The Little Things Matter

I realised yesterday I had, repeatedly and with the same organisation, been falling into the role of “Marshmallow Rescuer”. Worse than jumping in to solve someone else’s problem (when they are the best person to know what a solution would like like, when they are absolutely able ask for the support they need, when they are a brilliant human being themselves – the “Rescuer” bit) – I was jumping in to solve, offering a solution, saying I’d do it…and not doing it – the “Marshmallow” bit. Over the course of about 12 months this had ranged from small things to big things – and as I scanned back through this catalogue of failures on my part I was devastated. I pride myself on meaning what I say, saying what I mean, and doing what I say and mean. And this was a catastrophic face-first-into-the-pavement failure.

I felt pretty terrible when I realised. And I confess, I still feel pretty bad about it now. But having realised how strong my inner Persecutor is just days ago in conversation with a good friend, (“You must do better! You must help more! You’re not using your energy / skills / resources well enough for the world! You’re wasting your time! What are you doing?!”) I recognise giving my energy to feeling bad about it serves no-one – and has the potential to do actual damage, primarily to me but also to those around me. So this morning  I was reflecting on what it means for me, what I can learn from it, how it could be a really valuable lesson.

Funnily enough, the potential to fall into a place of feeling terrible about what I’ve done completes the triangle – I become the Victim. The drama triangle of Persecutor – Rescuer – Victim is an incredibly powerful piece of theory developed by  Stephen Karpman which I use on a daily basis to help make sense of the world. And a piece of theory I keep going deeper and deeper with, like unpeeling layers of an onion. If you’re not familiar with the concept, or with Transactional Analysis generally, I highly recommend Being Human by Gerry Pyves.

Anyways, it brought back to me the value and importance of The Little Things.

An ethos I was introduced to a long time ago – and which I thoroughly subscribe to whenever I can – is that of starting small, and building from there. Getting The Little Things right. Is this someone I feel OK around? Can I have a good conversation with them? Do I leave the conversation feeling better or worse? If I or they agree to do something – does it happen? Do I feel met, let down, or have my expectations exceeded?

And then I expand it out further. The difference it makes to me – and the other person – when I say hello to a stranger on the street as I pass. When I really thank someone for serving me in a shop. When I spend an extra couple of minutes to hear / meet / be with someone who could otherwise just be “another item on the list to tick off”. When I reflect on a situation where I feel “hard done by” and try to work out what might have been going on for the other person – and how I might be able to improve our next interaction.

Getting The Little Things right is hard. REALLY hard. At times it feels exhausting. But at other times the impact these Little Things have seems bigger than any grand gesture could ever produce.

So what I’m already taking from this rather devastating realisation is that I need to go Back to Basics, and focus on getting The Little Things right again. More than that, I need to trust, absolutely trust, that getting The Little Things right will build a foundation to support a great structure or, an analogy I like better, that The Little Things are the solid roots being put out by an oak sapling which will grow strong and tall and be here on the planet for hundreds of years to come.

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