Small Steps Forward

The thespian mask speaks to the dual nature of human beings. We are at once capable of being happy or sad, practical or emotional, objective or subjective, left-brained or right-brained. Which side dominates is a matter of context, personality, and state of mind. The Greeks used these masks to set the seriousness of a scene: Is the audience expected to mourn or laugh?

Modern life doesn’t offer such obvious cues. We must interpret situations on our own. There is no right or wrong answer in most cases; it’s mostly in how you feel about it. So, is the glass half-empty or half-full? Do I laugh or cry?

I offer the example of “relocating.” Which thespian mask will you choose, the happy mask (“Great! This gives me a chance to simplify my life!”) or the sad mask (“I hate sorting and don’t want to do it!”)? Emotions run high.  Motivation is low. Moving is stressful no matter which mask you choose.

It makes sense to avoid accumulating stuff that will make a move more difficult and expensive. Inevitably, we do accumulate that stuff, especially if we have lived someplace for several years.

Here are a few suggestions for adjusting your thespian mask from “horrified” to “happy” when you find yourself moving or relocating.

  • Create a vision of what you want your new place to look like. Color a picture, buy a postcard, make a collage — whatever pleases you. Post this picture in a prominent place. This is your goal.
  • Next, determine the timeline. Hopefully you’re not forced to vacate quickly.
  • Break the timeline into pieces. For example, if you have six months, break up the time into one-month segments.
  • Make a checklist of what needs to be accomplished in six months, and then in the first month, the second month, and so on. This checklist defines the path to your vision.
  • Create categories to “keep,” “donate,” and “trash.” “Donate” may have two subcategories: “Consign” and “gift.” Any item in the “keep” category must carry a very good reason for moving it with you. These are the hardest choices to make. Give yourself time. Pour a glass of wine and put on your happy face.   
  • Include a few items on each month’s checklist that you have already started accomplishing. When you reach the following month, you are already well on your way to completing all tasks. Breaking checklist items into small steps gives you motivation to keep going. Cross items off the list. Cue the happy mask.
  • Maintaining motivation is key. Starting a journey is exciting; ending it is cause to celebrate. It’s during the “in-between” part we become stressed and lose hope. Find ways to motivate yourself. Perhaps a reward for
    finishing a big checklist item — it can be as simple as dinner with a friend.
  • After a few months, review your progress. Take a long look at your “vision” picture, do your happy dance, and then reassess the checklist to complete the rest.


These steps are useful for achieving any big goal. Are you planning to redesign your backyard? Do you want to take a trip somewhere special?  Plan either out the same way. These steps are also useful for grand plans to lose weight or improve your health. Vision, timeline, and path, all in bite-sized steps.

Take the drama out of big plans. If you’re a person who struggles with getting big things done, you are the only one who can decide which face to put on the situation — the happy mask or the sad mask.

Then get on with it!

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