Five Small Decisions that Changed My Life

When your life feels overwhelming, real and lasting change can seem impossible. This is especially true if in the past you have tried over and over to implement a new diet, consistently get to the gym, better manage your time, organize your house, etc. only to lose your momentum and give up completely when you crumble under the weight of stress or exhaustion. And then the guilt sets in, and the shame. The negative voices in your head label you as hopeless, and you believe them.

I am very familiar with that vicious cycle of all or nothingness. For decades, I was a victim of my own extremes when it came to habits and self-discipline. My perfectionism was misguided and unrealistic. It set me up to fail again and again. What finally broke that cycle and opened the door to lasting, balanced growth was embracing baby steps and acknowledging that my transformation was 1000% dependent on Christ to guide me, fill me with Himself, and override my frailties with His strength.

Instead of expecting an immediate and total conversion to a more peaceful and productive existence, I surrendered to the reality of  growth as a lifelong process consisting of many ups and downs, and small choices and revelations throughout each day. I discovered that faithfulness to little changes can produce big results and a healthier mindset. In this post, I want to share with you five small personal decisions that have had a profound impact on my behaviors and perspectives.

  1.     To Start My Day With Prayer and Silence

This was an absolute game changer for me. Once I got in the habit of meeting Christ in the quiet and inviting Him into my day, I began feeling anchored to a peace that was bigger than my circumstances. When I got out of my own way and submitted to the good and loving will of God, I started to find meaning in everything: the happy things and hard things, even my mistakes and frustrations. Every interruption and conversation became an invitation to allow Christ to enlighten me, use me to spread love, or lead me to repentance. This one decision, more than any other, delivered me from chronic stress and anxiety and opened the door to a new way of, present-tense, living.

  1.     To Clean Out My Closet

Back when my house was overrun with chaos and clutter, I longed to turn it upside down, shake out all of the stuff and start over. The more the mess stressed me out, the more I avoided it. My mind would short-circuit when it thought about every room and drawer crammed with things we didn’t need. I was stuck and deflated. Finally, I challenged myself to simply clean out my closet. That’s it. It could be done in a day and seemed like the least intimidating decluttering task to try and tackle. A few hours later, after going through every item of clothing I owned and donating 70% of it, I was left with a beautiful calming space containing only the clothing I loved, hung and folded neatly. It felt AMAZING. It brought me so much joy in fact, I found the courage to clean out our bathroom cabinet, then my nightstand. Each little victory propelled me forward and gave me the energy to do more. Cleaning out my closet sparked a personal revolution and taught me that one good decision leads to another…and another…and another…

  1.     To Cancel Amazon Prime

I have a confession to make: I’m an impulse buyer. It’s not that I spend a lot on my purchases; I’m really good at finding incredible deals. I’ll drop a few dollars here, a few dollars there on clearance items or fabulous second-hand finds, but those few dollars add up, and those clearance items can very easily turn into clutter. I have a hard time letting urges pass and dissolve. It’s a weakness that has always felt stronger than my resolve to resist it. I needed help, and then “help” came, in the form of a global pandemic. Suddenly, all my hot spots (Target, Marshalls, Homegoods, our local resale shop) were off limits and I was forced to make-do with the things I already owned…or just go without. Months ago, we’d let our Amazon Prime subscription expire and because of the pandemic I was tempted to renew it. But I had actually been making pretty good progress with curbing my addiction to spending and learning to be resourceful, and content with less. I was afraid that two-day free shipping would lure me right back into spending as a means of stress relief.  It turns out that the added shipping fee provides me with the pause I need to stop and think before “adding to cart.”  Learning to tell myself “no”…”wait”…. “sleep on it”… has been liberating.

  1.     To Tidy Up My House Every Day

It turns out you have to be home to manage a home. It takes time and consistency to keep things tidy and running smoothly. My kids used to dread the Saturday all-day family clean-up. All week long, we’d run from one errand, practice, or game to the next letting the mess and laundry accumulate until I couldn’t take it anymore, and then there would be crying and gnashing of teeth when I’d declare, “That’s it! No one’s going anywhere until your rooms are clean and this house is back in order!” After our big whole house declutter at the beginning of 2019, I made some changes to my daily routine. One of them was dedicating thirty minutes to an hour of each weekday to home maintenance. By chipping away at our chores all week, and being more consistent about putting things back in their proper place, we’ve been able to keep our home, not perfect, but warm and welcoming. We now spend our Saturdays on more pleasant activities, like hikes or creative projects. Defining “success” as finishing a scheduled chore for the day instead of “cleaning the entire house” helped me find contentment in a job that is never really “done.”

  1.     To Speak Less and Pray More

More times than I care to admit, I’ve assumed the worst about a person, or group, or situation, without understanding the entire story or what suffering had been endured. I have let my heart be troubled and hardened by opinions different from my own. I have offered my two cents without it being asked for, only to realize later I’d been wrong. I’ve wrestled with regret and have strained relationships by trying to control someone else’s reactions, decisions, or future. I’ve been misunderstood myself, and it hurt. Finally, I found relief in speaking less and praying more. I pray fervently for my loved ones, for my community, and for this world, and then pray for the discipline to keep my mouth shut. Guarding my tongue and resisting the temptation to engage judgmental thoughts keeps my spirit at peace and heart soft and compassionate. I’ve got my own soul to work on and salvific path to follow.

Every day is teeming with opportunities for growth and renewal.

Distraction and overwhelm blind me to them, but simplicity and intentionality reveal the presence of God in the smallest of details. I am a work in progress, ever evolving with each new edifying habit formed and negative habit shed. When it comes to transformation, baby steps are what get the ball rolling! 

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