Ready to begin taking small steps forward this Summer?

Summertime is (when movie theaters are actually open) usually the time for big Hollywood blockbuster movies. Most of these big expensive films tell big expensive stories about bold and brave characters doing daring, amazing things on a huge scale. What I’ve realized about these films is that many of them can also be seen as guides on how to approach major self-improvement issues… such as addressing difficulties relative to relationships with food. “How’s that?” I can almost hear you asking. “What does an eating issue have to do with movie plots?” Well, stick with me, it will all make sense in a moment.

You’ve probably seen Star Wars, right?  Let’s note that the movie does not begin with the hero, Luke Skywalker, defeating the bad guys by blowing up the fearsome Evil Empires’ Death Star at the start of the film; he blows it up at the very end of the film. As a matter of fact, when the movie begins, Luke is not even aware that there is a problem. And when he first realizes that there is a threat he pretty much denies that the Empire is a problem and certainly doesn’t want to do anything about it. When it becomes clear that he must invest some energy in doing something about it, he takes small steps forward, sometimes making mistakes, recovering from the mistakes and then moves forward once again. In time he becomes both more confident and competent. And it is only when he learns to trust himself that he is able to achieve the big important task at the end of the film, something that would have been unthinkable for him at the start.

Isn’t that the same process we all tend to go through as we face daunting tasks?

At first we are barely aware of a problem, and when we do start to recognize the problem, our first impulse is most often to deny its significance. And next, when it is clear we must do something about the problem, we might at first take rather small, hesitant steps toward dealing with it. This early tentative stage is important, because as we move forward we gather more information about what we are facing… and equally important, we also learn more about ourselves in relation to the problem we are facing. Even setbacks are instructive because they teach us what not to do. As our confidence builds the steps we take get bolder, until–hopefully–we achieve our goal.

If Luke Skywalker, at the very beginning of Star Wars, learns that it is solely up to him to defeat the enemy army by blowing up the most fearsome weapon in its arsenal, he would most certainly say “no way” and not even try. Luke doesn’t yet have what it takes at the beginning of the story–in body, mind, or spirit–to achieve something on a grand scale. He has to work his way up to readiness. Now of course, repairing one’s relationship with food (or any other significant aspect of self-improvement) is not of galaxy-shaking importance, but facing the challenges of our core issues might seem just as daunting as taking out the Death Star!

Let’s accept that when we choose to address a difficult issue for change we will most likely not be able to solve it right out of the gate. Instead, we can mindfully honor the process of slow starts, missteps, and a wide learning curve. The poet Rupi Kaur so beautifully describes this dynamic: “You do not just wake up and become the butterfly — Growth is a process.”

So as we move forward, let’s be brave and bold… but also let’s be kind to ourselves and our mindfully-achieved progress.