Small change is ok

I can’t stop rape by myself, but I can refuse to tolerate inappropriate and disrespectful behavior from the men (and women) in my classes.  I can show students resources, and issues, and hope to inspire a new generation of activists.

I can’t fix the American education system, but I can tutor and give scholarships.  And I can fix math anxiety in my own students.  I can present them with research about the advantages of a growth mindset.

I can’t fix the problems with unwanted animals in the country, but I can donate to shelters and save a couple of kitties.  Of course, we have our own fixed, too.

I can’t feed the world, or give everybody books to read, but I can donate to the local food shelter and local book program.

While it’s true that where you live and what you drive will have bigger impacts on your wallet and on the planet than the latte factor, if the latte factor is all you feel able to address right now, start with that.

Some flossing is better than none; it’s not quite but almost as good as daily flossing.

Writing 1 sentence a day may be a suboptimal way to write a paper, but it’s hella better than waiting for the perfect time or inspiration, and sometimes it leads to an entire paragraph.  Boice is all about this with his daily sessions.  15 min of writing is better than none and leads to greater things.

All-or-nothing thinking leads to burnout, discouragement, apathy.  One thing at a time.

Snowball your debt– even small contributions will add up over the long term when you have high interest.

Instead of the bestest blog post ever, we’ll post this one now, so you can all start the conversation with us.

I sound pretty disgustingly hopeful here, eh?

Some days you dismantle patriarchy; other days, the most radical action you have energy for is turning off the TV.

What radical action did you do today?

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50 Responses to “Small change is ok”

  1. L Says:

    Yay, you! One good thing a day and sometimes just no bad things, IS progress. Hopeful isn’t disgusting, it’s empowering.

  2. Liz Says:

    I did some of the dishes this morning… and the rest will happen later. But some > none, especially since I knocked out some of the more awkward pieces to deal with.

    Thanks for the great reminders!!

  3. Liz Says:

    Great post and good attitude to have. For me, this particularly applies to fitness/diet goals. I’m attending a networking event tonight and will try to take this attitude there, where meeting just one new person and having a conversation, even if semi-awkward, is better than nothing :)

  4. OMDG Says:

    I forced myself to finally — FINALLY — figure out how to use the marginsplot command to produce black and white graphs in stata. This was no small feat. Now I am forcing myself to finish making my figures. With luck I will have them done within the hour. Then I can move on to reworking my review of an article I’m reviewing.

  5. Rented Life Says:

    Put the baby down. Ze’s slept with us/in our arms 98% of the time since being home. It’s hard to get things done, and I can’t get everything done on my smart phone (though thank god I have one, I can stay caught up on work emails). We want to transition to his own bed and own nap space and today…it’s been 20 minutes so far. After only 3 hours of sleep (for me) last night, and two and a half very rough weeks sleeping wise, this is enough of a start.

    Oh and I’ve been reading all your stuff on retirement/money etc and sending links to husband (who is not the financial person) so we can 1) make a plan and 2) he knows what I’m doing. That feels pretty big. Not huge change the world stuff here but that’s ok.

  6. Linda Says:

    I attended an inspiring productivity training course all day yesterday and have started today by putting what I’ve learned into practice. I’ve been triaging my Inbox all morning and getting things done! Woot!

    One of the personal goals I’ve already accomplished today: going to the gym for a 30 minute walk/run session on the treadmill. Earlier this morning I also did the short (10-15 min) yoga routine I found on YouTube last year.

    None of this has been radical for anyone but me, but you asked!

  7. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I spent 30 minutes writing fiction. This book is trying to come out of me, but I have to put fingers to keys. I wrote 600 words and have no idea what happens next. It just happens like a movie in my head, but only when I am actively writing. I cannot outline a story. It just has to happen. This method has worked for some excellent short stories I have written in the past. The short stories were always written with the idea that they were part of a novel about the South.

    Plus, I made the decision to do what I promised a professor I would do 20 years ago. I am writing an online journal in a private blog that will tell all that happened in a very tortured marriage to a minister and the horrendous aftermath of the divorce that continues to this day. It is a downer but my sociology professor thought it was unique enough and horrendous enough to write and share. People will understand more fully why minister’s wives kill their husbands. Anyone who asks can be given permission to read the blog.

    Since I have my 50th high school reunion this October, I am starting now to prepare the body and face for the event. These body change I should have done immediately after the last reunion five years ago. Losing the weight is important. Finding the right makeup is frivolous. Every five years, I have bought a bottle of foundation to use once. Not buying one five years ago was a mistake. I know–this is frivolous.

    • Savvy Working Gal Says:

      One of my friends in college was a minister’s daughter. She didn’t have very good things to say about her father. Her parents eventually divorce. Your story sounds interesting.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        You may read it if you like. I will keep you in mind for an invitation. The only reason I won’t do this openly is because he has enough money to beat me up once again in court to stop me. Plus, I do not want to destroy my children any more than he has.

    • Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

      I have more than a handful of college friends who decided to go into ministry, and they were almost all very complicated individuals with very skewed perceptions of how they fit into the world, as well as what things in the world needed fixing. Makes me wonder what the ratio of happy/normal people to miserable/complicated/tortured souls is in that line of work. I really hope you find some good out of telling your story. :) It sounds like you deserve it.

      Re: your body/face plans… have you thought about Birchbox? I realize that some of their full-sized items are pretty expensive, but it might be a cheap and easy way for you to experiment with some different things without being overwhelmed with choices or spending a lot of time at the store (since it comes in the mail). I totally missed the whole “experiment with your looks” time since I was such a tomboy in high school, and now I have a hard time shelling out any amount of money for makeup unless it’s guaranteed to not make me look like plastic or a clown. I’ve realized that spending a little extra money on skin care products keeps me mostly breakout-free (which is worth it at this point in my life), so I finally bought myself a membership a couple of weeks ago. Haven’t gotten a box yet, but my grad student girlfriends are all sold on it.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        I believe the number might be higher than anyone would guess. Back when I had internalized all his abuse (actually, I fought against it all the time)…… Okay, I had to justify my relationship rather than have anyone think I was in a bad place, which I was. People can comment and ask questions. I will not answer a question except to make it a post. I will not post a critical comment because this will be hard for me. You know, “It takes two to make a marriage.” I will take no blame except for having believed him and having married him. I was a pretty good doormat even though I flopped under his feet trying to get up all the time.

        For my health, I need to lose weight. I can figure out the clothes, but I will look into Birchbox. I hate makeup with a passion. As I get older, I am fading and look pale. I don’t want makeup that settles into the few wrinkles I have. Yes, I only look at my face in dim light…lol. Sunlight viewing is not allowed. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Leah Says:

      RE: makeup, I hate it too. But if you want to use some, I really recommend going to a place to try out mineral makeup. Don’t do it on your own — it’s hard to color match. I went to Ulta to get mine. I wear my mineral makeup maybe 2-3 times a year (weddings or fancy parties and Christmas to appease my mother), so it was a really pricey investment. You could get enough to work for about $100, I think. But it won’t go bad like a bottle of liquid foundation will, so you should be able to keep the mineral stuff around for the few times you’ll want to wear makeup. Plus, the mineral stuff feels much lighter and is comfortable to wear. I don’t even really notice it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That still seems like a lot of work and money, but hey, if it works for you then rock on!

      • Leah Says:

        My mom dragged me there, so I just mark it down as “quality time.” She bought the makeup too. But it has been nice to know that my makeup won’t go bad. The bag just sits in a little tucked away area, and it’s a tiny bag.

        Far better than actually wearing makeup daily or buying makeup to wear once then throwing it out.

  8. Cardinal Says:

    I spent ten minutes on the phone counselling a student from another U who wants to apply to our grad program. Student is doing well in current undergrad but is gripped by shame over failure in an earlier program. It’s not my job to give advice to Other People’s Students, and I didn’t really have ten spare minutes today, but I really think I made a difference in that kid’s life today.

  9. Savvy Working Gal Says:

    I am eating a real salad that I made for lunch rather than one of those frozen meals I usually eat. My mom just had surgery for cancer and she ate more packaged/processed food than anyone I know. Not saying that is what caused her cancer, but it feels like I am doing something to eat better.

  10. Ana Says:

    Even the small things are eluding me today…(it was a rough night). I DID get up on time, get dressed and get to clinic on time and spent hours doing psychological counseling (not my field. not at all. but that’s what was waiting in my rooms this morning).

  11. oil_garlic Says:

    I can’t stop traffic congestion & rude drivers, but I can let someone into the lane if they’re having trouble merging and are using their turn signals/blinkers.

    I can’t save the environment but I can improve my recycling habits and consume less.

    I can’t dismantle patriarchy but i can consciously ‘consume’ media that doesn’t degrade women and/or have a female main character (as opposed to some love interest or someone on the sidelines)

    I can’t dismantle patriarchy but I can let my sons wear ‘girlish’ colors.

    I can’t maintain my blog, but I can comment!

  12. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    Preach. :) Sometimes you’re on top of the world, sometimes the world is on top of you.

    I’ve had a string of days recently where I’ve barely even done the turn off the TV thing (and that was after falling asleep in front of it), so it’s nice to remember that sometimes any good thing, even if it’s a little thing, counts in the win column. Today’s entry in the win column: finishing paperwork. I mean, I have to walk all the way to the building next door to get a signature, so it’s pretty much an impossible task.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have those days a lot. For example: not even getting off the couch, but making a phone call to request an appointment later? Insurmountable.

      Eventually I’ll make that call.

  13. First Gen American Says:

    I dropped in on my 80 year old housebound neighbor and spent an hour with her. She had a stroke a couple months ago and went from being out and about everyday to stuck home (she is a realtor still). She is very social and gets lonely so I try to visit her in the middle of the week when other friends and family aren’t visiting.

    Of everyone gave a little bit of themselves, the world would be much nicer. That’s the biggest thing about being poor I don’t miss. Finding people who give their time freely is much more rare.

    • Practical Parsimony Says:

      You are a saint. I helped out and visited my 94-yr-old neighbor who suddenly became housebound because family convinced her not to drive. She felt it was her duty to feed me cheese sandwiches, so she was doing something for me and not being a taker. Yes, she knew I loved cheese sandwiches.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Not a saint at all. When we moved in, she came over and hosted a party for us so that we could meet all the neighbors. She is awesome and I truly enjoy my time with her. It’s just so easy for weeks and months to go by without popping in on someone…so I try to make an effort because she did so for me.

  14. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Don’t make perfect the enemy of good. People tell me a lot that they want to start exercise, or cooking more, or whatever, and they’re going to do it 5 times a week! And I think, how about once? Once is good. If you aim for once you’ll hit it. Aim for 5 and you won’t and we’ll be back at square one. We have too many stories of transformational change out there. Not as many epiphanies in real life. Just grinding things out.

    • Leah Says:

      I had a prof once you told the story of a student who wanted to play piano. She lamented not starting when she was younger. He said “why don’t you go start today? In 5 years, you’ll have lots of experience.” I think about that story, too, when trying to start a new habit.

      That said, I need to take your advice and try to fit in one day a week of exercise, because more is difficult for me right now. Being preggers, I need to be doing something. Maybe I should try to hit the gym with my husband when he does to do his 10k training.

    • Savvy Working Gal Says:

      This is the best advice I’ve heard in awhile. Also, I’m moving your book up a notch on my TBR pile.

  15. Liz Says:

    Amazing thread, thanks for inspiring all the comments, N&M!

  16. Ana Says:

    A lot of these comments are really inspiring, especially the ones related to giving of one’s time to others…I am taking these to heart. I think there is a lot of wisdom and maturity in the idea that true life change isn’t about the dramatic sweeping moments, but about doing little things and sticking to them, day after day after week after month until you realize you’re in a different place.

  17. Link love (Powered by lasagne and validation) | NZ Muse Says:

    […] Grumpy rumblings on small changes and individual power […]

  18. Debbie M Says:

    I gave blood. This is one of those cases where going small really is better–you can give more long term if you don’t give it all at once!

    Let’s see, here are some of mine:

    I can’t keep people from clearing forests, but I can purchase only shade-grown cocoa, recycled paper products, and multi-use items instead of paper disposables, plus contribute to places like the Rainforest Foundation.

    I can’t keep people from developing food plants that don’t make seeds, but I can try to give the companies that do so as little money as possible by choosing organic. (Still wish I could get gas without corn in it–or with organic corn.)

    I can’t eliminate poverty, but I can contribute to organizations that reduce it.

    I can’t get to my ideal weight in a day, but I can pay attention to portion control today.

    I couldn’t get through all the petitions I had to process at work this week, but I could focus on getting into the flow of work rather than sitting back and freaking out about how many there are. (I got through all but three–more will be thrown on the heap over the weekend, but that’s why I get the big bucks.)

    I can’t make it okay that I’m going to retire after being in my job for only one year (that’s so mean of me), but I can provide consolation prizes (longish notice, clear and thorough documentation on all job duties, more templates, an offer to return up to half time after 30 days (HR allows that) if they still don’t have a new person and/or to help train the new person and/or to help during crunch times–still trying to think of more).

    I can’t patch the ozone, but I can drive less and use less energy than I would if I weren’t thinking about it. Also, I can vote.

    I can’t make things fair for everyone, but I can sign petitions. And vote. (The vote for Texas Governor is going to be especially easy this year.)

    I can’t fit everything I want into my house properly, but I can get rid of stuff I’m not actually using and plan out future renovations.

    I can’t keep my property taxes from skyrocketing (as housing values increase), but I can take advantage of allowable tax breaks as soon as possible and make keep property values in mind while planning those future renovations. (Worst-case scenario–sell the house and move someplace cheaper. Can’t imagine where that would be though.)

    I can’t keep my hair from going everywhere, but I can keep a ponytail holder in my pocket for windy days.

    That’s enough for now. Oh, except: I can’t do everything I want, but I can do almost anything I want. I can’t afford everything I want, but I can afford almost anything I want. I can’t contribute to all the important causes, but i can contribute to some of them. So prioritizing is also a friend.

  19. Big change can be ok too | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] we talked about how small change is ok.  Sometimes you can’t save the world, but you can make your small part of the world a little […]


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