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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.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Big Little Change digest - October, 2015

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - supplemental - don't be a jerk to people who can't solve your problem.

A short while ago, I had a fairly traumatic traveling experience. I was going to Colorado to my niece's wedding, and ended up not going anywhere because both my flights got cancelled due to the weather and other issues. This was the first time I was traveling anywhere by plane in almost a year, and, needless to say, the experience moved me closer to swearing off flying for good.

That said, my own inability to get to my destination was not half as depressing as displays of human rudeness I got to witness. One need not be an airline industry expert to understand the havoc a weather-related closing of a major airport can wreak. Everyone is tired, everyone's nerves are on edge - understandable. There were people among my fellow passengers who, while upset, did their best to let the desk agents know they understood it wasn't the desk agents' fault. They may have been a little loud, some even cried, but they weren't hostile. And the desk agents clearly didn't mind them and tried to be as helpful as comforting as was possible under the circumstances.

... And then there were others. Not necessarily loud. Not even particularly outwardly emotional. But poisonous. The kind that hissed at the agents and everyone else. The kind that got closer and closer into people's face. In one case, the agents had to summon a security guard, because the passenger's behavior we turning threatening (if they didn't, I was getting ready to interfere and hit that guy with my entire eight years of martial arts experience.)

When my flight was cancelled, and I was leaving the airport, I made a point to stop by the desk at my gate and tell the agents it wasn't their fault and I knew they did the best they could in a truly horrible situation. Do the same. Help them help you.

Week 2 - Small change challenge reruns - turn off the TV.

Some time ago, a friend expressed her frustration about her husband's excessive TV watching. We bounced a few ideas around, and she and her husband agreed on a compromise – he would give up two days of TV and she would give up two evenings of Facebook every week. Fair enough. While this proved to be somewhat challenging, like any change, they stuck with it and filled the free time with other things. More hiking, more taking walks together, just... more time when they could look at each other as opposed to at the screen.

As someone who works from home and is often alone five days out of every week, I can understand the value of internet and TV. But I still must ask – do you really, REALLY need the super-cable package? If you can find it in you to cut down the TV time, spend some of that time thinking, how much do you really watch and what you can give up.

Most popular shows can now be downloaded via iTunes or added to the queue on Netflix. You can get every bit of news from all over the world from the internet. If you are a sports fan, you can either adjust your cable or satellite package to include just your favorite sports channels, or watch the games with friends. Most people don't realize how much they structure their lives around their TV watching habits. Try going without – at least for a little bit – and you'll be amazed how much time you suddenly have to do other things. To finish projects waiting in line for years. To finally paint the guest room. To take your spouse out on a date. To read that stack of books on your nightstand. Lots of other things.

Week 3 - Small change challenge reruns - choose your exercise carefully.

Whenever the year end is upon us and people start making their New Year’s Resolutions lists, exercise is usually at the top of those lists – and is often the one abandoned the soonest.

First of all, trash the Resolutions. When you want to do something – go do it, and calendar be damned. Second, keep in mind that not all exercise was created equal. "No pain – no gain" only applies so far before it becomes an exercise in stupidity.

Studies show that our muscles comprise more than one type of tissue. Depending on how much of each muscle tissue we have (largely a result of genetics), we might be better suited for running, or dancing, or walking, or climbing, but not necessarily all of the above. So, if running makes you feel like crap, and it's not because you run out of breath but because your legs are complaining, it could be that your muscles are trying to tell you, "Hello, this is not what we are best suited to do!" This doesn't make you weak or lazy – please, please, please keep that in mind.

Learn to differentiate between the normal post-exercise soreness and the kind of pain that is a sign of possible injury. Try various types of exercise to zero in on the kind that works with your body – not against it. Pull together your own workout program that is not only effective, but also makes you feel good about yourself, and stick to it. Play some good music when you exercise. Have fun.

Week 4 - Small change challenge reruns - teach yourself to find things out.

There are many of us out there – a small army of reference kings and queens, who know the meaning of the most obscure words, conversions for some of the most obscure and antiquated units of measure, and can quote Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, and basic trigonometry within the span of five minutes. Such people are often tapped by their friends and acquaintances with various odd-ball questions about this and that. And the question I want to ask – does anyone think we were born with this knowledge? Of course not.

Nor do we carry that entire vastness of information in our heads all the time – there is simply not enough room up there for all that stuff. We look it up. At some point, we have taught ourselves how to search for information, where to find reliable sources, and now it's a matter of a couple of minutes, sometimes less. I encourage others to do the same. Instead of waiting for someone else to come up with an answer to some obscure question, look it up. You'd be amazed what you can find with Google and Wikipedia these days. Unit conversion tables, dictionaries, translators, recipes, physics, chemistry, algebra and geometry are all out there for the taking.

So, the next time you have a question and you are tempted to go ask someone, take a pause and see if you can tackle it yourself. Before you know it, the rest of the world will think you know everything, too.

Big Little stories

- What makes a difference between a boss and a leader.

- Some of the best, most important changes often begin with one person.

- There are many things we can learn from children.

- When people take the wellbeing of their own neighborhood into their hands.

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