"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.
Weekly small change challengesWeek 1 - "I'm only human" – you are only awesome
I hear that a lot. "I wish I could do this, that, and the other thing – but I'm only human". Or, "I tried not to get angry – but I'm only human." Since when did being human become something inferior? Why "only human"?
Physically, chemically, physiologically, neurologically, and in many other ways a human organism is so complex and sophisticated that scientists have yet to figure out how to create an artificial equivalent thereof that would be comparable and functionality without being a moving mountain of sensors, processors and tubing.
As "only humans" we are capable of performing hundreds of thousands of operations at once, without even thinking about it (we receive about 30,000 pieces of sensory data input every minute!). Our systems function on a variety of levels carrying us from one day to the next for decades.
As "only humans" we take care of our homes, our families, our pets, ourselves (not enough of the latter, sometimes). We do our jobs, we write books and music, we create paintings, sculptures, and beautiful buildings.
As "only humans" we determine the course of history and the fate of future generations – human and otherwise – on this planet.
"Only human" is not so little after all. So, consider thinking about yourself not as "only human" but just "human". Because "human" is awesome in so many ways – and in many more ways we have yet to discover.
Week 2 - What is not working?
Do you always do things the same way? And after you have done them, do you feel as if you are running behind schedule or unduly tired? It is possible that the way you line up your daily tasks is not the best.
Don't get me wrong – I love routine. As a borderline patient, with constant chaos going on in my head, routine is the cornerstone of my existence. However, not all routines are good. For example, get up + turn on computer + become drowned in Facebook and e-mail = bad routine. Many of us have done this – and before we know it, it's almost noon, and we are still in our pajamas, nothing else has been done, and all that is left is frustration about the time that mysteriously disappeared on us.
If you feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass – having to run as fast as you can just to remain in place, and having to run even faster to actually move forward – then maybe it's time to sit down and reconsider how you do things.
Turn off your computer, let your phone go to voice mail, focus. Write down your standard order of operation every day and look for "bottlenecks". Where do you get stuck? Where do you waste time? What tasks can be "nested"?
There are only 24 hours in the day, we do have to eat and sleep – so it's really up to us to either invent a TARDIS or to figure out how to use the time we have in the best possible way and with the least amount of frustration.
Week 3 - Promote the work of others.
Despite broken links, “stupid Wal Mart people” web sites and an occasional creepy stalker, I do love the Internet. It has made so many things possible, including making the world wide open for small independent writers and artists. We now have the freedom to by-pass the agents, the publishers, and the lawyers, and just put our work out there.
That said, people are not telepathic. There is no way for them to know that the work is there, unless someone tells them so. As all of you know very well, I do encourage everyone to promote their own work. I have heard many writers say they found tooting their own horn distasteful and then complain about poor sales within the next five minutes. There is no way around it – if you want your work to be seen and bought, you have to promote.
In addition, it also helps to promote the work of other creative individuals. Now, I am not saying you should tell everyone about Aunt Martha's hideous holiday sweaters, just because she is your aunt. No. If you think the sweaters are hideous and would never wear them yourself, then you shouldn't tell other people about them. However, if you have friends whose books you enjoy reading, or whose art you gladly hang on the wall – then tell others about them.
This accomplishes two things. First, it helps you feel better about promotions, because now you are not just pushing your own work, but also helping others. Second, you start creating a kind of network of creative individuals, where they can find out about each other and, in turn, start putting out word about each other's work. Everyone wins.
Week 4 - Read to learn.
Identify an area where you know you need improvement or a skill you want to learn. Find a book about it – and don’t be lazy about it, do your research and make sure it’s really the right one for you and what you want to learn. Make a point to read one page or one chapter every day. Some of the best books out there are conveniently divided into small sections, perfect for perusing during lunch or sneaking in just before bed.
Week 5 - Reset 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. 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 won’t work.
Big little stories
- It works!
- Good cop - excellent cop.
- Use existing systems to do double duty.
- Let's do this EVERYWHERE!
- Talk about thinking out of the box!