Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, reportedly said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” (This holds true for women as well!) This past warm weekend gave me a chance to practice this ancient wisdom by starting the process of cleaning up steps still crunchy with remnants of ice melt, finding a broom and black bag to sweep up porch leaves, and imagining how I would arrange things for the return of outdoor living. It took some small steps to begin a process that looked like a mountain of work. My “mountain” is still there, but you can tell some “stones” have been carried away.
Many of life’s mountains are far more serious than a spring cleanup project. Deciding to go back to school or training to change or advance in a career is an undertaking that requires courage to begin and tenacity to keep taking classes, even just one or two a semester. Deciding to change long term eating or exercising habits for better health can look like an insurmountable challenge but begins with a choice every time we eat and every time we get up out of the chair and take a walk. Eventually the results come, but hardly soon enough to know that the mountain is moving. Working out of a mountain of debt begins with chipping away, one account at a time—highest interest rates first!
Even emotional states can feel like mountains too big to ever change. Years of anger or anxiety or depression can leave a person exhausted and not knowing how to even hope that things could be different. But these mountains are like others—they can be moved with the small steps of spending an hour at a time in therapy and an hour at a time of learning and practicing new ways of thinking and acting.
What mountain are you beginning to think of moving? What small stones can you begin carrying away?