How My Wardrobe Taught Me Not to Trust Big Ideas

My experiment began with a pretty Big Idea: maybe if I simplify my closet, I can simplify my life. As I have written about here and there, it worked. The experiment did change me: my reactions to the world, the way I think about myself and my relationships, my feelings about who I am. It changed my bank account and the way I get dressed every day and how I feel about myself when I look in the mirror.

Minimizing my wardrobe has, indeed, made a difference. Getting dressed today takes me 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes. Refusing to think about what I wear has freed space in my brain for thoughts I enjoy much more. Thinking about what I will do instead of how I look makes me happier all the way around.

It was a pretty Big Idea and it created a pretty big impact in my life. But the idea itself didn't make the difference. It was my choice to put on a black skort--no matter how I felt about it--every single day. That's what changed my life. And so,

Three Reasons I Don't Trust "Big Ideas"

1. Big Ideas are nothing compared to little habits. (No idea will change lives unless it is practiced every day.)

2. Inspiration withers without execution. (We all have lots of great ideas--the ones that really count are the ones we manifest.)

3. The difference between having a thought and bringing it to life is like eating the proverbial elephant. We do it "one bite at a time." (Daily, we make choices. We commit to the Big Idea in a million tiny ways.)

 As my friends and I seek peace, balance, and ways to make our time on the planet meaningful (and bearable), I think we tend to seek Big Ideas. When our kids are in trouble, when we're struggling with a relationship or bad habits or how to feel okay amidst all the chaos, we look for Big Ideas. We hope something--a new product, friend, prayer, diet, workout, bit of advice--will make all the difference.

I'm here to tell you, it won't. No Big Idea is worth much at all until we bring it alive with tiny, daily, sometimes simple actions. I asked a lot of my year-long experiment. I wanted simplicity and clarity and peace. I wanted to accept myself and feel confident and happier.

It was a Big, Giant Idea, but I measured my progress in one small way. Every single day, I put a black skort on my body. I followed the rather simple (but oh-so-challenging!) rules I set out for myself, and one danged day (one choice, one outfit, one un-purchased item) at a time, I did the Little Things that made my Big Idea happen. I think a lot of life works this way.