Annual Check-up: the easy route to noticing change


One night last week my son went to bed in pyjamas that fitted. When he got out of bed the next morning, they were conspicuously short in the leg. He had had a growth spurt overnight.

Now such things happen – changes that are sudden and instantly visible. But often change isn’t so obvious. It is gradual and incremental. It creeps up on you. The classic example is not noticing that your child has grown until someone comes to visit who hasn’t been for a while. When they exclaim how tall your child has become, you also look on them with new eyes. Yes, they have grown, haven’t they?!

It is very easy to just let life slide past and thus not notice the effect of the accumulation of small changes, whether for good or ill. Our child grows, the bedroom carpet gets shabbier, our confidence in our new job increases, our favourite shoes develop worn heels…

Small changes. It can be hard to notice the small changes. FM Alexander knew this. In the opening chapter of his very first book he wrote:

“The evils of a personal bad habit do not reveal themselves in a day or in a week, perhaps not in a year, a remark that is also true of the benefits of a good habit.” *

What Alexander means here is that, if we sit or stand or go about any of the “innumerable acts of daily life” in a way that is less than optimal (or even downright harmful), we may not notice the effects immediately. They might not appear for weeks, or months, or maybe even a year.

But notice that he also says that this is “also true of the benefits of a good habit.” When we make changes that are good and beneficial, we might not notice the benefits immediately. They might be gradual and incremental. They might creep up on us. We might not even notice the improvement for weeks. Or months. Or maybe even a year.


Annual check-up time.

Some years ago I decided to take Alexander’s words seriously, and set up for myself a sort of informal annual check-up. At a certain time each year, I think back to that time the previous year. I think back to what was feeling emotionally and physically. I check my diary and look at the sorts of things I was doing each week. I look for the accumulation of the small changes.

Would you like to do something similar?

The end of the year is a good, standard, traditional time to carry out that sort of annual review. One of my favourite writers, Chris Guillebeau, is even making part of his public at the moment on his blog.

Sample questions for your review:

  • How was I physically this time last year? Are there things I can do now that I couldn’t do back then?
  • What was I thinking about this time last year? What preoccupied me? Has my thinking changed, and if so, how?
  • How was I feeling this time last year? Am I feeling differently now? If so, how?

If you haven’t done a review before, give it go, and tell me in the comments how you found the exercise. And if you do this each year, tell me, how does it help you?


* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.16.