Welcome to ChildWild

I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

Contact | About | Subscribe

The Power of Small Change

by Sierra on February 5, 2010 · 10 comments

in green living

Fakeplasticfish has a post up about conflict between couples about green living, in which she quotes my post from last week about making green choices together.

Beth Terry, the woman behind Fake Plastic Fish, has gone to amazing lengths to cut plastic out of her life. Last year, she produced something like 4 pounds of plastic trash. It’s her cause, and she’s clear that she’s a little crazy about it.

This is not a cause I’m taking up. I simply do not have the energy to go after one environmental battle with that single-minded a focus. But I’m incredibly impressed with what Beth has done, and even more with how she’s done it.

She’s passionate about personal change. So am I.

Small, personal changes in our lives matter not because of the impact we have as individuals through those changes, but because they prepare us for the moments when individual action can effect large change. Rosa Parks is a great example of this. The popular story about Ms. Parks is that she was a tired old lady who one day got fed up with the injustice of a segregated public transit system and refused to cede her seat to a white person on the bus.

It’s true that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and that she didn’t plan that act of protest that day before she got on the bus. She had genuinely come to the end of her rope. But she was also a lifelong labor rights activist who had spent many years learning how to stand her ground for something she believed in. When that moment arrived, she was ready and able to do what she had to do.

This, to me, is the real value of carrying a reusable water bottle, or biking to work, or being a vegetarian or whatever you do. When you change your life in the direction of something you want, you get stronger. You become better able to defend what you love, and to push back against forces that might previously have overwhelmed you. You get used to feeling powerful and free, and that makes you mighty.

This is especially true when you do something that scares you. As Starhawk, one of my early spiritual teachers, likes to say, “Where there’s fear there is power.” If you’re afraid of something, probably you have some energy tied up in it. Doing the thing you fear can free up that energy and in turn make you more powerful.

Yes, the changes we make in our personal lives have power because of their collective impact. If we all give up plastic water bottles or factory-farmed meat, we can create powerful change as a group. The Quakers did this when they spearheaded a grassroots boycott of sugar in Britain to protest slavery – and it worked.

But even more powerful for me is the way these small, daily shifts in habits are an exercise of will, strengthening our willpower like a muscle. So that we’re ready to use it when we need it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Related posts:

  1. How to Change Your Life
  2. Small girls vs. The Ducks
  3. Oh my power is great and terrible!
  4. The Power of “NO”: Lessons From My 3-year-old

  • amadea

    Last two sentences of this are now on an index card in front of my desk, alongside my Anne Lamott quotes and my Work On Dissertation or Mess Around On Facebook Decision Tree. Love it.

    [Reply]

  • keyne

    Starhawk.com, the site you linked to, is some guy named Bill Jacobson. The link I presume you want is Starhawk.ORG.

    [Reply]

  • keyne

    The site you linked to, starhawk.com, belongs to some guy named Bill Jacobson. The site I presume you actually meant, Starhawk's, is http://starhawk.org.

    [Reply]

  • http://twitter.com/becoming_mother Becoming a Mother

    Thank you for saying this. I have a hard time doing many things that I think need to be done because, collectively, they are overwhelming. To green my entire house and life the way I wish I could…to feed us all exactly as I wish I could…is not possible with our present schedule, budget, etc. So I give up.

    This helps. I already knew I should look for what I could do to move in the right direction, but I felt guilty when I blew things off. Now…no. Now I can just be happy to do what I can, knowing the rest may come later or may not but I'm still doing better. It's not futile, because it's not just about the individual item (like plastics, or chemicals, or or or…). It's about what it does to my strength also, and I never thought of it quite that way.

    I hope I can hold to that, at least.

    [Reply]

  • dandelionlady

    I totally agree with you. Thank you for posting this. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep focused on the importance of living my life simply and authentically. I want to reach for grand gestures because they seem more important, but I realized long ago that I was the only one who could change my life into something more sustainable and authentic. Talk is great, but changing daily routine is far better.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    thanks for pointing that out. It's fixed now.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    thanks for pointing that out. It's fixed now.

    [Reply]

  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    thanks for pointing that out. It's fixed now.

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: How to Change Your Life — ChildWild

  • Pingback: Women blog their lives for fun, profit and power — ChildWild

Previous post:

Next post: