Change and The Spoon Theory

There are two fundamental reasons to change things. We change what we dislike, or we change what we love. Think of a tree. A tree cutter changes the tree to remove it because it is unwanted, or to remove the parts of it that are unwanted. But an arborist, or a sculptor changes the tree to make the remaining parts of the tree better. One person changes things that are unwanted, the other rather makes change to improve what remains. The same is true of us. We change in ourselves what we dislike – or we change because we love ourselves and are trying to enhance who we are. It is a matter of attitude and approach.

Yet, I would maintain that change from negativity is a more expensive proposition. There is a paper written by Christine Miserandino, called “The Spoon Theory”. It postulates that each day, each of us is given a certain number of spoons to get through the day – that represent the energy we expend. As we go through activities within the day we use up spoons. Her paper was written to illustrate that those with chronic illness use up spoons faster, and that they often use so much energy just dealing with their illness, pain, and the complications that illness brings to life, that many days they run out of spoons entirely and have none left to deal with day to day matters. And yet, each of us, not strictly those who are ill or disabled, have other factors that determine how many spoons we expend that are not directly expended to deal with normal day to day activities. There are many papers which talk about things which theoretically can reduce the number of days in our life through stress (use of spoons) – moving, dieting, changing jobs, money worries, relationship problems.

But change clearly takes spoons. Changing ourselves takes attention and effort that would otherwise be expended within our day to day activities. For most people change can co-exist within our day, without running us out of spoons – but for those who must already measure our spoons carefully, change needs to be managed and dealt with within an already tight budget of spoons.

So here it becomes more critical to approach change correctly. Again I maintain that the tree-cutter, getting rid of what is unwanted (unloved), expends more emotional energy than the sculptor, who is removing (potentially some of those same) parts of the tree to render the remaining wood into something beautiful. We need to approach our own change with the eye of a sculptor. The goal of change needs to be based in the realization that we love this object we are changing (us), and that the goal is to mold the remaining parts into something we love even more. Looking at change as a refinement process, improving what remains, instead of a surgery to remove what we dislike may seem a minor thing. But the mindset of a sculptor, working to expose something beautiful will clearly use fewer spoons than that of one who is attacking something they dislike.

So we should all consider change as something we do to improve and refine ourselves, focusing on the resulting betterment of something beautiful, rather than to focus on those things we dislike and want to remove. Change needs to be seen not as chopping down, but rather as molding and sculpting something we love.


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