Meaning

Start Small and Let It Be Ugly

“Let this account then serve to describe the Good in outline—for no doubt the proper procedure is to begin by making a rough sketch, and to fill it in afterwards.”

Aristotle, 340 BC, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, 1098 a-b

We usually have an idea of what kind of person we would like to be.

There are traits, behaviours and habits we lack. These same things we lack are often what would bring us closer to fulfilling our potential. A creative person for example, can often find it hard to be disciplined, meaning they have lots of ideas, without the discipline to see them through. That person craves to be disciplined, focused, so as to be able to fulfil their purpose. Someone may be very sensitive to the judgement of others, so much so that it cripples them with anxiety, the opinions of others constantly occupying their mind and thoughts. That person would wish to have more self-confidence, to be less insecure. That would change their whole life.

Feeling like we’re unable to make the changes necessary to overcome our obstacles can be tormenting, especially when its something within us that’s holding us back.

It can go from frustration to self-loathing; anger at ourselves that we can’t, or won’t, just do what we need to. There are many things we wish we could change to be closer to who we want to be; the difficulty comes in how to make those changes.

There can be many reasons why we are the way we are.

It can be our personality, it can be learned behaviours, it can be reactionary; we don’t always know. One thing we can do now regardless of the answers, is to start on a sketch. Let it be rough, it doesn’t matter; just have a starting point. If you want (or need) to be more disciplined, start doing one small act a day that requires discipline. Do that act everyday, and bit by bit, start introducing discipline into your life.This goes for any behaviour/trait we want to develop.

Do not be fooled into thinking that this small act is irrelevant, or menial work; consistent action, no matter how small, will make an impact.

Like the sowing of a seed, something great will come of it. As T.S Eliot said, ‘to make an end is to make a beginning’; so just start. Start small, as small as you can and build habits. Fine-tuning can come later, but now at least, we’re on the path heading for who and where we want to be.

Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 19, translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1934.

Jean-François Millet, Potato Planters, 1861
Jean-François Millet, Potato Planters, 1861
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