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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Big Little Change digest - May, 2014

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - tell your postal worker you appreciate what he or she does.

It doesn't have to be a postal worker - can be any other service provider. But for me, it started with a postal worker. I've done my best trying to thank people for a job well-done in the past. But this one incident at the post office made it come into focus for me.

A few months ago I was sending some heart-health-oriented vitamins to my Dad in Ukraine. It was really important for me to get the package out quickly, because my Dad was beginning to exhibit the signs of the same heart disease that haunted his father - my grandfather. I was dropping the package off at the post office and filling out the customs form, when someone came in and dropped off a huge stack of packages of all weights and sizes. I said to the man working at the post office that day, "Wow, that will keep you busy."

And he said, "Not that anyone will care anyway."

I said, "Are you kidding? I love postal service - I think it's cooler than the internet."

His whole face changed. He asked, "Really? How so?"

"Well, you write a few lines and numbers on a box or an envelope - and a few days later someone on the other side of the world gets it. Just because of the stuff your wrote down. That is amazing. And it's been around way before all the technology. I love it."

He said, "You know, you are right."

I finished with my package handed it in and left, but when I was leaving, I saw that the man was smiling now. It was great.

Noticing crucial things about services people provide us with is a very cool and important thing. Let's all do that more often.

Week 2 - make it more than the pounds.

A few months ago, my employer ran a very cool wellness initiative for all the employees. It was entirely up to every individual to join, folks could track it on their own or join a team, and after you have reached a certain goal, you got a $40 Amazon gift certificate (that's free books, y'all).

Yeah, sure, it was a big corporate thing in an attempt to lower health insurance rates. However, one of my favorite things about it was that you could track your fitness in more than one way. Yes, the amount of weight you have lost was one of the options. But you could also track the number of minutes you exercised per day, or the number of steps you walked (a free - albeit somewhat crap - pedometer was sent to you at the beginning of the program). Also, there were challenges that team members could issue to each other, and those ranged from exercising a certain number of minutes per day, to doing a random act of kindness, to reading 30 minutes per day.

It was very cool to watch, how people chose to implement their fitness goals, and how many opted to issue challenges that were not directly related to one's physical activities.

The number on the bathroom scale and the number on your clothing label have both gained A LOT of negativity associated with them. So, as you consider setting up your fitness routine, make it about something else. Steps. Minutes. Miles. Reading. Hiking. Acts of kindness. Anything goes.

Week 3 - don't ignore your problems.

I am still struggling with this one myself - being bothered by something for a long time, trying to "handle" it, until it gets to a point where I just lose it. Not a good approach. I am getting better at trying not to let my problems escalate to critical mass, but I still have a lot of work to do.

So, come along with me on this self-improvement journey, and let's all learn to recognize and mitigate our problems before they drive us nuts. Sometimes, it's something we can fix ourselves. Sometimes, the solution may require the involvement of others. Perhaps, you have a recurring ache and need to go see a doctor. Perhaps, your kid has been leaving dirty dishes sitting all over the place and inviting ants and cockroaches into the house. Or maybe you are just feeling tired (it happens to everyone) and need to ask your spouse to help out around the house more. Whatever it is - believe me, it's never too small.

Don't get me wrong - I am not inviting you to become an emotional and physical hypochondriac who constantly whines about everything. However, if you feel something is escalating and the cumulative effect is starting to get to you - don't wait. Speak up. Get help. Don't be shy about explaining what's going on and why you need a break. Being nice to yourself, especially when something is constantly grating on you and weighing you down, is not a weakness or a selfish act. In the long run, you are not only helping yourself, but also sparing people around you a possible huge emotional tantrum or a real medical emergency.

Week 4 - re-set your "wealth thermometer".

I hear this a lot, "Oh, I don't want to be rich, I just want to have enough to pay the bills." It always rubs me the wrong way, because I have to wonder whether people saying this realize how much they are limiting themselves. "Enough to pay the bills" means no money for emergencies, no vacations, no gifts, no pets, no movies, no books, no extraneous expenses of any kind. Does that sound like a fun way to live? Didn't think so. That's not really living as much as subsisting or eking out a kind of existence.

While many things in our lives depend on things outside of our control - weather, government, state and world events - there is now ample scientific proof that the way we set our "wealth thermometer" can and will impact our financial decisions and our income. When we repeatedly say, "I just want to have enough to pay the bills," somehow, somewhere, we are tripping something in our subconscious that would eventually lead us to being stuck at that financial level, and wondering why.

Consider doing two things. One, stop saying "I just want enough to pay my bills" and change it to "I want to find ways to have enough income for the life of my dreams". It may not propel you to instant millionaire status, but it is bound to change your financial outlook and make your eyes and ears more attuned to opportunities for improving your life.

Two, if you have a family, sit down and brainstorm what all of you can do together to improve your financial situation. Be totally outrageous - write down everything from selling lemonade to robbing a bank. Somewhere in that pile of ridiculousness are bound to be a few pearls - real, viable ideas you can put to work and bring about some improvements. The caveat, of course, is that everyone participating in the discussion must commit to participating in the implementation. It can't be, "Oh, great idea! Now, you go do it, mom (or dad)." Everyone has to have skin in the game, otherwise, it will not work.

Member contributions

Another kind of hanging garden.

When a small group of people gets a chance to change someone's life.

Recycling at its best.

Landscaping fun - and the decorative flowers can always be replaced with edible ones.

Public service announcements

Regrow your lettuce - here is how.

Got a good tasty veggie from a local farm? Save the seeds.

Worn out or stuck in a rut? This might help.

Recommended reading

The Difference Maker by John Maxwell

Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers

It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Dress Your Best by Stacey London and Clinton Kelly

More Big Little Change ideas, support, and interaction can be had at our Facebook group. Big Little Change merchandize including the Earth-friendly grocery bags and American-manufactured casualwear is available at our Zazzle store.

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