The Centimeter Rule: Small Things That Make a Big Difference

little changes that make a big difference man repeller leandra medine


here is some controversy online about who first said to enjoy the little things. One particular quote (“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”) has been attributed to both Kurt Vonnegut, whose uncle famously asked: “If this isn’t nice, what is?,” and Robert Brault. The latter has authored four books dedicated to his short thoughts, which have purportedly fueled much of the inspirational quote fodder that is used to accompany the curly fonts and color theories that permeate various social media platforms.

But I suppose that is all semantics, because the sentiment remains unflinching and indelible: It is the little things that can make the difference between a good day and the kind that makes you feel like, at best, you are a cog in a wheel. Of course, how you are to define a “good day” is distinctly subjective, so for the purpose of this argument, let’s go with my definition — which is that the little things remind you that you’re human. They’re slight by definition and can, therefore, catch you by surprise as if a sparkling butterfly that appears from nowhere to kiss your nose and flirt with your eyelashes, forcing you to stop for a second and recognize the magnanimity of a world that is so much bigger than you and absolutely beautiful for no reason more straightforward than the butterfly in your purview.

This is probably — nay, definitely — what meditation is all about: seeing, not merely looking at, beautiful things in real time. But some of us need baby steps, or more realistic guidelines, so here’s a list of little things to notice or do that make a big-ass difference. Apparently, Tony Robbins coined this thing called the 2-millimeter rule, which my mom told me about when she returned from one of his DATES WITH DESTINY, and it follows a similar logic — that “small changes can yield the biggest results.” These are mine:

Taking a shower while sniffing essential oils. My oil of choice for the shower specifically is called Breathe by Doterra, and while showering is generally a fantastic time to become one with the tiles that ground you and the water that wets you, it is also especially easy to get lost in thought and forget where you are as the warm water open your pores as if chia seeds soaking in boiling water. This vapor, though — Breathe — refocuses your attention on the pores and the water and the tiles and as an added bonus opens up your lungs to enable a deeper breath. Let this be a reminder that if nothing else, at least you have that — your ability to breathe! Congratulations! With it, you can literally do whatever the F you want.

Going out for coffee instead of making it myself. This point is two-fold: On the one hand, I get to put on a coffee outfit — the kind of purgatory clothes that you feel comfortable wearing out, even though they’re for home, which sometimes make for the basis of the most satisfying looks, if only because their shelf lives in public are so gorgeously fleeting. On the other hand, someone else makes my coffee for me! If you develop a strong enough rapport with the person who is tasked with this duty, they become a sort of ally, someone who knows you intimately enough to know how you take the beverage that starts your day. It’s the same as your mom making you chicken soup when you’re sick, only better because you’re not sick and your barista cannot impose on you a curfew.

Sitting down to eat a self-made breakfast without interruption from a digital device, be it a phone, music or television. Sometimes I allow myself a newspaper, but mostly I like to pat myself on the shoulder for perfectly dressing every square inch of the cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread I routinely consume in the morning hours in very chic, very chunky multi-nut butter.

Wearing impractical shoes when I’m not feeling like myself. I have long advocated for the transformative and escapist quality of a good pair of shoes, and sometimes when you’re just not feeling up to the royal “it,” or like the world is against you, or perhaps like there’s just no point to get out of bed, let alone into a pair of shoes — which symbolize the necessity to leave your home — putting on an impractical pair that brings you harmlessly hedonistic pleasure is a reminder that, hey, we’re all trying to survive. If you have the coping mechanism in place, no matter how trivial or vapid or whatever it is, you’re a pun full of two steps ahead.

And on that note: putting on a dress after consecutive days of wearing leggings just because. Similar logic here, and you can replace leggings with any number of garments you wear day after day to the point that you forget you’re even dressed. Last winter, that was jeans and sweaters and some version of a pair of boots. But every time I broke out of this cycle, no matter how comfortable it became, I felt like a luxury. One in a million. A million bucks if the value of that million was actually a billion, not to be confused with Billions, which is a great, grisly Showtime television series.

Photo via BFA by Billy Farrell Agency

Calling my mom before she has a chance to call and ask me why I didn’t call. File this one under ways to feel more accomplished than running a marathon, filing a 5,000 word essay, winning a Pulitzer, birthing twins.

Not allowing myself to open a recent delivery until the end of the week. What’s the last thing you ordered from Amazon? I recently bought a book called Self Observation: The Awakening of Conscience (a very light read!). It arrived a few days ago, but I’m waiting until tomorrow, when I have enough time to actually sit down and start reading it, to indulge myself in the unboxing experience. I know it’s not a particularly sexy unboxing experience, but there is something satisfying and inventive about opening a box full of something new, even more, when you have mustered enough discipline to wait.

Playing music while I fold laundry/wash dishes/peel produce for my kids. These slashes can be interchanged with any of the chores you engage with regularly but man, what a difference music makes! I do not self-identify as a “music person,” which I think is just because I’ve never explored what could define by musical taste. But I do know that I get excited by Bossa Nova, Gipsy King and sometimes a steel drum. So I ask Alexa to whip up a cocktail of these preferences and what I am left with is a salsa party to accompany me through the tedium I never regret prioritizing on, say, a Wednesday night.

Ironing my sheets before putting them on my bed. Have you ever bit into a piece of cold celery on a very warm summer day while thirsty as hell? Sometimes it is more satisfying than water, even. I think it’s the crunch — a fresh bed plus folded sheets yields the same result.

Reading a book out loud instead of to myself. It is nice to try someone else’s thoughts on for size — sometimes they stick, but even when they don’t, it was nice to crack open the inside of someone else’s mind for a moment.

Sleeping with the shades open so I wake up to natural sunlight. Rain or shine, so I can start over again tomorrow.

Feature collage by Emily Zirimis. 

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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