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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.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Big Little Change digest - February, 2016

Weekly small change challenges

Week 1 - Smile on the treadmill

Or on the elliptical. Or while stretching on a mat. Or on the running track. Wherever you happen to be exercising. Seriously, why do so many people look so glum when they exercise? I can understand a look of grim determination – because fitness is a challenge, and I get that. But some people look like they would rather be hanged by the neck than be exercising. The last time I checked there were significantly worse things one could be doing. Hauling cement. Cleaning elephant poop. You know... it's a long list.

No, exercise is not easy. Establishing a steady fitness routine is SERIOUSLY not easy. But one thing to remember is that by doing that, you are doing something well and truly incredible for yourself. You are doing your future self a huge favor, by keeping your current self in the best possible shape, by getting some muscle, by boosting your metabolism, by keeping your joints moving. Considering all that is involved in the physical process of exercise, that is an awesome thing! And you get free endorphins on top of it.

Smile. Put some kick-ass uplifting music on, visualize whatever you have to, but smile. People will notice. First they will think you are insane. Then they will think you are up to something. And then they will realize it's possible to be happy while exercising, and might even decide to give it a shot as well. Smile.

Week 2 - Don't be afraid to be seen

I love Facebook. While many people find it annoying and frustrating, to me, it's whatever you make of it. Minor technical glitches don't bother me for the most part, and having that community at my fingertips truly is priceless.

That said, I am frequently puzzled when people do not use their actual photos as their Facebook profile image. Some use cartoons. Some use pictures of their children or pets. And I don't understand that.

Look, folks, you are not a cartoon. You are not your children. You are not your pets. You are you – first and foremost. So, ask yourself, why are you so reluctant to present your actual face to the world?

Unless you are one of those Facebook "people collectors" with thousands of "friends", you like and appreciate people in your social network community. Given an opportunity, you would probably like to meet them face-to-face. And when that happens, you are not going to hold up a cartoon, or a dog, or a child, or a flower, or a house, or a panda in front of you. You will just... be you. Wrinkles and all. So why not pretend like you are already meeting face-to-face – and put your own wonderful unique face out there for your friends to relate to and enjoy?

Week 3 - Your place in line

Believe me, I know all about after work grocery shopping – tired, hungry, stuck behind a bunch of people with outdated coupons and cranky children, NOT looking forward loading 40-pound bags of dog food and cat litter in the rain, the works. I know.

That said, how about we summon our willpower, pay attention to our surroundings and, if the person behind us only has a couple of items, let him or her go ahead of us? Yes, I know you want to get out of there ASAP. I understand. But watch the face of that person you allow to get ahead of you in line. How their eyes light up, how they smile. It's worth it.

Week 4 - Micro-give

I am utterly and unabashedly in love with Kiva, Heifer, NPR, and other organizations, where a small amount of money is combined with other small amounts to make great things happen. Their operation is the very cornerstone of making big changes by starting with small ones. This is, after all, the premise of so many non-profit organizations.

Kiva, in this sense, is my favorite. Their minimum donation is $25; it goes not to the organization’s operating costs, but directly toward someone’s business loan all around the world; and, being a loan – not a grant – it eventually returns to you. Once a loan is fully repaid, you can take the same $25 and invest it into another loan. And another one. And another… several. You can choose to make additional contributions, or you can just stick with the original money you put in – knowing all the while that the little bit you contributed is helping someone somewhere get on his or her feet. And that, as they say in the MasterCard commercials, is priceless.

Big little stories

- Sometimes, the next best thing starts with saying hello to someone.

- Go Apple!

- Motivation done right.

- Sometimes slow is the way to go.

- Big little libraries - you can start one today.

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