The Power of Changing Just One Thing

On a recent family vacation, we saw an abundance of osprey as we traveled beside the Salt River in Wyoming. They were actively building nests and flourishing in their current environment. I always enjoy seeing raptors in the wild because I remember a time when they were diminishing in alarming numbers.

When the US entered World War II and sent troops into the Pacific Rim, we used a powerful non-discriminating chemical called DDT to kill the malaria causing mosquitoes afflicting our soldiers. It proved to be immensely effective so they brought it home and introduced it in 1945 for wide agricultural use to help control insects that were damaging crops.

We didn’t understand it then (although we certainly should have) that poisoning the lowest animals in the food chain will impact all those who depend on them for food. We found out that DDT builds up in the animal’s system so the more we sprayed, and the more those life forms moved through the food chain and ended up in the fish and other small animals that the raptors were eating, the levels of DDT increased. High levels of DDT made it difficult for the birds to absorb calcium which in turn made egg shells much thinner leading to broken eggs before they could hatch. The numbers of osprey, eagle, peregrine falcon and other raptors dropped rapidly.

This alarming plight was brought to the attention of marine biologist and conservationist, Rachel Carson, who dedicated years and impeccable research to bring about her book, Silent Spring. It was published in 1962 and inspired a movement which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. After a long and hard fought battle between those seeking to protect the environment and the powerful chemical companies, DDT was banned 10 years later in 1972.

It took a while, as rebuilding often does, but by 1997, 25 years after the ban, these magnificent birds increased in population ten fold and have been removed from the Threatened and Endangered list.

The changing of one thing in our environment had a drastic impact on several species of birds. First, the introduction of a harmful substance brought about negative results. Stopping that substance didn’t completely undo the damage, but it certainly began the reclaiming of the population. In both cases, one thing was done differently that had a cascading effect: one thing that changed the course of life.

I’m not going to spend time telling you all the negative things we need to stay away from that would adversely affect our lives. You already know all about them. Instead, I want to focus on the things that we can do to change our life for the better, because I believe it is an innate human yearning to be happy and be our best self and to figure out how to make that happen.

With all the distractions and demands on our time, plus the myriad of voices in the world proclaiming just how one should act and look and behave, we erroneously sometimes think that we have to do major overhauls on a number of things …and thinking about the required effort needed for those changes makes us quit before we start. We get overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin.

You can effect change by doing one thing different. Click To Tweet

The course of an entire species was changed by doing just one thing. Think about one thing you could change. Just one. Maybe you want to be better in a specific relationship. Perhaps you want to master a new skill.  Lose weight. Get stronger. Be kinder. That goal you’ve wanted to reach IS attainable. You CAN do it!

Pick one thing to change.

It’s so much easier to identify and focus on one thing than it is a list. We’ve all heard of eating the elephant one bite at a time, but many of us rarely put that into practice. We get impatient with ourselves and want results….now!…so we try to do it all at once. There are not many people who can sustain that level of energy and stress over time enough to effect lasting change.

There truly is power in changing even just one thing. I have a quote by Richard G. Scott hanging in my office that reminds me that we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results:

To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done. Click To Tweet

So change one thing and give it time, and watch the results unfold.