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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.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Big Little Change digest - May, 2015

Weekly small change challenges

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Week 1 - do something nice just for yourself.

So many of us spend our lives taking care of others. "My family needs me." "My kids need me." "My boss needs me." Well, what about you? Don't you need you too? What will happen if, in caring for others, you neglect yourself to a point where you just collapse?

At least once a month, schedule something just for yourself. It can be a champagne lunch. It can be going off to buy a new book. It can be a bubble bath. A box of top-of-the-line chocolate truffles. A slice of strawberry shortcake from the best bakery in town. Something. Make it yours - and only yours. Indulge. Enjoy.

Week 2 - share what you know.

This is bad for you - no, this is good for you! No, seriously it's bad. And while you are at it - don't do that! No, it's ok. Or maybe not. This is what surrounds us seemingly all the time these days - a truckload of warnings and instructions on what not to do. It is all, of course useless, because it's been proven and documented that human brain is hard-wired not to follow negative instructions. So, when told "don't do this, that, the other thing, and that thing over there", it skips the "don't" and either prods us to do the opposite or, at best becomes very confused and frustrated.

So, how about we focus on what we can and should do. If you know of what we CAN eat and drink - share that, instead of the endless lists of companies, whose products we should swear of for good. If you know safe, reliable ways to exercise without overstraining and getting hurt - share those, instead of page upon page of warnings of what is bad for us. Whatever area you wish to pick - housekeeping, gardening, cooking, education, child rearing - share freely what has worked for you, what you have tested, what you have succeeded at.

Positive instructions galore! We'll learn and improve a lot faster that way. After all - that's what our brain is set to do.

Week 3 - say good bye to the "buts".

Studies of language and how it impacts our ability to process information indicate: when you put a "but" in the middle of your statement, the brain just ditches everything said before the "but", retaining only the part after the "but". So, if someone says "You are smart but not very good -looking", the only thing the recipient's brain will end up retaining is "you are not very good-looking". (I know it's a meh example, but you see the point.)

It works the same in reverse. When someone showers you with compliments, and, instead of saying "thank you", you reply with, "Yes, but..." and then list all the things you perceive to be wrong with you - your own brain retains only that. Not the compliments so generously bestowed upon you, but the part where you ripped yourself to pieces. So, when someone says, "You have a beautiful house!" and you reply, "Yes, but the basement is a mess," the "beautiful house" but leaves no positive trace in your mind. All it zeroes in on is the messy basement.

Let's say "no" to "but"s. Get rid of them when sharing information, trying to empower someone or receiving positive feedback yourself. When, say, beta reading a friend's manuscript, instead of "Chapter 10 is brilliant, but chapter 11 needs to be revamped," say, "Chapter 10 is brilliant and chapter 11 needs some work." That way, the recipient of the statement shall retain both parts of it and won't feel as if you had just bashed them and nothing else. When someone says, "You have a beautiful house," say, "Thank you - I am very glad you enjoy being here. We are working all the time to make it even better - just wait till we finish up that basement!" Boom - positive. Yes, the basement needs work, but your brain is left with the feeling of progress instead of a neverending challenge that yields few results.

Off with the "but"s!

Week 4 - read that name tag.

As Hercule Poirot points out in Agatha Christie's "Yellow Iris", we seldom notice people who serve us. Waiters, bank clerks, checkout clerks and baggers at grocery stores, mechanics - they are just... there. People in uniform. We come in contact with them to have them do something for us and walk away. Those of us who are polite and nice make a point to say "thank you", but there are some who can't even be bothered with that.

Let's go an extra step. First of all, saying thank you should be a given. Second, when someone is helping you, read their name tag, or, if they don't have one, ask their name. Dale Carnegie says there is no sound to a person sweeter than the sound of his or her own name. Adding a name to that thank you can well and truly make someone's day. If the person had an unusual name - remark on that too. If it suggests something grand or beautiful to you - tell them. You'll see their entire face light up. Read the name tag - it's important.

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Big Little Stories

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Changing one life in a big way, and starting an even bigger change.

Appearances matter, and this hairstylist takes the notion to a whole new - and very positive - level.

Someone took five minutes to help another person - and changed a life (or several lives) forever.

A restaurant offers free meals to people down on their luck.

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