If You Fall into the All-or-Nothing Trap, Here’s Why Small-and-Something is Better

If You Fall into the All-or-Nothing Trap, Here’s Why Small-and-Something is Better

I can fall into the all-or-nothing trap, anybody else? 

It’s certainly not a quality that I am proud of admitting. It can show up in multiple forms but there is a particular ‘all-or-nothing’ scenario that I’ve really been working on changing. It comes in the form of appreciation.

More frequently then I’d like to acknowledge, I have found myself considering a gesture I could do for someone that I know they would appreciate. The reason I am even thinking about it is because I want this person to know how much I care for them.  

And then for various reasons, some legitimate and some not, I find myself not following through on the grand gesture…or any gesture. All-or-nothing. 

To make myself feel better, I will rationalize my inaction with the justification that a smaller demonstration of appreciation would not adequately show how much I care for them – and I can’t risk that!

But a recent experience following a week of very challenging work travel has helped me start changing this thinking. 

I should start by sharing that I am very lucky to do a lot of travel for my work. I love it.

However, the less loved side of travel includes all the inevitable aspects; cancelled flights, missed connections and frequent delays, all of which often have me landing far later than originally planned.

This was exactly the case following one of my final flights last year. As I alluded to above, it was a heavy and challenging week of travel that started by flying out Sunday afternoon. I had planned to fly home Tuesday evening, spend time with my family and then fly back out the following day. As often occurs in the winter months, Mother Nature had a different plan.

Due to storms, I was forced to shift my flight home and instead go directly to my next keynote. After finishing my talk, my final flight home was again delayed. The same storm, which seemed to have been following me airport to airport the entire week, was now hitting Toronto. Luckily it was the tail end and the flight was eventually able to depart, unfortunately, it was six and a half hours later than originally scheduled.

As a result, it was close to 1:30 AM by the time I walked in the door. Being so late, I knew my husband would be asleep.

Yes, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to chat with him after being away all week, but admittedly I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. What was more disheartening was the anticipation of a cold house waiting for me once I arrived home.

I knew this because my husband can only sleep if the temperature is low – and by low, I mean cold.

I, on the other hand, always seem to have a chill and do not enjoy being cold, let alone sleeping in the cold. We’ve had the cliché argument about the temperature in our house from the moment we moved in together. (Side Note: he has a good argument, I can put on a sweater, but he can’t take off skin).

To compromise, I bought a small heating blanket last year. The ROI on this purchase has been unmeasurably positive. About 30 minutes before bed I turn it on so by the time I crawl under the covers my side of the bed is nice and warm.

However, being so delayed meant that I would be clambering into a cold bed (please note, I fully appreciate that this is not a life hardship). So, it was not surprising that the temperature in the house had hit its nighttime low by the time I got home. Resigned to the fact that cold blankets were awaiting me, I dropped my suitcase at the front door and headed straight to bed.

But to my delighted surprise, as I lifted the covers I was met with a warm bed! 

My husband had very thoughtfully and kindly, turned on my heating blanket for me before going to sleep.

To be clear, all this gesture would have taken was for him a reach across the bed and hit the “on” button – a small action, but one with a massively positive impact that made me feel very loved by him and made being home even more special.

On top of all of that, and perhaps even more importantly, it was proof:

A small action taken will always beat a grand gesture considered.

My learning was to not underestimate the impact of a heating blanket moment.

The next time you catch yourself heading towards all-or-nothing thinking, shift your thinking to small-and-something and ask yourself, whose world could you warm today with a small action?