The Broken Window Theory comes from ideas included in an article titled “Broken Windows” by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which originally appeared in the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Later there was a book adapted from the ideas shared in the original article.
The theory goes like this…
If a building has a few broken windows, and they aren’t repaired in a timely fashion, the tendency is for vandals to break even more windows. If time continues without the windows being fixed (i.e. the perception becomes one that no one really gives a rip either way, nor is anyone paying attention. My words not theirs :-)) they might even break into the building and over time do far greater harm or destruction to it.
There are several different examples, which seem to point to the idea that when people care, or are taking notice of the “small things”, it’s that much easier to keep the “big things” in check.
The broken windows theory has more than its share of proponents for and against its validity. In fact, you can see for yourself by using your favorite search engine and plugging in “broken windows theory” — or by reading up on it here.
My point here is not to take a stand either for or against it as it relates to the examples above. Rather, my intent is to explore ways that you and I can apply it in our own lives and in turn benefit for having done so.
The Broken Windows Theory as a Catalyst for Personal Growth…
Consider the idea that things which go unchecked tend to go undone, and if they continue uncorrected for long it’s likely that a person will continue on the path they’re on. Regardless of whether the given path leads to a destination of success and personal fulfillment. It kind of makes you think doesn’t it?
You see, the little things, the time we take to actually set goals, and plan the needed actions to achieve those goals matter greatly — as does our actually following through and taking the steps to complete the actions we’ve identified as most important. You see, we can’t simply wish for things to change — we have to be an active participant, at least to some degree in whatever change we wish to manifest in our lives.
Fortunately, it doesn’t require monumental amounts of action to initiate change. In the case of your own life you can begin the process by implementing in an ongoing and consistent basis a few things which include, but are by no means limited to the items I’ve included below.
Beginning the process requires considering some of the “broken windows” in your life that you can “fix” ongoing — and in turn begin to facilitate greater personal growth:
Take control of the way you begin your day – barring the truly ultra-rare instances in our lives where we are faced with things that simply take time to work past (i.e. loss of loved one, etc.) for the most part if we are honest with ourselves we would have to admit that a good nights sleep has the power to start us fresh and ready for the next day.
However, the challenge comes in when we begin the day giving very little thought to planning and committing to see the good things that will inevitably come to us during the day.
For the most part, when we wake up the day is pretty neutral. The things we allow into our world and to occupy our minds early on tends to escalate. Hence if the first thing you focus on is the terrible events of yesterday — all the things that just didn’t go your way, doesn’t it stand to reason that you’re going to begin to see more of the same appearing in this new day?
The same of course is true for the person who proactively introduces or focuses on yesterdays positives, and wins as I like to call them. That’s not to say it doesn’t require a certain amount of work, nor that you will ever achieve a point in which a “negative thought”, or as Zig Ziglar calls it “stinking thinking” won’t appear, however, because we are aware of it when it does, we can make the choice to shift our thoughts to ones that can serve us in some way rather than allowing it to remain and as a result continue to build up as it would if we didn’t shift focus.
Here are a few more simple steps to help you take control of your day:
– Give thanks for the events & people who have had a positive impact on your life, either from your past, or present.
– Read or listen to something of a positive nature. If the first thing you’re kicking your day off with has the remote possibility of making you feel bad — make a different choice! That’s not to say you have to run around avoiding any and all news sources — though I’m not arguing for or against that approach — I am suggesting that it’s not the very first thing you begin your day with.
You have the choice to set the tone of your day. If you don’t at least try you have no one but yourself to blame. After all what do you really have to lose in trying this simple approach?
– Keep a Success Journal – We’re not talking about a diary here. At least not in the context where everything about your life gets written down — the good, the bad, and dare I say the things you view as downright dreadful.
For our purposes we’re going to only include positive experiences, the day to day “wins” as I like to call them. You can of course include your goals, long term, short-term, and any “term” in between.
To put it as plainly as I can only record things and events in your success journal that can serve you and help you develop into a better you in some way. In doing so you will be creating a very real source of positive validation for yourself.
Whenever you find yourself doubting your ability you can look back over your Journal and see first hand that you have plenty to celebrate. It can also make for a terrific storehouse of ideas from which you can refer to and tap back into going forward.
– Ponder, write down, and act on your goals – there’s a wonderful quote from speaker and author Susan Jeffers which says “feel the fear and do it anyway” — it always reminds me of the importance & inner power which can come from applying forward momentum to a thing or idea.
I’m often amazed by how easily we as humans can get excited by and motivated to see a thing through simply by having the initiative to get started. It’s like a campfire — without the initial effort that goes into starting it, no amount of wishing otherwise is going to get those hot dogs cooked, or needed warmth provided. Yet, once the fire has started it takes very little if any additional effort to keep it going.
I hope that you will consider putting to use a few of the ideas above (or if you’re up to the challenge give them all a shot!) to work in your life. Consider also what an impact seeing things through the lens of the “broken window theory” might have for the better on you.
Inaction, if left unchecked can leave you running the risk of things escalating in a direction that you might not otherwise choose for yourself. Keep that in mind and be ever on the lookout for positive habits you can apply and put to work in your life.
Because after all….
It’s your life, LIVE BIG!
PS. If you found the ideas above helpful I’d like to invite you to learn more about participating in my Encouragement and Accountability Coaching Program.