Saturday, January 31, 2015

Find the integral - Small steps to big change

Welcome to February 2015!  Depending on where you are on the resolution spectrum, this is can be either good or bad news.  For many of us, we jump start the new year armed with a list of goals to accomplish; our resolve is sure, our commitment firm.  Then, something happens and we begin to question that resolve and abandon those commitments.  What started out as possible becomes an obstacle of epic proportions - it’s just too hard.

Face it:  we do not like change.  Our minds and bodies are wired to favor the comfortable, the familiar, the easy.  We want results now, but without challenge or hardship.

However, life is all about change.  The most important things require work, sacrifice even, before they manifest.  So maybe in order to reach those goals we need to take a different approach - one that works with and against our human nature.  And it involves calculus.

Fortunately, this is not an introduction into calculus.  However, there is a principle of calculus that is of great interest here: the integral.

Simply stated, finding the integral is the act of adding up an infinite number of really small rectangles to estimate the area of a complex shape.

So if asked to find the area of a rectangle, one would simply multiply the length by the width.   It has a defined formula.  It’s easy.

But what if the shape had a curvy line?  It’s a bit more difficult, but doable.  What if you cut up the shape into a lot of smaller rectangles?  You know how to find the area of a rectangle (you just did it.)  Now, all you have to do is add up the areas of all those tiny rectangles to estimate the area.

An example of approximating the area using integration  - finally putting those calculus notes to good use!

Did you catch it? We can handle small changes.  They are not too far from our comfort zone.  They are simple, doable steps.

By making a bunch of small changes, something that seems more difficult becomes possible.  Small changes can get us to our goals.  It just might be the approach we need to finally tackle that seemingly insurmountable mountain, whatever it may be. 

To eat healthier, add one more serving of vegetables to dinner.  Drink one less soda per week.

To get in shape, start by walking for 10 minutes after dinner.  Do some stretching while watching a favorite show.

To get more organized, find a home for the most often misplaced items.  Spend 5 minutes each day handling mail or putting things away.

Once these small changes become our new norm, we can dare to make the next change.  Please understand, it is not a fail-safe method by any means;  reaching any goal requires consistency.  But this way, success, no matter how small, begets success.

Whatever the goal, it’s a matter of taking steps, big or small, in the right direction.  Before you know it, you will be ahead of the curve.

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