Organization Post-Grad Rehab Reflections

One Positive Thing


Palace of Arts, Staircase
Credit: Flickr / Istvan

I have a simple rule when I get overwhelmed.

One. Positive. Thing.

It’s so simple that whatever state I’m in I can’t argue with it. It’s so easy that there can never be an excuse. But, applied diligently, it can change pretty much everything.

When I’m in a tizzy, one of the first things to go is the state of my apartment. If I say one positive thing, and keep at that for a week, it becomes livable again. Some days all I do is load the dishwasher. But others it snowballs. I start with “take out the trash” and end up with a sparkling bathroom. I just need to start.

When my self-esteem is on the floor because I’m unhappy with how I look, I use it. It’s a lot easier to get out of bed and go to the gym for 6am when I know that this is all I’m going to ask of myself in that regard all day (of course, having started off so well I’ll tend to eat better and sleep earlier, too). If it’s not a gym day, my one positive thing can be “no chocolate”.

Often one positive thing is about attitude. It’s focusing on the design that I came up with, rather than the change that I didn’t get approved (again). It’s thinking, “I made time to go to the chiro which will make my shoulder better and then I can work out harder” rather than focusing on the fact that I rolled over and didn’t go spinning that morning. It’s thinking about the thing I did for my boyfriend, rather than the fact that we are (still) on different continents.

The power of sustained small achievements is underrated. If every day I did one positive thing for my health, my living space, and my relationship, what would my world look like a month, six months, a year from now?

I decided that February I would focus on rehab. What this has meant for me, is that almost every day in February I did one positive thing for getting my shoulder better – sometimes chiro, sometimes massage, sometimes the gym, and sometimes (frankly) strong painkillers. It’s in a lot better shape now, and I’m in a lot less pain than back in January.

Meanwhile, one of my friends is completely overwhelmed by… life, I guess, but particularly school work. So I shared this rule with her. She’s been getting overwhelmed by everything, but one thing? That seems totally doable.

So it seemed worth sharing with you as well. Try it, and let me know how it goes. Meanwhile, what tricks do you have for making things seem manageable when you’re overwhelmed?

10 replies on “One Positive Thing”

I love this and am definitely going to try it. For some reason, it reminds me of something that’s been working well in my Taekwondo training lately, even though it’s not really all that related.

I’ve been trying to push myself more – just ten more pushups, 30 more speed kicks, better kicks, etc. When I hit the wall, I have started doing one of two things.

One is to think of Bruce Lee and how much he was able to push himself (yup, been on a Bruce Lee movie kick lately). I remember hearing a story about someone being pushed by Lee ( and think of that. For some reason it gives a jolt.

The other is yoga breathing. No joke, but doing 100 speed kicks is suddenly so much more feasible when I focused on keeping my body calm and deep breathing – it’s like my leg was doing it’s own thing and I didn’t even think about it.

I guess in retrospect some of this is actually related to “one positive thing” – these were the “just one thing” to make the rest easier.

Doing small things is the only way I have been able to achieve big results. Perhaps it is related to being an incrementalist – that we have big ideas, but we also desire so much to finish things, so the small idea approach works best for us. Or maybe it just works for everyone!

It’s so easy for a big result to seem overwhelming, if what you need to day-to-day to reach is is not doable, how will you ever reach it?

I really thought, no-one will like this post – it’s just stating stuff that has been said elsewhere before, and better. But perhaps a reminder is helpful 🙂 Thanks!

The conventional wisdom from writing aligns with this beautifully: “A page a day is a novel a year.”

About two years ago I had the same idea. Most days my one positive thing was stopping the car for five mins on the way to work and just watching the world. But to do that I had to go to work so it probably saved my job which paid my mortgage . The 6 people on my facebook page knew about my one positive thing. I had this pipe dream it would change the world so I’m glad I’m not the only one to come up with it. Keep the faith x

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