The impact of small changes

What's one small choice that changed everything?

When we moved into our home, a century-old craftsman-style fixer upper, there were a lot of cosmetic things we needed to address right away. In particular, we focused our energy on pulling down 1990s-era wallpaper and border choices that distinguished each room from the next: an African Safari in the living room, Patriotic Angels in the dining room, and large blue and white gingham with a messy kitchen border in the kitchen. 

There was only one room in the entire house that didn’t have any form of wallpaper, and it was the room we dedicated as a guest room. Over the past seven years, we’ve left that room alone. We haven’t really used it much, and while the turquoise “Trading Spaces”-style textured paint wasn’t our taste, it wasn’t nearly as offensive as some of the other design choices. 

Over the past month, I’ve been thinking about how to optimize that space. Our house is small and as our kids grow, it can be challenging not to have more living space. So, we decided to paint the room and rearrange the furniture, ordering a couple new pieces and getting rid of some of the hand-me-down furniture that’s been along for the ride since we moved out of our parents’ houses.

I’m sitting in the newly painted office as I write, and I’m astounded by the difference a couple of coats of paint can make to a space. I shouldn’t be surprised, as this is a truth I’ve long been aware of. A fresh coat of paint can make something feel completely new, transforming a barely used, forgotten room into a sanctuary. 

I think it’s easy to undervalue the importance of a small change. When we think about the life-changing moments in our lives, we think of the big, turn on a dime, transformative moments. The catastrophic and the magnificent moments. The great losses and the momentous meetings. 

The big moments, however, don’t happen very frequently, and when they do they shake things up. The change that reverberates off of those pivotal moments is undeniable and irreversible. There are really only a handful of the big changes that happen in our lives. The small ones, though, happen every single day and often go overlooked.

When I was in high school, I had a crush on a boy. While we weren’t fated to end up together, that crush had a huge influence on determining where I went to college, and I ended up at the same school that he chose. Every single relationship in my adult life, my career and my family all stem from that decision, all of which was hinged on a trivial teenage crush. 

Those small degrees of change that seem inconsequential today may be, quite simply, changing the trajectory of our future. Which begs the question, how intentional are we being in our actions and decisions? Are we being proactive or reactive? Are we investing time and energy where we want to be?

Even when we’re tired and weary, as many of us feel in the midst of the pandemic, we have the energy to choose to do small, good things. Choose to eat a few vegetables, choose to play with our children instead of scrolling, choose to listen instead of speak, choose to do something kind for no reason. Those small choices might just float by and mean nothing, but it’s far more likely that a myriad of small choices will form a tapestry upon which our lives and the lives of others are built.

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.