Monday, December 30, 2013

To consider the cannonball effect

I was browsing through a library book, "A Complaint Free World" by Will Bowen. One anecdote stands out in my mind, perhaps because we are approaching the beginning of another new year. It's about a house painter named Mike who had an idea to dip a standard baseball in leftover paint at the end of each day in his garage, just out of idle curiosity to see how big it would get. The result surprised even him.

Will Bowen and his daughter were invited to come and see it after he had been doing the daily dip for several years. They found a massive thing, the size of a cannon ball hanging from steel girders. He asked them if they'd like to apply that day's coat of paint, and it took them 15 minutes to get it evenly covered. What amazed them all was the fact that each individual coat of paint was about the width of a hair. Visible proof that lots of small actions, if persisted in, result in something formidably huge.

Bowen took it as an analogy for his complaint free world. Each individual decision to stay cheerful and not make an issue of annoyances may result in a transformed personality which automatically leans toward the optimistic option. I started to reflect that the principle applies to absolutely anything we can think of.

We all know that individually, one yummy Lindor chocolate ball or Cadbury Freddo frog doesn't contain enough calories to put on much weight. If you indulge in them a lot, though, they become like those coats of paint, and your waistline ends up much thicker. One jog up a steep mountain path may result in no difference on the scales, which contestants on "The Biggest Loser" have discovered many times, but making a habit of it can get that flab moving. Brain science has shown that one thought, repeated over again several times, results in an entrenched attitude that wears a pathway, similar to the ones we see worn across the paddocks near our house, by lots of pedestrians taking short cuts to the wetlands.

Each late December I hear plenty of negative comments about making new year's resolutions.  "We might as well not even bother. By February, we're back to our old habits, or April at the latest." No, that's a gloomy attitude masquerading as realistic. By February, the baseball hasn't grown very big at all, and it's easy to look at the thinness of each individual coat of paint. It's right about then that we could benefit from reminding ourselves about the huge, impressive cannonball we could create, if only we persevere. I like new year's resolutions and begin a couple every January. I'd encourage everyone to do the same, if there's something in your life you wouldn't mind reversing or changing.

Even if you decide, "I need to accept myself more, and not get into the self-help trap of thinking there's always something wrong with me that I need to change," that's still a resolution, if you're not used to thinking that way. In fact, that may well be one of mine.

Mother Teresa vividly showed this principle with the poor in Calcutta, that thousands of small gestures, repeated over and over, may produce a wonderfully productive and difference-making life. It doesn't have to be that grandiose or self-sacrificing. I'd extend the analogy to blogs like this one. Although our numbers of followers may change and drop-off over the years, each post may result in a thick volume of awesome material which our descendants will love. In this one's case, I hope the number of small, serendipitous thoughts that just occur to me may morph into something bigger with the potential to amuse people who want a bit of simple inspiration.

I wish everyone who may read this a hopeful, healthy and productive 2014.

3 comments:

  1. This is such a nice post. I like that idea of one small thing. That's what I did to get into doing comics regularly (which I guess I've fallen off the wagon. Life really gets in the way, doesn't it!) My habit of doing a little bit of exercise 5 days a week has lasted two years now. I only backslide in December when life gets a bit overwhelming, but I am starting again. One day at a time!

    Peace and Laughter!

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  2. Hi Cristina,
    Thanks for the encouragement. It's good to be reminded of little things add up. I'm still hoping that there will be a book 2 of your comic strips one day :) I try to do something similar to your exercise routine too, and maybe 2014 is time to get it going again.

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  3. Hi Cristina,
    Thanks for the encouragement. It's good to be reminded of little things add up. I'm still hoping that there will be a book 2 of your comic strips one day :) I try to do something similar to your exercise routine too, and maybe 2014 is time to get it going again.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comments.

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