Overcoming challenges - the power of starting small.

The last month has been a busy one here in the Defining Moves cupboard. I have been wrestling with the combined challenges of visitors, visiting, the summer break, Wiggy heading off to Europe and Feisty’s inexhaustable supply of energy. The strain is starting to tell, and the writing is bearing the brunt.

Falling off the blogging wagon has had an interesting effect. I imagined that a break would fill me full of inspiration, a sense of wellbeing and a general zest for life. In reality, it has made me very, very reluctant to restart. It’s as if the last 18 months of penmanship never happened, and I’m back to square one.

I have become trapped by the tyranny of perfection; constantly looking at a screen, waiting for perfect, timely and insightful words to flood to my fingertips. The wisdom of the 80/20 rule, the knowledge that perfection is the enemy of done, all have abandoned me, leaving an echoing silence in their wake.

I have built a huge creative barrier, brick by brick, to the point that I am now using any and all avoidance strategies possible. While many turn to housecleaning or exercise to escape the pressures waiting back on the desk, I have chosen to go for the easier route. Netflix.

Never has a subscription been so well used. I have worked my way through 7 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, 4 seasons of White Collar and 5 seasons of Mad Men. I’m not exactly productive. If I could harness the creativity of my aversion strategies into solving bigger problems, the global economic crisis would be a distant memory and we would all be enjoying world peace. I am that good.

Clearly I have a problem, and I know I am not unique. The longer we stay away from something, the more distant it becomes and the more insurmountable the task seems. It applies to everything from losing weight to running a marathon, starting a new job to relocating across the world, walking into a room full of people you don’t know to public speaking. We all have our fears, and facing them is far more difficult than we give ourselves credit for. So instead, we avoid them at all costs.

With expat relocation, the temptation is to close our eyes and jump right in, completely unprepared. We bury ourselves in the details, the what-to-take-what-to-leave dilemmas, the how-many-children-are-in-the-class-and-are-there-team-sports questions rather than the do-we-have-a will or do we-have-a-financial-safety-net ones that underline the realities of moving. We replace the important with the urgent, the uncomfortable with the manageable, only facing the music when it’s playing so loudly that everything else is drowned out.

It’s part of life, and it happens constantly in both personal and business life. Business managers have turned to an approach called ‘kaizen’, the Japanese strategy for continuous, incremental improvement, but it has equal relevance to those of us struggling with huge changes. It’s underlying assumption is that life is a content process of learning and improvement, but that small steps have more lasting, reliable impact than giant leaps.

It’s an approach that I love, because some days it’s as much as I can do to keep facing the right direction, let alone race into the unknown – especially when I desperately want to run back to the comfort of an unchallenged life. In the kaizen approach, acknowledging that you will eventually get there is enough, being patient with yourself while you are struggling is vital, and that every success, however small, is worth celebrating.

It’s the only reason that Defining Moves ever made it out into the world – the idea that I could figure it out gradually, and that you would all be patient enough to bear with me. It’s become one of the most important characteristics of the site – reminding you what needs to be done, safe in the knowledge that we all make mistakes, we can’t do it all, and we are all human.

And that’s enough for us.

Tagged with:

9 Responses to Overcoming challenges and managing change – the power of starting small.

  1. Liz says:

    Know how you feel!I like the sound of the kaizen approach!
    Glad you could drag yourself away from Netflix! You did it! Great website, great blogs, so helpful, funny and so true!

  2. Judy says:

    I had the kaizen experience while learning Tai Chi in Dubai. At first I would just practise a couple of times a week, spending quite a long time each time, trying to improve. My teacher said that it was better to just do it for a short while but every day and not try so hard. Some day I felt like I was just going through the motions, but I stuck with it and simply tried to enjoy what I could do, rather than focus on what I couldn’t do. Gradually I could tell I was getting better, even though I didn’t feel that I was working very hard at it. It taught me a valuable lesson about learning new physical skills. Maybe I should apply it to my blogging!

    • Rachel Yates says:

      I desperately want to learn yoga, but am so stiff that it took two years to touch my toes. Do they do yoga for the completely hopeless, do you think?

  3. Evan says:

    Hi Rach,

    I have not tried the Kaizen approach yet. I have found solace in the thought that in a sea of crap, mediocre can look good; well the philosophy has kept me going so far with my blog!

    I have had a number of occasions when I regret deciding to post every day, but the thought that I have to update the blog does actually help sharpen the mind; each little step everyday is indeed important.

    The challenging days when I am late back and work has been difficult can often produce the most inspiring images and words. I have wondered if these times could be ‘harnessed’ somehow, however I think I would rather have every day happy and every post pants.

    Best regards,


    • Rachel Yates says:

      Bearing in mind that your photo of a diary is now my screen saver, I think you have little to worry about. And for me, that’s the fun of the blog – perennially chirpy would get very old, very fast!

  4. Mandy says:

    This rings SO true. I have been in the process of writing my novel for about 7 years now and it terrifies me every time I think about trying to get it finished. In an attempt to do so I am sending the kids away to camp next week and Ian is away on business so it’s just me! I am trying to get rid of every possible distraction and procrastination device this week so that next week becomes productive. Perhaps knowing that someone else out there knows I have this goal will help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>