By Linda Gabriel
Buckminster Fuller, one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, loved the metaphor of “trim tabs” for understanding how to leverage personal power. Famous for inventing the geodesic dome and coining the word “synergy,” Fuller felt he’d wasted the first part of his life. He would often go on drinking binges, neglected his family, and hadn’t achieved much. Then when he was 32, his only daughter died. Blaming himself for not being home when the child passed away, he fell into a severe depression. The story goes that soon afterward Fuller went alone into the ocean, wading further and further from shore, contemplating suicide. In that moment of desperation the thought occurred that he hadn’t really given his life a chance. Who was he to waste a life? Was life really was worth living? Fuller decided the only way to answer that question would be to turn his life into a sort of experiment. From that moment on he resolved to spend all his energy finding out what a single human life could achieve. It turned out to be quite a lot.
In a 1972 interview Bucky explained the power of trim tabs:
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do.”
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.”
“So I said, call me Trim Tab.”
The first time I read this I was astonished at the elegant simplicity of the idea of using a trim tab. But while Bucky Fuller was speaking about the power of one person to affect society, I began to wonder about the power of the trim tab metaphor in a more personal way. Instead of trying to change “society” what about just changing myself? What trim tabs could I find to create small shifts in awareness or behavior that might leverage a much larger effect in my life?
Micro-Gratitude is certainly a trim tab. Another powerful trim tab we have is language. Our everyday way of speaking has so much power to shape the quality of our lives with very little effort. The words you choose can affect your level of self-confidence, your mood, and even your perception of the world. I offered some suggestions about the power of language in Three Words That Can Change Your Life.
Here are a couple more ideas:
Think of something you’ve been procrastinating about doing. I suggest starting with something small like, “I have to organize my desk,” or “I have to go to the dentist.” Notice how you feel when you say or even think the phrase, “I have to…”
Now think about something you enjoy doing. Again pick something small. When it comes to things we like to do, we usually say something like, “I get to go to the movies this afternoon,” or “I get to have some time to myself this weekend.” Notice how you feel when you say or think the phrase, “I get to…” Feels good, right?
Notice how you feel when you say or think the phrase, “I get to…” Feels good, right?
Here’s where it gets fun. Notice what happens when you start changing your “have to’s” to “get to’s.” Try it see if it reduces your resistance. You may be surprised to find a dramatic change for the better. Don’t worry if at first you feel sarcastic or develop an urge to giggle. “I get to do the dishes!” “I get to walk the dog.” “I get to pick up the kids at school.” “I get to go to work.” “I get to go run some errands – anyone want to join in the fun?”
If you want to “kick it up a notch” take a moment to really let the “get to” feeling sink in. With the new label your subconscious will actually begin to file things differently so you will tend to experience less resistance. And with less resistance, it becomes easier to realize that you truly are lucky to “get to” do almost anything in life, even those things that you’ve been resisting.
The more you can appreciate each moment of your life, the happier you feel.
It’s really very simple.
To learn more about Buckminster Fuller visit www.bfi.org