unbroken, simple, small, slow

Keep things simple, small, and slow.

Does it surprise you that promises must be made, agreements if you will, for you, me, all of us, to feel safe, supported, and seen?

What kind of agreements?

I’m talking about agreements we make with ourselves. Pacts. Commitments. Yes, I will follow through on this thing that serves my growth, my potential, my healing, no matter how hard it is.

Why’s that important?


When we make agreements with ourselves, when we feel safe, supported, and seen, we learn to trust ourselves. We’re stronger. We more easily step into our wisdom. We’re less fearful about facing the unknown. We’re more adventurous and exploratory about what we need. We can face the inevitable challenges that arises when we ask to heal.

Safety, support, and trusting our needs matter are the heart of healing.

In my new book, Unbroken: Remember Your Wholeness, a manifesto to healing in a world that keeps us sick, suffering, and stuck, I propose five agreements for smoothing the way to healing with tenderness and building a lifetime relationship to deep, sustainable healing potential, your healing potential.

Last time we explored the first of the five agreements: Hold yourself with fierce compassion and safety.

Today I’ll share the second agreement: Keep things simple, small, and slow.

As always, I love your comments!

Keep things simple, small, and slow.

We’re not on the quick fix train anymore, are we? We know nothing worthwhile is accomplished overnight. While the pills and fast remedies of conventional healthcare may help us feel better in the short-term (and sometimes we need short-term relief), what we’re really looking for is healing. Healing requires we shift our equilibrium at the root cause level. For this, we must address our terrain in deep sustainable ways that fit who we are and what we can do.

This means we keep our tasks simple, our goals small, and our pace slow.

You get that, right?

I know this flies in the face of how most of us have been taught to operate. We’re consummate multi-taskers who bite off way more than we can chew. We walk fast, drive fast, live fast. We’re always out of time. Why do you suppose self-help is a multibillion-dollar industry? It thrives on our overwhelm to teach us organization, habit change, and take us on retreats from our crazy lives. Problem is, we can’t yoga, meditate, or hyperorganize ourselves out of this mess. We have to change how we operate.

Neuroscience is clear: the simpler our tasks, the smaller our goals, the slower we go at trying to achieve them, and the less distraction, the more successful we can be at just about everything we set out to do. We learn more, perform better, and can make lasting change.

 Our brains are not designed to multitask. We can learn to do complex tasks well, but in a sequential manner. We believe we’re multitaskers, but we’re not. Even the smallest tasks, done when our attention is elsewhere, will not be done as well as they could be. And the more we try to do at once? The less well we do anything. Our brains focus well on just one task at a time.

We all know this if we really stop to think about it, because relentless multitasking is depleting, isn’t it? Or we don’t catch that whole conversation we’re sort of in while at the same time looking at our phones. However, science shows that many of us are not willing to admit to this. We’re notoriously poor at self-assessment. For instance, drivers who talk on their phones perceive they are fully attentive to both the conversation they’re having and the driving. Though studies show attention to both falls off. The competency of distracted driving is comparable to driving drunk, even hands free (yes, it’s true!). And conversation quality? Well, we all know how it feels to talk to a driver whose attention to us fades in and out.

Multitasking is stressful. Not only does continuous distraction feel stressful but it’s a biological challenge—cortisol levels stay high to help us cope, and levels of inflammation markers rise because our brains believe we’re in trouble. That’s right, habitual multitasking makes us feel less safe. When we feel less safe, learning and performance fall way off. It’s a vicious cycle when we’re trying to learn and create meaningful changes that last.

So, how do we optimize our chances for the healing and transformation we’re seeking? Not just quick fixes or temporary reprieves?

We work our Core Resilience steppingstones with self-compassion for how we’re designed by keeping things simple, small, and slow. Our goals may be big, but our daily practices are not. One small fierce step at a time, each step kept simple and doable, slowly building as we go, and minimizing distraction is our recipe for creating the deepest, most sustainable, and elevating transformation.

One more thing, though.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, is it?

Because what does simple, small, and slow do when we’re beginners? When we’re rewarded for complicated, gigantic, fast, and busy lives? When it’s been that way our whole lives? When we’re told that’s successful? And maybe we’re punished for stepping out of the rat race or turning off our phones. That’s right, simple, small, and slow may well fling us up against trauma. Because going fast and big is the standard many of us measure our worth against. And if not trauma, it’s just not how we’re used to operating.

So, you know what to do by now, right?

Hold yourself, hold all your feelings, hold it all with the fiercest compassion and reverence. Hold yourself in safety. Feel all the feels. All the shit, all the glory.



Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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