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ironiya • this career-oriented blog—published on biweekly Wednesdays—looks at the positive and sometimes ironic sides of a kaleidoscopic range of workplace and life issues, from education and employment to discipline and discord •

taking small steps: light switch

Your job isn’t going quite the way you’d like. Perhaps it’s a recalcitrant employee, or if you’re on the other side of the door, an obstinate boss. Making even slight changes will go a long way toward showing your flexibility and understanding. Most people naturally and rightly respond to sincere effort. Stay an extra 10 or 15 minutes at the office a few days a week, or come in a bit earlier. Take all of five seconds to offer a good word or acknowledgement of a task well done.

Your relationships have become somewhat frayed. Perhaps it’s time or money, or lack of sleep. Take three minutes to buy your significant other a candle, fresh flowers, a gift certificate. Offer a quick massage before dinner. That note of affection you keep thinking about writing? Make a point of actually leaving it a few times a week or whenever the mood strikes. If you have kids, linger a bit more at the dinner table or the study desk. Take time out to honestly express your feelings, and request that they do the same. Make them an egg omelet once or twice a week before school.

You’ve gained some weight, and your cholesterol level flirts uncomfortably with the 200 level. Perhaps it’s a lazy diet, the pull of the drive-through window, the unforgiving and relentless clock. Choose the small fries instead of the larger size. Ask for fat-free or sugar-free whenever possible. A non-fat latte, a diet Coke, dark rather than milk chocolate are all delicious alternatives barely distinguishable from their full-figured cousins. Don’t try all at once to eliminate the generous carb pockets that line your sides. See if you can take off a pound a week, five pounds a month, rather than something more extreme that’s likely only to make matters worse. Spend four extra minutes at the gym, run another quarter mile or walk two more blocks. Do 10 more sit-ups or lift an extra five pounds.

In all of these circumstances, small steps are doable and require little effort. Switching behaviors in increments rather than by canyons will make your goals realistic and achievable rather than magnets for failure. Take it easy. Walk with a light step. For the better part of the day, you’ll more often than not find yourself—on.