When I was a teacher of very young children, chunking tasks into manageable pieces was one of the magic keys to helping the children in my care avoid frustration and to grow socially, emotionally and cognitively. I noticed that breaking a task down into small steps was especially helpful when young children were faced with what looked like the insurmountable task of cleaning up after center time. I am sure you can picture it — after 30 minutes of happy playtime the organization of the classroom was in a bit of disarray. What never worked for the children was to say the words, “Clean up the classroom”. Usually when that direction was given, not much of anything got done. It wasn’t disobedience, but something very different that made the goal of “clean the classroom” seemingly unachievable.
And when you think about that scenario from the comfortable seat of hindsight, you can understand why — the amount of objects to put away got in the way of seeing the little steps that could be taken to complete such a huge job. As a result, hearing the words “clean up” caused those little critters to get stuck in place. So instead of asking children to clean up the classroom, I gave specific directions to each child: “Sally can you pick up all of the red crayons?” And suddenly the task became manageable, because after the red crayons, Sally could pick up up the red blocks and the blue markers and the little people. You get the picture right? Pretty soon, with each small step, the huge task was completed, and our goal of a cleaned up classroom was achieved.
Now in my role as a Holistic Health Coach, and even in my own life, the Lesson of the Red Crayon has significant meaning and has become a mantra of sorts. Whenever we are trying to make lifestyle changes to support our health and life/work balance, simply telling ourselves to “eat healthy” or “exercise more” is too big of a task, and the overwhelm of seeing that huge task looming before us gets us stuck. What exactly does “eat healthy” mean? What does “exercise more” look like? How exactly do I “manage stress”. And how do I "lose weight" with all of the confusing diets out there?
And so just like the little critters with the mess of toys in front of them, we start and stop the important work we should be doing on our health goals, or we don’t start at all and then we get distracted and wander off. Often that’s just when our naggy little ego voice judges us and makes us feel as if we are incapable of making sustainable lifestyle changes that will heal our health and help us nurture real life/work balance in our lives.
So here is my favorite tip for making progress when you have decided to embark on making lifestyle changes to heal your health — don’t jump right into the middle of the mess. Simply focus on, and pick up, the red crayons. Is your goal to “be healthy”? That’s great, and it’s a huge goal! So instead of trying to wrestle with the whole goal, look to the next moment in front of you and choose to walk a little further, enjoy a glass of water instead of soda, or take less mashed potatoes and add more roasted veggies to your plate.
When you have decided to start your journey on your unique path to health and balance, each moment offers you a red crayon to pick up. You can choose to leave it on the floor and continue to trip over it, or you can bend down and pick that one red crayon up. Once you pick up that crayon, you find that you are eagerly looking ahead to the next. Those small, incremental, consistent steps towards your goal, will add up to giant leaps, and you will find yourself closer each day to living your vision of health and balance.
So let’s celebrate all of the red crayons scattered on the path in front of us. There is so much joy to be found in each moment that we choose to pick one up!
What is your red crayon action today? Share your thoughts below! And as always, Contact Me, if you want to chat with me about the red crayons on your path.
In Health and Balance,