Some Thoughts About Scoops

I almost always make hot chocolate wrong.

Those little Swiss Miss packets (or Greater Value packets, depending on where we are in our monthly budget) always say to mix them with 8 ounces of hot water.

Do you know how much 8 ounces is? Yeah, me neither. But I’ll tell you what 8 ounces isn’t: the size of any mug I’ve ever used for making hot chocolate.

Those mugs are all at least 12 ounces to the rim—sometimes more. But does the size of the mug ever impact how I make the hot chocolate? Not usually! Unless I’m really stopping to think about it, I almost always fill the mug to the brim—which means I’m adding at least a third more water than the packet recommends—which means my hot chocolate is going to taste watered down and disappointing.

If I want a better tasting cup, I have two options:

  1. Add 33% more powder from a second packet, or
  2. Use 33% less water in my mug.

But I’m not always thinking about percentages and ounces and ratios in the moment. I’m thinking about full or not full.

Seth Godin wrote about this years ago:

If you want to do less of something, then, get a smaller bowl. It’s the simplest possible hack, but it truly works.

And if you want to do more of something, the path is just as obvious. …

If you put a smaller scoop in the bin, you’ll take less every time.

Often, the real problem isn’t what we have, it’s how big our bucket is.

I felt kind of ridiculous deleavening this year. One evening, all I managed to do was vacuum half a room.

Half a room! It felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything at all.

But that’s because I was coming at the task with a very large scoop. It’s the scoop I used to use before we had three kids in the house—before my effective window for deleavening was a two-hour span between coming home from work and putting the kids to bed. (Hard to vacuum when your three-month-old is finally down for the evening!)

That scoop told me that half a room was laughable progress.

It was, of course, the wrong scoop. My old scoop doesn’t work at this phase of my life—and I was accomplishing something. Half a room is half a room. It was progress—and I needed to mentally readjust my scoop size to something that didn’t frame that progress as a total failure.

Of course, this isn’t really about hot chocolate packets—or even deleavening.

It’s about our spiritual expectations of ourselves—about what we think we ought to be able to accomplish in a single “serving.” Sometimes our scoops are too large. Sometimes they’re too small. And sometimes they change depending on what’s going on in our lives.

If you’re feeling inadequate (or disengaged!) as a Christian, the solution might not be a matter of hunkering down and trying the same approach that’s failed a hundred times before.

You might just need to change the size of your scoop.

Until next time,

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