The power of nudging things along little by little and talking our brains out of sabotaging our efforts.
Read time: 4 minutes
Today I heard someone I really admire say that when you are struggling to find the motivation to keep going and you are finding yourself getting bogged down, to take a step back for a second, think about the bigger picture and exactly why you started doing what you are doing again, breathe, and refocus.
Good advice. Too easily you can forget what motivated you to start something in the first place and why you thought it was so important. For me, I saw people struggling in their homes as they got older for totally unnecessary reasons and the impact this had on their well-being and set up The Pretty, Good Project simply to try and help more people to be able to grow old comfortably where they want to be.
The project started on a very small scale, but as I have moved further along with it and realised how big the need is, my aspirations and hopes have also grown too.
However, I am someone who can often suffer from a overwhelm. I think many of us do. In all sorts of aspects of our lives. I can sometimes think too far ahead, realise there are a myriad of factors completely out of my control and my mind goes into overdrive to assess all the contributing factors, possibilities, restrictions, choices and risks. It can sometimes feel like my brain might explode. Throw into this toxic mix my love of coffee as well, and it really isn’t helpful sometimes.
It’s a little bit like if you think about solving global poverty or environmental destruction all in one go. It’s mind-bogglingly complex, the solutions so multi-faceted and locally or personally specific that you can drown in inactivity as you simply don’t know where to start or can’t see the point of starting at all. And unless you are a billionaire, or a powerful world leader, you can feel pretty powerless that anything you might do would make a difference anyway.
Generally, I can get this back under control fairly quickly with a stern talking to my brain. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes, a sleepless night now and again. Fine. I think this is fairly normal and a result of caring about something a lot. But I can totally see how people can get these thoughts stuck on a loop longer term and how it can really start to interfere with your everyday life. It is definitely something I am becoming more aware of and try to have some positive outlets to help me get perspective back. But it’s not always easy – especially as I really do love coffee… Spending time with my friends and family is one way, reading, writing and getting some exercise are another. Not exactly ground-breaking, just all to easy to forget sometimes.
With me and The Pretty, Good Project specifically, the thoughts that I have are always around: “change is happening too slowly; the change that happens needs to be massive anyway; what’s the point? I’m just titivating around the edges; what’s the point of talking to people about a better looking bath steps or grab rails when shouldn’t we be building homes with inclusive design built in as standard”.
I often look at these guys in the USA, called The Universal Design Project. They are brilliant and I love what they are doing and often just think if we all just had these houses, problem solved! Problem is, we are where we are, life is a mess, nothing is easy, we all have personal choice and you can’t and shouldn’t ever force people to do something – much as we all sometimes want to! So unless we’re about to get all dictator-y (super not recommended) we have to work within the systems we already have, change them, influence people to see the impacts/benefits of various actions and make different choices that can incrementally make a difference.
But that means slow.
But it doesn’t mean pointless.
So I have to keep remembering that getting people to think about inclusive design, even in its smallest forms is progress. Especially people who have never even considered it before. And it doesn’t devalue this work, it is part of a bigger movement. It’s just about nudging. A lot of people continuously nudging things along in the right direction may not be breathtaking to witness, you may not even really notice it happening, but when you look back and see how far you have travelled, the change is real.
It’s why I loved the recent episode of Dr Who about Rosa Parks. I am in no way comparing inclusive design or The Pretty, Good Project to the Civil Rights Movement. Just the idea that individual actions can nudge history in another (hopefully more positive) direction. And that can lead to big change. They can inspire more people to do similar and change the perspectives of others to change their behaviours too. It might not happen right away either, but it can set a snowball effect in motion.
So for me, it’s keeping that bigger picture in mind, but not getting overwhelmed by it. Rather being content that nudging away is enough. And plenty of other people are nudging away too, making changes in what they have control or influence over. We all have something to add. And together if we all keep nudging, well that’s quite a lot of movement isn’t it?
I have been writing a children’s book about something like this for a long time too. I got about ⅔ through and then shelved it a couple of years ago because, well, life happens doesn’t it and who has the time to write a book too? But I found it pretty therapeutic to write, and keeping the bigger picture in mind, I think it is pretty important to get those thoughts out there too, so I think it might be time to get back to it. And as a regular Jo Bloggs, it is another little way I can try to nudge along a little change with the power I have.
I think I may have written nudge too many times now so perhaps I should stop… Pleasing word to say though right?
If you’ve got this far, thanks for sticking with my meanderings. A little off-piste compared to my usual blogs but just something I felt I had to write today. Would love to hear about whether you face anything similar or your thoughts on nudging 🙂 And do go and check out The Universal Design Project. They are ace.