paper sitting on my dining room table.
And as it turns out, this is the only way anything great, or small, or wonderful has ever been accomplished! We can actually use this principle to completely re-make and transform our lives for the better.
If It’s So Amazingly Simple, Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?
The concept of small, easy steps taken daily seems simple, even to a child, but the real issue isn’t about this idea at all. The real problem arises with the nature of consciousness, or should I say, unconsciousness.
When we are born, we have only the obvious things to do and there’s not much, if any thought that goes into the actions we perform.
As we grow older we become aware of the amazing powers we have. We can actually make choices and create specific outcomes in our lives. At least within the boundaries of reality like gravity, other people, and tempting ice cream treats.
But a funny thing happens, or actually keeps happening, at the same time we are making all these marvelous and amazing conscious choices. We still have, and continue to create, unconscious behaviors that influence our ability to make choices and take actions toward our goals.
These unconscious behaviors can either support our conscious goals or sabotage them. Unfortunately, it ends up being a bit of a crap shoot since the very nature of these unconscious behaviors is the fact that they’re unconscious! Some behaviors will help us, other’s will sabotage—it’s really a roll of the dice.
And this is why the simple principle illustrated above—taking small, easy actions over time—never seems to work like we think it should.
Here Comes the Real Challenge
So what do we do? It’s a little much to ask that we suddenly become conscious of our unconscious behaviors—the very things we can’t see. It’s actually impossible. But the solution is also quite simple.
Luckily for us, although we can’t see our own unconscious behaviors, it’s a snap to see everyone else’s. And herein lies the secret to major, glowing, joyful, stupendous success when you make the conscious choice to seek out others who can help you.
But when was the last time you walked up to someone and deliberately asked them to tell you about your bad habits? Never? Almost never? Right, I thought so. Well, I didn’t say the solution was easy! But there are harder and easier ways to go about it.
Find a Loving Group of Peers Seeking Similar Goals
I think the worst thing we can do is ask close friends or family to give us this kind of personal feedback. They tend to have a vested interest in the version of us that they already know and love. And sometimes, your changing is not such a good thing in their eyes.
Granted they can also see things that you can’t and may also get at deeper issues because they’re so close to you, but even then, it’s also harder to accept advice from them—it may create resentment on both sides. It’s sort of a spiritual, double-whammy challenge in that respect.
What we need is someone who doesn’t know as much about who we have been, but who we want to become. And that’s why supportive groups have gathered for mutual self-transformation throughout time.
Finding and joining a group is the key to creating some of the most rapid, positive change in your life. It will help you put into place all the simple and easy daily practices that you may have wanted to do for years.
But beyond that, it will also help you quickly notice when you veer off course and get stuck in old, unconscious, negative behaviors. You can feel safe asking for help. You can offer the same kindness in return. Over time, the group can become a wonderful, safe haven where you grow your lovely dreams into a brilliant new reality.
Ultimately, a group with an experienced guide, all working toward a similar goal of positive life-change will help you create a reality that’s worlds better than the one you may have decided was the best you could hope for. It doesn’t matter which group you join, just make sure it’s one in which you feel safe to express yourself and know you’ll be accepted for who you are now and who you want to become.
Perhaps today will be the day you take out your sheet of notebook paper and put it on the dining room table.
P.S. – This month is Apprenticeship Class month and that means the doors of the wonderful group that I work with are open until the end of February. If you are ready to take your own self-development to the next level and start down a wondrous new path, I encourage you to find out more and apply for membership. I would love to welcome you into this warm, safe, and transformative group!