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Sometimes this is all that’s needed

Emma Grey

“We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”

I’ve spent the weekend wrestling jet-lag via Netflix. I decided to watch everything set in the city I’d just fallen in love with and wrenched myself away from — New York. The marathon started with Sleepless in Seattle (for the Empire State Building finale), then When Harry Met Sally. Next, I watched some Reese Witherspoon thing I’d never seen before, called How Do You Know

At around this point, I started thinking I really must get off Netflix, do the washing and write my newsletter, and while I have a lot to say about the last 10 days, particularly about grief and recovery, I didn’t feel strong (or awake) enough to tackle that topic this week. Thankfully, the Reese Witherspoon flick came through with a fabulous analogy that I’d love to share with you instead. 

Reese’s character, Lisa, is a professional athlete, cut from the national team. She doesn’t know what to do with this disappointment, or where to head next in her career. She’s quite lost. 

Her new friend and admirer, George, gives her a tub of Play Doh and a story. He explains that Play Doh was created by accident. The gooey substance was originally marketed as wallpaper cleaner, during the time when most fireplaces burnt on coal, which would cover the wallpaper in soot. When coal fireplaces went out of widespread use, there was little demand for the wallpaper cleaner and the company started to go under. 

The owner’s sister-in-law worked at a pre-school. She said the kids loved using the wallpaper cleaner because it was easier to manipulate than modelling clay. She suggested he add some colouring and remove the detergent, and call it Play Doh. 

George turns to Reese at this point and says he keeps the tub of Play Doh, ‘as proof that we are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.’

Sometimes we are a few tweaks away, I think, but I really love the concept of making small changes for big impact. (Of course I do, as co-creator of an online program and a book that help people do exactly that in manageable steps.) 

Radical change is possible, and need not require a massively daunting overhaul. We likely have all that we need already — a gooey, colourless lump of stuff that just needs to be shaped and coloured differently, before we’ll have a hit on our hands. 


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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