Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
Once I get past the resistance around this idea it turns into a helpful way of looking at how I spend my days and live my life. Especially when I want to cultivate a new approach to something, it’s a great way in make big shifts in a manageable way.
Maybe I want to be more patient or so slow down or I want to finish what I start or be more mindful. Whatever it is, here are four steps to making the shift.
STEP 1. Observe honestly. With a curious eye, observe how you drive across town during rush hour, make a sandwich, work at your desk. Without a story or judgement, just notice how you do anything. Notice what you do with your body. Notice where your mind goes. Notice how you feel emotionally. Are you physically at ease or uncomfortable? Are you scattered or focused? Are you tuned out or anxious or excited? Pay attention to the details of how you do even the smallest thing.
STEP 2. Embrace the Anything/Everything idea. Allow yourself to entertain the possibility that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Let anything you do be a metaphor for your life. Look at what you observe about yourself in this small scenario and see if those traits, habits and tendencies translate into your larger life. It’s not about doing it right or being perfect and it’s not about getting defensive. It’s about noticing how you do what you do and asking yourself if there is something you’d like to do differently. If not, cool! Just keep returning to Step 1 to deepen your connection to and understanding of yourself. If so, move to Step 3.
STEP 3. Start small. If I want to be kinder to a difficult relative, start by being kinder to strangers. If I want to finally finish my book project, start by finishing washing the dishes in the sink – all of them. If I want to make healthier eating choices, start by eating a breakfast that Michelle Obama would be proud of. Start with small, manageable, do-able things that move you in the direction you want to go. It’s easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that the way I treat the testy waiter has nothing to do with how I deal with a challenging sibling. But it does. Think of starting small as a way of sneaking up on the big stuff.
STEP 4. Repeat. As a writer and an artist, I’m constantly going back and seeing what I can learn and revise to make my classes, my writing, my art in closer alignment with my mission and vision. It’s important for me to appreciate the things that go well and to look with compassion at the things that messily flopped. As a human floundering along through my days, the Anything/Everything idea helps me see myself clearly, appreciate what’s flowing smoothly and make manageable adjustments to the jagged edges.
BONUS STEP: Have fun. This process, like most, goes best if I am relaxed and alert instead of sleepwalking or hyper-vigilant. Everybody, always, in every moment is doing their best with what they have to work with. Cut yourself some slack and get interested in knowing yourself better – and recognizing that change is possible if you want it.