The Broken Widows Theory in criminology provides a metaphor for tackling disorder within neighborhoods. The creators of this theory developed it because:
“They saw serious crime as the final result of a lengthier chain of events, theorizing that crime emanated from disorder and that if disorder were eliminated, then serious crime would not occur.”
The theory says that physical disorder, like broken windows and vacant buildings, along with social disorder, like noisy neighbors and aggressive panhandling, begin the chain of events that lead to serious crime. Addressing these things creates a positive chain of events where serious crime is minimized and even eliminated.
This theory is not without its critics, though it has also resulted in positive results in some areas. Regardless, it offers another way to think about disorder in our own lives.
We often get overwhelmed by significant disorder in our lives. I don’t have to name what that looks like. You know what it is if you have it. Others see it too.
When we’re overwhelmed by disorder, taking time to look at our broken windows can give us the small steps to take toward addressing the bigger issues. In other words:
Small steps, taken consistently over time, add up to make a huge difference.
Broken windows can be anything from daily habits like what you read, what you watch on television, how much television you watch, the negativity you allow into your life, and basic self care habits like what you eat and physical exercise. They are things that you can break into small steps and work gradually toward revamping.
Addressing small habits, over time, led to the defeat of depression in my life. Depression was horribly overwhelming for me, but it now exists firmly in my past. That victory began with addressing the broken windows in my life.
Start with a good self assessment. Ask yourself what broken windows need repaired in your life. In other words, what small steps can you start taking today to work toward big changes?
This doesn’t mean you won’t face big or difficult tasks. It simply means you begin by strengthening your base and then moving forward from there.
Slowing down enough to address the broken windows in our lives can feel like we’re going backward. We want a new start, not to remake what we have. Yet, if we’re honest, we realize that renovating what we have is often the best way to create that new start.
“Going back is the quickest way on.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Progress sometimes means doing an about turn. The sooner we make this about turn, the sooner we’ll be able to make progress.
Take time today to look at the broken windows in your life and to determine what needs done to repair them in ways that allow you to move forward stronger than you were before. Even if it means going backward, know that doing so is probably the quickest path to progress in your life.
Progress over perfection, my friend.