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Four Feet- The Power of Small Shifts

I moved my desk four feet to the left, and wow, my world changed. A four-foot movement doesn’t sound like a big deal, yet it was a shift that changed my perspective, boosted my productivity and shifted my paradigm. I saw things so differently. With a four-foot move, I figuratively worked at a different company and felt the freedom of a new opportunity.

In the world of work, we sometimes get consumed with the thought that to make the most impact, we have to make monumental changes like reorganizing a department, starting or ending a piece of business, laying off employees or changing jobs. I’m no stranger to thinking, “What am I doing if I’m not completely transforming something?” There is space for large-scale changes. In this column, I want to focus here on the small ones we sometimes miss the impact of.

At the time of this writing, I am going through significant career and personal changes. I’d left my work-from-home job and was taking time to recover from a very traumatic experience. True to my personality, I was looking to make a major change to what was my office dedicated to a particular company. While I considered painting walls, buying new furniture, and massive reorganization, I stayed clear of that room. Initially, it was unconscious. The only occupant had been my robot vacuum, whose “footprints” were still on the floor. My mind was signaling that that room was the company I left, and I stayed away because I didn’t work there anymore.

As I thought about what my office needed to be for me, I jotted down a rudimentary new layout on scrap paper. Next, when inspiration and energy hit, I moved a small blue bookcase from the left side of the desk to the right. No major shift happened for me, especially since I wasn’t convinced it was the proper placement. Then, about a week later, on a whim I walked into the room and pushed my seemingly one-thousand-pound white electric sit-to-stand desk four feet to the left. Something amazing happened. The window the desk sat in front of looked different and better. My mind felt clearer, my eyes opened wider, my breathing steadied and I felt a sense of safety I’d lost not long before. I let go of what this space once represented, and it became my sanctuary where I continue to get important work done.

Moving my desk four feet made me reconsider what I constitute as actions that inspire major changes and shifts in perspective. It made me think about how powerful even the most minor modification can be. Previously, I was convinced I had to do drastic things like cut off all of my hair or move to a different state to feel the weight and significance of a change. Don’t get me wrong, those things worked but are not always necessary, nor are they feasible for everyone.

Consider the small changes you might make that would change your life or someone else’s in a significant way. Changes that would impact the people you lead in a positive way. Changes that would make you see your career differently or inspire creativity. Changes that would make you look at work differently. Changes that would make you respond differently to adversity. You might:

  • take a breath before you respond to someone;
  • turn off your technology alerts, so you don’t hear all the dings and pings during a meeting with your direct report;
  • put something on your desk that reminds you how amazing you are;
  • open the blinds and let a little light in; or
  • move your desk four feet to the left.

I acknowledge that “small” is relative, so know that whatever works for you is what’s perfect. Happy shifting! 

Kiahnna D. Patton is human resources professional with experience in the health care sector as well as a nonprofit founder.

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