Mastering One Small Thing a Day

When I was an undergrad, a professor in one of my classes introduced us to a woman with DPD (Dissociative Personality Disorder) formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. She talked about how she got through a day before she was able to control her meandering from one personality to another. There were days that she could function fairly well and then there were days that she couldn’t keep track of who she was.

At the time, I was recovering from a severe auto accident that left me unable to walk from class to class and I had to get an electric scooter to make it around campus. The pain confused me and on top of that, I developed what they still call intrinsic tremor. It is kind of like having Parkinson’s except that it comes and goes. Last night I could hardly type. This morning I’m doing better.

Getting to and from school and doing my homework was all I could manage. Many days I felt useless. This woman that came to our class was telling us that she had made a list of the things she could get done even on her worst days. I don’t remember what was on her list, but I made a list of my own.

My back was totally wiped out. So I could manage one load of dishes – without drying them. I could put a load of clothes in the washer, but I couldn’t pull them out. After a rest, I could bath and put on some makeup. Sometimes I could start dinner before my husband got home. Mastering one or two things wasn’t much but it worked miracles for my self-esteem. I got something done that could be measured and it made me feel great!

Obviously, I can do more now. I work a couple of days a week. I can get my face done and most days I can get dressed. Clearly, I can write most of the time.

I have shared this technique with several people who have had illnesses or suffered accidents and feel like they are no longer worth taking up space in this world.

It’s natural to give up doing things when you hurt – either physically or emotionally. But it adds to your feeling of uselessness, which adds to the pain. Pretty soon you are useless. That is why it is so important to do something every day that will make you feel productive – even if it is just one thing.

As I got better and my doctors treated my pain more successfully, I added things to my list. I still don’t do what I did before the accident, and my home is a mess, but I do some interesting things that build my confidence.

I have a list that I used to treat like a ritual. I’ve gotten away from it since I discovered I had cancer a couple of months ago. My surgery and radiation are complete and my energy is coming back so I need to get back to that morning ritual. The list is longer than I can get through at this point, so I need to shorten it until I can work back up to completing it. Trying to do too much is asking for trouble. It makes you feel inadequate.

Find something, or a series of activities that will make you feel useful again. Keep adding to your list and soon you will find that you have a viable place in this world again.

Even when you don’t feel like it, follow through. It will feel great!

Practice today by choosing something to accomplish. If you’re not up to actual work – like dishes or mopping the floor – grab a mandala and color it. Color the whole thing. Not only will you feel accomplished, you will feel creative. Don’t set the bar too high, but don’t set it too low either. It won’t work either way.  Push yourself just a little.

You might try calling a friend that you are overdue to talk to. Keep the conversation positive and fairly short unless you’re really into it. You don’t want to get an argument going. Think of something to talk about before you call. Make arrangements to meet in the near future. It will make you feel competent, respectful, respectable and effective. Which are all goals of building mastery and self-respect.

Shift your mind to your higher self and make that call.

Or just go for a walk – with your dog if you have one. It will do you both good.

Keep using your other skills, too. Especially a minimum of 10 minutes of mindfulness or mindful meditation every day and hopefully evening. It will change your brain and your body, I promise.


Our next page describes how Mastery Builds Your Identity & Self-Esteem.

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