Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

Fix one thing


When you’ve read this post, I have a mission for you.

It doesn’t involve gun battles, self-destructing orders or Tom Cruise (sorry).

It’s a way to make your life a little better. A little more pleasant. A little easier.

Read on and discover your mission – should you choose to accept it.

When I moved from the first apartment I owned – the converted top floor of a small semi-detached house, with a kitchen where you could touch both walls at once, and a bedroom that led to a flat-roof balcony overlooked by the Ewell to Stoneleigh slow train – I made sure it was in good condition for the sale.

I fixed the wallpaper that had curled up at the edges. The light switch where the dimmer part had never worked. The handles on the doors that were difficult to turn.

I gave the bedroom a lick of paint to brighten it, and bought a new shower curtain. I painted the front door a handsome black, and got someone in to tidy the front garden.

I made the best of the house.

It looked great, and sold quickly for around the asking price.

How Not To Make My Mistake

But as I did a final walk around of the apartment to say my final goodbyes – it didn’t take long – I had one of those moments.

You know the type.

Where you realise that you just went about things the wrong way.

I’d lived in that flat, happily, for five years. But each of those things that I’d fixed for the new owners had been a niggle for me. A moment or two of annoyance or dissatisfaction each time I’d seen them.

But I hadn’t bothered to fix them for myself.

I’d let them go. They were ‘someday-maybe’ tasks. Except that someday was too late for me to get any benefit or pleasure from them.

And yet, I got through all the tasks combined in a weekend or two. Most of the tasks in less than an hour.

I vowed that day that when I spotted the everyday small things in future that tarnished the joy I felt in life – the stuck drawer, the dead plant, the missing button – I’d fix them.

Every Moment Counts

Because our lives aren’t just made up of the big events. The first dates, the promotion, the holiday to the tropics.

Rather, they’re made up of a much more mundane fabric. A weft and weave of tiny pieces of day-to-day life, from the taste of your morning coffee to your choice of music while in the shower. A kind word from a friend and a moment to yourself with your hands in the hot, soapy water of the washing up. The scent of a lover and the feeling of relief when you finally sit on your sofa at the end of a long day.

You can’t influence every moment. But any metaphorical (or literal!) pebbles in your shoes are worth sorting out to make those small moments more fulfilling. Effortless. Joyous.

For example, most of us make breakfast every day. So why not stop eating your toast from the plate with a crack in, or drinking your coffee from the chipped mug and make the whole experience a fraction nicer?

Mind you, I write all this and realise I’m still not taking my own advice. While reflecting on this post this morning at the gym, I noticed – for something like the twentieth visit in a row – that there’s a little bit of the sole of my trainer shoe that has come loose. Which is surprisingly annoying. And oh so easily fixed.

There are usually plenty of small things that we just ‘put up with’ in our lives.

Have a think – does anything come to mind for you now? Make a note.

The Invisible Elephant In Your Room

Of course, sometimes we put up with things that are a little bigger than a peeling bit of sneaker sole. Like the fact we haven’t had a proper night’s sleep for ages, or our commute is slowly wearing us down.

Often with these issues we have to step back from our lives and look at them with the eyes of a stranger to realize that there’s anything wrong.

It took a year from initial Doctor’s appointment to diagnosis for my Crohns’ Disease. But for several years before that, I had tummy trouble. I’d lived with low level (and later much worse) pain and digestive problems for years.

I lived with it precisely because it didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it crept up on me (one more aspect of habituation), and because, I thought everyone felt like this. It was only when I talked about it with other people they told me no, it was definitely not typical. And fixing that made a huge difference to my health and wellbeing.

Perhaps there are things in your life that you think everybody experiences just like you, that you are ‘coping’ with, which could be fixed if you turned your attention to them. Small things, or even bigger things.

Or is there a small purchase that would make your life better? Like a new battery for something which is no longer working at optimum efficiency? (If you’ve ever taken the battery out of the remote and spun it round and put it back in to save yourself getting up to get a new one from the drawer, you’ll know what I mean here.)

I have a terrible habit of waiting far too long to put gas in my scooter. It means for the last few miles I drive I have a constant low level anxiety as I wonder whether the scooter will actually make it to my destination. I could just put the gas in a few journeys earlier, and I could fix that worry each time.

Your Mission…

What do you need to fix?

What small – or big, if you have the energy – fix in your life would increase the quality of your life?

What fix would take away an anxiety?

What fix would remove a low level stressor?

This, then, if your mission over the next week. Get out there – and fix one thing.

20 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Betsy Henry/Zen Mama December 1, 2015, 10:34 am

    I have to laugh because we’ve fixed up several houses over the years to resell later and the same thing happened to us. We’d fixed it 75% of the way for ourselves and then the other 25% when it was time to sell. What a great example for me. It really resonated! I’m going to take your advice and do an inventory. The little things don’t take long to fix and you feel so good afterwards.
    Betsy Henry/Zen Mama recently posted…11 Ways To Slow Down Over The Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    • Ellen December 2, 2015, 2:51 am

      I’m sure we’re not alone Betsy! But I found it really made a difference – plus it’s a form of self-care, and reminds you at a subconscious level that you’re worth caring for, which has to be a good thing :-) Good luck with your inventory!

  • Caroline Leon December 1, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I love this post. It’s so simple but so true and so easily overlooked. I can’t think of anything to fix right now but actually what this post also makes me think of are the little things I often fail to do for myself on a day-to-day basis, like paint my nails or wear a nice outfit. Working at home means I often only do these things when I’m going out for the evening (i.e. for others) yet I always feel good when I do them, so I’m feeling inspired now to start doing those things for me rather than for other people! *reaches for bottle of bright red nail polish* Thanks Elles xx
    Caroline Leon recently posted…What you won’t read on social media about living the dreamMy Profile

    • Ellen December 2, 2015, 2:52 am

      Thanks Caroline. That’s another lovely form of taking care of yourself, I agree. Painted toenails are a weakness of mine – I think it’s living in Thailand where one’s feet are always on show :-) I love pretty toes!

  • El D December 1, 2015, 4:20 pm

    I think some of it is forgetfulness and some of it is sloth. You think of your trainer sole while in the gym but forget it at home when you could glue it back down. And it is easier to twiddle the zapper battery round (which works!) than get up, walk into the kitchen, find a battery and insert it into the zapper. As for the petrol in your scooter: no idea what that is but that’s the thing you need to fix so that you don’t run out in the middle of nowhere!

    • Ellen December 2, 2015, 2:54 am

      Yep, that’s true. It can seem like an effort to actually fix these things, but it’s so worth it! For the forgetfulness, write it down on a list immediately (I often email things to myself), and for the sloth, schedule a 30 minute slot each week when you do ‘maintenance’ (or whatever works/you need) and that can mean you get all the little jobs like that done at once. And I filled up with gas/petrol this morning!

  • Lea Bullen December 2, 2015, 2:04 am

    Hi Ellen,

    I had a similar experience when I moved out of my first apartment as an adult. I lived in it in one condition but when I was leaving I got it all nice and spiffy for the next person. It was so great I didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t believe I ended up doing more for a stranger than myself. Now I try to stay on top of things like that because I feel I deserve it just as much as the next person.

    Lea Bullen recently posted…How to Be Incredibly Successful with Huge Life ChangesMy Profile

    • Ellen December 2, 2015, 2:56 am

      Definitely! We often treat ourselves worse than we would a friend or even stranger. I guess many of us have had this experience around houses, I’m glad it has resonated!

  • Zeenat Merchant Syal December 2, 2015, 4:56 am

    You said Tom Cruise and my mind goes weeeeee…. :)
    And one thing….as soon as I read one thing to fix, my mind made a this huge list. I now have to prioritize and go do no. 1 :)
    Love this prompt!
    Lots of love,

    • Ellen December 7, 2015, 4:05 am

      Haha, maybe Tom was a bit too distracting at the start of the post? ;-) Yes, keep a list for sure, but don’t let it overwhelm you – just do one thing at a time. Eventually, it’ll all be done! Have a wonderful week x

  • Suzie Cheel December 3, 2015, 12:38 am

    Great post Ellen, So many things to fix , this has me knowing that I really need to start with putting in syatems that benefit me and my biz. xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Color Your World SaleMy Profile

    • Ellen December 6, 2015, 6:36 am

      Thanks Suzie, much appreciated. And yes, systems and processes are another thing that can help to make small but important positive differences in life, great suggestion.

  • Laura J. Tong December 3, 2015, 6:39 pm

    You make such a good point here Ellen! Boy, we’ve done exactly that soooooooo many times. Not any more. Great post, thank you.

    • Ellen December 6, 2015, 6:37 am

      Thanks for reading Laura, it’s such an easy thing to do – but once you have it brought to awareness, an easy thing to stop doing too!

  • Sondra Firestein December 11, 2015, 6:51 pm

    You know when you stumble across something and you feel like you were meant to find it? This post is that, so thank you. I’m not sure if it’s a seasonal thing or something else, but I’ve been getting out of bed WAY too late these days. So, I will fix this, gosh darn it!

    • Ellen December 11, 2015, 11:11 pm

      Thanks so much Sondra, I’m so pleased you stumbled across my little slice of the internet. Welcome and good luck with getting out of bed earlier! Your domain name is lovely, I’ll be sure to check you out :-)

  • sherill February 5, 2016, 8:25 am

    Hi, I can totally resonate with you, I used to live in a house that I fixed then eventually moved to another place. Thanks for sharing this one, it is so simple but definitely true.
    sherill recently posted…Breakthroughs Live Tour – Join me!My Profile

    • Ellen February 8, 2016, 4:43 am

      Thanks Sherill!

  • Sarah February 10, 2016, 2:28 pm

    Hi Ellen, thanks so much for your post and your lovely website. Self-care is so important, and I’m so glad you’re enlightening others about it. I get anxious each time I have to leave my house, as I have two little ones, and each time, we are right on the verge of being late. But if I simply start getting us all ready earlier, (and hope for no diaper blow-outs at the last minute!) then it would make me less stressed. Thanks for your help on these type of issues! Also, I wanted to let you know I linked to your site on my latest blog post, as it was about taking care of ourselves as well, and I thought you’d be a great reference for anyone who’s really trying. Hope that’s okay!
    Sarah recently posted…Taking Care of OurselvesMy Profile

  • Ellen February 13, 2016, 5:04 am

    Thanks for reading Sarah, and I appreciate you sharing, thanks. Yes, that sounds like a small but really useful fix for a repeated situation. I’ve found getting up earlier just on my own has helped the mornings feel less stressful and helped me ease into the day. Good luck with it!

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