The first thing I picture when I hear the word “hurdle” is the large, white barrier over which a racer jumps. These are fairly tall and I’m not sure I could ever hoist my small body up and over one. Fortunately, leaping over hurdles isn’t a skill most of us need to succeed in our daily lives. However, there is another kind of hurdle I believe we all must reckon with regularly, what I call the “tiny hurdle.”
Admittedly, a tiny hurdle doesn’t sound very intimidating. After all, if it is small, how hard can it be to get over it? The answer often is, “Very hard indeed!” Tiny hurdles have one (or both) of the following characteristics:
1. They require a bit of extra time
2. They require that we figure out something new
Unlike full-blown obstacles, tiny hurdles do not demand hours of time or large investments of money. Instead, they demand just enough of our attention that we avoid doing them. For example:
- We get a new bicycle and a lock. We want to ride the bike, but every time we think about doing so, we remember that we don’t know how to open the lock. In the moment, we don’t have time to figure out how to work the lock, so we choose another mode of transportation.
- The clock in our bathroom has stopped working. We are pretty sure it simply needs a new battery, but we have never changed the battery in this clock before. A quick glance suggests we may need to find a tiny screwdriver, and we aren’t sure if we even own one. As a result, we leave the clock unfixed.
- We find a Christmas decoration that never made it into the decorations box. All of the holiday storage boxes now sit stacked in the attic. Pulling down the stairs, taking the ornament upstairs, and un-stacking the boxes until we find the right one won’t take long, but it is long enough that we avoid doing it. Instead, we sweep the decoration into the kitchen junk drawer so we won’t have to look at it.
- We know that our car has Bluetooth capability, but we aren’t exactly sure how to make it work with our phone. We want to do this, because it makes talking on the phone both easier and safer. At the same time, because we are not technologically minded, the simple idea of figuring out how to make it work feels unpleasant. The result is that we drive around with our phone in our hands, feeling bad that we’ve never set it up.
- We get a new chain saw, electronic device, sewing machine, piece of exercise equipment or some other toy. The item represents a significant investment, and we have been looking forward to getting started. At the same time, it arrived with an instruction booklet that we know we should read in order to ensure we are utilizing it properly and getting the most out of our investment. Reading a manual feels like a chore, even for an object we want to use, so we keep telling ourselves we will wait until we have “a whole day to focus on it.” Meanwhile, the object sits untouched.
- A button pops off of a favorite garment. Sewing on a button takes little time, but we aren’t sure where the matching button might be. We “re-notice” this flaw each time we are getting dressed to go out, at which time we lack the bandwidth to hunt for a button. Instead, we stick the garment back on the hanger, only to relive this moment in the future.
Do you see the pattern? Tiny hurdles don’t demand a lot from us, but they do ask for a little bit of focused attention. The problem is, we never intentionally allocate the time needed to figure something out, learn the new skill, execute the repair, put the item in its proper location, etc. Even when we know that we would benefit and it probably won’t be too difficult, we never seem to find the convenient moment to take the necessary action.
The solution is simple. We need to set aside dedicated time to focus on completing whatever small bit of work is needed. Ideally, we schedule this time into our calendar, just as we would schedule a meeting, doctor’s appointment, game, call, or other commitment. The key is to resist the temptation to tell ourselves that we will spontaneously get around to addressing this “someday.” Such pockets of time never arise, and we end up missing out on the enjoyment of our time, space and belongings.
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Does the idea of a “tiny hurdle” resonate? Can you think of a tiny hurdle that you’ve been avoiding?