Man, all of this.  The big mountain that is “the healthcare system?”  That thing seems gigantic.

But small changes make a big difference.  I think about the stickers I used to get on my school papers back in grade school.  The happy, bright yellow star grinning its toothless grin at me, delighted by my spelling homework.  It seems goofy to feel motivated by that gold star sticker or the “good job!” written in perfect teacher handwriting, but nevertheless, the stickers do their job in making me feel good about doing mine.

Fast forward thirty years and it seems like stickers are still a thing.  My daughter brings them home on her school papers, and they don’t seem to have changed much since way back when.  They are small, require little effort, and yet make a big difference when it comes to feeling motivated.

What small change can I make today to improve my health?  Right now I’m working on aggressively correcting high blood sugars (no, you cannot float around at 177 mg/dL for hours … fix that shit).  That means looking at my Dexcom and being responsive to those slings and arrows.

Sometimes I want to stick one of those stickers on everyone in the diabetes community, too.  I scroll through my social media feeds and see effort to improve all over the place, and I want to scrawl a big, smiling, yellow star onto each photo, confession, or status update.  “You are getting there.  You are worth it.”

What small change can I make at the clinician’s office at my next appointment?  I have been diligent about writing my questions, concerns, and the prescription re-ups I need, but I don’t always practice what I preach when it comes to upping the humanity quotient during those interactions.  I must remember to ask what I can do to help make our visits more productive, as the patient.  I know my doctors are working within the confines of a healthcare system that makes him check boxes instead of making eye contact, and I want them to know I remember that they are human, too.

Sometimes I want to bring a sticker and give it to them, like a third grade teacher would for a stellar student.  You’re the best for being patient as I slog through diabetes management … which is a lot to put on a sticker.  Maybe it can just say “You’re the best!”

Small changes, small acknowledgements, small goals can become the foundation for big improvements.  A million gold stars become a constellation of success.