Big things and tiny things

Big things are difficult to kill.

Big is relative, of course.

Big things relative to the size of you are tough to kill. It’s difficult to fight something much bigger than you. It’s tough to reach. You’re at a disadvantage. You don’t have the force, the leverage, the raw power needed to take down a big thing. You probably can’t even make a dent. It’s tilting at windmills.

Tiny things, relative to the size of you, are also difficult to kill.

Small things are easy. You can squish a bug without any effort. It’s smaller than you by a lot.

But tiny things, very tiny things relative to your size, are difficult to kill.

Tiny things can hide. Tiny things can move into places you can’t go. Tiny things can be, often are, invisible to you. They’re so tiny, compared to you, that your force is meaningless. You can try to squish a molecule but it just slips between the grooves of your fingerprints.

Killing a very tiny thing is as difficult as killing a very big thing. They’re difficult to kill because in order to be effective the weapon must match in scale. You can make up for some discrepancy in scale with intelligence and cleverness and speed and agility and surprise. But there’s a limit.

So if you want to kill something that isn’t working in your life — like a harmful habit, or a toxic relationship, or a destructive belief — look at the scale. Then scale it up or down so you can attack it effectively.

Here are a few examples.

  • Get closer or further away.
    • If you’re dealing with a relationship that needs to end, for example, you probably need to get further away from it. Relationships are big when you’re in the middle of them. Find a way to get some distance. Take a break or take a trip. Put your phone on airplane mode. Quit being so available.
    • On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a destructive belief that’s wormed its way into the core of your identity, you need to get closer. Dive into it. Ask questions to put words to the belief. Write things down. Say things out loud. Pull the belief out of murky headspace where it’s tiny enough to get lost behind all the other thoughts. Pin it down somewhere on paper, on a screen, in a conversation.
  • Break a big thing down into smaller pieces.
    • If there’s a harmful habit you want to break, start by breaking it into pieces. Let’s say you want to quit smoking. Maybe you smoke a pack a day right now. Okay, start by not smoking the last one in the pack. Do that for a week, then tackle the next piece. Maybe you’ll leave the last two in the pack and make yourself just throw them away. You’ll be thinking, *What a waste.* You’re building negative associations. You’re adding a yuck feeling to the mix. Then maybe the next week you’ll do something else, like keep the lighter and pack somewhere inconvenient. And so on.
  • Blow a tiny thing up, out of proportion.
    • Sometimes we know we need to change something, but the day-to-day effects are so small it’s not worth the effort. So blow that tiny thing up to its maximum possible impact. This might be compounding effect over time (if I keep eating junk and skipping workouts, I’ll become unhealthy and feel awful) or a worst-case-scenario effect (if I don’t send out applications this week I may miss a perfect opportunity and never find a job as good again). Hyperbole can be helpful. Put your anxiety to work.

The flip side: this is how you protect things you care about.

Big things are tough to kill. Very very tiny things are also difficult to kill. So if you’re trying to nurture a relationship, build something helpful, adjust your mindset, hold on to a better belief, establish a good but challenging habit, make a change…

Find a way to make it really big or really tiny. It will be tougher to kill.

(Really tiny is easier.)