Little Things Make a Big Difference

This year was a milestone birthday for me. For the most part it didn't bother me - there was no midlife crisis or anything like that. I did, however, find myself in the months leading up to my birthday reflecting on my lifestyle and the things my friends and family were commenting on - things like my lack of sleep and level of stress. They were concerned for my well-being and, truthfully, so was I.

In January 2014 I started the journey toward a healthier lifestyle. I signed up for a 28 detox / clean eating challenge with Arbonne - I was terrified but motivated to make it work. I had no idea what the outcome would be but I knew I needed to do something - years of sedentary work and poor eating habits had caught up to me. Being slightly competitive I was pretty sure I could manage the challenge. I followed the plan to the letter for not one, but two months and followed the clean eating guidelines, most of the time, for the remainder of the year. By the end of the year I had lost approximately 30 pounds and I felt in control of my eating habits. That was the first phase of my plan.

I knew my life was in chaos when I started having panic attacks every time my phone would ring or my computer would signal a new email had arrived. I could barely keep up with what was already on my plate; how could I possibly fulfill one more request?

I was in rough shape. Working upwards of 22 hours / day, not sleeping at all many nights, feeling resentful for saying yes, and beating myself up for letting things get so out of control were NOT conducive to living the life I had imagined for myself.

In October I mustered up the energy to go to the gym for an assessment and for a manageable home exercise program. I had hoped that some physical activity would knock me out of my emotional funk. It was a slow and painful start but by the end of December I had started a learn to run training program and was consistently doing a small home work out. In January I signed up for two classes at the gym that I attended as often as my schedule would allow as evening meetings and out of town work remained a reality. I felt horribly guilty initially - there was a mountain of work that needed to be done and the time I was spending either working out / training / or attending classes could easily be put to good use doing something for someone else. One day it hit me like a hammer - I was more willing to do things for other people than I was to do things for myself. Even things like going to conferences were for other people - I was making connections for the planning of other conferences, gathering resources or information for other projects, etc. Anytime I asked a question or shared information for me or about me I felt selfish. I felt selfish for wanting to take care of me. This was perhaps one of the most monumentous hurdles I had to overcome.

"Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” ~ Parker Palmer

I know this to be true - I tell my clients and colleagues this all the time! It is impossible to be your best for others when you aren't taking care of yourself. Despite my "knowing" that this is true my "doing" doesn't always follow. I'm pleased to report that I am doing better with this phase of my journey!

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” ~ Mandy Hale

With the chaos in my own life and the chaos in the world around me I started what I called the "40 Small Things" Project to remind myself and others that small things DO matter and that every positive action has the potential to start a chain reaction of positive actions. Even in the face of confusion and uncertainty a smile, a kind gesture, a helping hand, a surprise, or just being present does matter and does make a difference.

I committed to doing 40 small things in the year leading up to my 40th birthday - 40 small things that weren't necessarily planned but that felt right in the moment and that were spontaneous gestures. They were indeed small things - things like plugging a few coins into a parking meter, delivering homemade treats to friends and to strangers, providing free services, and weeding the neighbour's flower bed. I know they seem insignificant in the whole grand scheme of things but I know that in the moment they mattered and that they did make a difference. When I felt like I had nothing to give it was reassuring to know that I still had capacity within me to do something.

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. ~ Frank A. Clark

You might be wondering what the point of this article is coming from someone who usually talks about career planning and decision making, resumes, job search strategies, and interviews. If you have read this far perhaps my story sounds a little bit familiar to you. Maybe you have been a little off kilter in your own life. In order to be your finest and best self in all aspects of your life you need to take care of yourself, be kind to yourself, and give yourself the time and space to discover the true you.

I hope that the story of my journey and my challenges will inspire or motivate you in some way. That it will give you hope or confirm you are on the right path. If you are feeling stuck please know that you are not alone and there are people out there, like me, who want to help.

"Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” ~ Christopher Germer

Keep being fabulous. You are worth it!


For a FREE 30 minute job search consultation please feel free to contact Paula directly at or 780.589.2245.

For a FREE 30 minute consultation please feel free to contact Paula directly at or 780.589.2245. Connect with Paula on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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