"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 - Resist the temptation to troubleshoot
Life is not perfect. Nor should it be – it would be awfully boring if everything went our way 100% of the time. And so, we all have days when something goes awry – sometimes more than one thing. Social animals that we are, we need to tell someone. Sometimes we seek advice and sometimes we just want to talk it out and let out the steam.
As a type A engineer-analyst, I am constantly in the "what can I fix" mode. So, when someone tells me about a problem, it is VERY hard for me to not to go all Wonder Woman on them and start spewing solutions at the rate of ten per minute. However, with time, I had to discipline myself to pause, take a breath, and ask, "Are you looking for advice or do you just need to vent?" That's all it takes, really.
I cannot tell you, how much difference this makes in your interactions. People appreciate you more because you listen better and you respect their right to find their own solution. So, if you are a troubleshooter, like me, consider forming this habit. Repeat after me, "Are you looking for advice or do you just need to vent?"
Week 2 - Thank your postman
It doesn't have to be a postman – 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 the 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 you wrote down. That is amazing. And it's been around since 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 3 - Follow through
The biggest disappointments over the course of my life were invariably delivered to me by people who talked a good game and then did nothing. These people were of various ages, various origins, various positions in life – there was no pattern in who they were. They only had one thing in common – they liked to make great, elaborate plans, with a multitude of details, engage others, and then forget about it all. One such individual managed to drive me to a point where I almost lost my faith in humanity.
Know your limitations. If you don't think you can do something – don't take it on until you are ready, especially if it's something that involves other people. If you have made a commitment – follow through. And make certain to keep whoever is on the receiving end of your work apprised of your progress. If you get to a certain point in the project and realize it's starting to be too much, and you are not sure how to move on, let your recipient know. See what you can revamp, see what can be adjusted.
Never, never, never promise something, then let it lapse, and then pretend as if it was all just... talk for talk's sake. The world is severely undermined by unfulfilled promises and unfinished projects. Let us not add to that collection.
Week 4 - Know when to stop
Some time ago a social media campaign for makeup-free selfies took place. Some of my virtual friends participated. Some looked great, some looked ok, but appearances aside, everyone involved appeared to have fun.
What struck me was the number of truly negative, vitriolic comments following this wave of bare-faced images, directed against people who do use makeup. Generalizations. Exaggerations. Attempted humiliations. You name it, it was there. “Let’s show those women who spend three hours getting ready!” “Makeup is stupid as are those who wear it.” I was stunned by how quickly a seemingly positive trend turned into a storm of negativity.
First of all, with the exception of movie and theater actors and fashion models preparing for a show, NOBODY spends three hours getting ready. Yes, some of us take longer than others, but let’s not be ridiculous – we all have lives.
Second, wanting to enhance one’s appearance with makeup has nothing to do with his or hers intellectual abilities. Yes – “his” too. Johnny Depp wears makeup on set and in life. Eddie Izzard does too. I dare you to call them stupid.
The selfie-related wave of shame is not an exception. Somehow, somewhere harmless things became turned upside down and inside out and stamped with a ridiculous label. News item: not all people who dress well are financially irresponsible and mentally superficial; not all wealthy people are evil and corrupt; not all lovers of organic foods are hairy hippies; and not all meat-eaters are thoughtless, brutal beasts.
It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s lifestyle. It’s something else entirely to start showering people with mud because they do something generally harmless you disagree with. When tempted to go to an extreme, consider taking a pause and a deep breath to give yourself time to re-think.
Big Little Stories
- Doing good for the sake of good.
- Share your blessings.
- This needs to be implemented NOW.