When New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani embarked on his lofty mission to clean up New York City and tackle its infamously high crime rate one might be surprised to learn that his strategy did not really focus on going after the big time criminals. Instead he began literally cleaning up the city and cracking down hard on the small time offenders. By investing tens of millions into actually cleaning up and revamping the decaying and dangerous subway system he began to create a different expectation for New Yorkers. By ticketing and arresting small time offenders he began to send a city wide message that these small offenses would not be tolerated. It didn’t take long before public and criminal behaviour began to drop dramatically. As smaller offenses were dealt with, and the message was sent that they would not be tolerated, gradually larger, more serious crime began to drop considerably as well without it being specifically targeted any more than before. Kind of like a trickle up effect, if you will.
I liken this to our own offenses on the self by the assaulting messages we tell ourselves or by the destructive thoughts we allow ourselves to injudiciously believe. As we start to address, deal with, and rehabilitate some of these smaller offenders – the destructive thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours we struggle with on a habitual basis, often we find that all of a sudden some of our bigger problems start to disappear, or at least begin to lose their power. By learning to set new, cleaner, safer, and more welcoming and kind expectations for ourselves we send the message that the big guys better shape up or ship out.