This week I looked out the window and noticed a flurry of tiny snowflakes making their way down from the skies. Weather forecasters were calling for a large storm, and I knew that was going to make for a complicated day at the office.
“Small flakes big snow” one of the clients mentioned on their way out, “get your snow shovels ready!”
I’ve heard that expression before, and wondered about its origins. Is there some ancient wisdom I’m unaware of that would allow me to be able to better predict my day simply by looking at the size of snowflakes? A few minutes of google research later, I realize it’s not quite so simple. Warmer temperatures lead to higher water content, and thus larger flakes. Colder atmospheric temperature forms smaller flakes because there isn’t as much sticky stuff to hold the flakes together. So in a way It’s true: if it’s warm outside it isn’t likely to stay snowy for long…it might turn to slushy wet stuff or rain. Small snowflakes and lower temperatures are a sign that whatever falls is likely to hang around for longer.
It strikes me that change is a bit like the snow. If we try to do too much too soon (large flakes) it isn’t likely to be lasting. Small repeated steps in the right direction, however, accumulate over time and can lead to a mountain of change. If we turn the heat up on ourselves too quickly, it’s not sustainable. If I want to take up running, for example, and start by trying to run 5 km at once, it’s likely too much. Sure I did it some years ago, but that doesn’t mean my body will recognize that movement now. A series of small steps, building up over time will increase my stamina so that I’m better equipped to do the run. Maybe a better goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day instead. If I want any positive change to be lasting, easing in with gradual small changes is the way to go.
Keeping in line with our New Year commitment to self-compassion, I will embrace my inner (running) warrior, and enjoy pleasant walks through the snow this winter. Enjoying each small flake as it accumulates into something bigger. Maybe you will too?
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong