"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 - Make one radical change.
This doesn't seem so small, does it? But I am not talking about anything like picking up and moving to Antarctica, or quitting your job to take up professional salsa dancing, or running off with the handsome UPS guy. There are plenty of "I've always done it this way" things in our lives that can be altered. The reason? Thought pattern interrupt.
While I am a huge fan of routine and stability, I must acknowledge - it can and does lead to the staleness of thought and stupor of new ideas. Sometimes, a minor jolt is required to get yourself unstuck.
Let's say, you've always had the same thing for lunch - a ham and cheese sandwich, an apple, maybe a cup of coffee. Have a champagne lunch with crab cakes instead. Ok, so you might want to pick a non-work day for that - but do it.
If you always shop at the same store - pick a time and go somewhere different. Make a point to thoroughly check it out and see everything they have to offer. This particularly applies to clothes shopping - a lot of people, men and women, ALWAYS shop at the same places, afraid of disappointment elsewhere.
Or, let's say, you always wear black - wear color. And I am not talking about just adding a white shirt under a black suit. That's cheating. No! Color. Something other than black. No black garment of any sort anywhere on you.
These are minor envelope pushers - but you might be pleasantly surprised how they impact you. You might discover your thoughts going in new and fascinating directions, your mind acquiring a new sort of clarity and teeming with ideas. It's not an easy task - but very worth it.
Week 2 - Let go of other people’s stuff.
You probably don't even know this - but your house is full of things that should belong to someone else. Some are obvious - like books or tools you or someone in your household borrowed from a friend or a neighbor and forgot to return. Find them and return them.
Then there are other things. Books, for instance, that you have read and not particularly liked, or thought you might read but didn't, but you hold on to them because they are books, and you can't bear to part with books. Why not give them to people who will read them and like them, and possibly even keep them for the right reasons?
There are clothes that feel good and look fabulous - on someone else. So, what are they doing in your closet? They don't fit you - but you hold on to them in case someday they might, even though, at the bottom of your heart, you know that is unlikely. They don't look good on you - but you can't let them go, because you paid too much for them. Sell them on eBay or take them to a thrift store so that their actual owners might find them and give them a new lease on life.
If your kids are grown up, their baby clothes no longer belong to them or to you ("but what if my children have children!") - they belong to a new mom trying to find good, sturdy baby clothes at a discount. Duplicates and triplicates (or even more-plicates) of hammers, screwdrivers, saw blades, and fastener sets don't belong to you - they belong to a young family trying to whip their fixer-upper starter home into shape. Old magazines, unopened bills and advertisements belong to a recycling facility. Old sheets and blankets you no longer use even for the guests belong to a local homeless shelter. Leftover cans of paint, rolls of insulation, and sheets of plywood really belong to Habitat's ReStore.
Free your home from things that belong to other people and make room for your own life.
Week 3 - Learn how to tell people what you do and own it.
Considering how much quicker connections between people are made these days and how much more extensive their networks, it is truly puzzling that everyone doesn't have their elevator speech prepared and memorized. In this world, where it is so much easier to find the right person to help out with the right thing at the right time, the ability to explain what you do and why it's important has to be essential.
Many of us who can explain our occupation in under two minutes have a tendency to undermine it. "Oh, I'm just an admin." "Oh, I'm just an editor." "Oh, I'm just a project manager." Stop it! Even if you are not passionately in love with your job (yes, I've been there, I know what it's like), as far as anyone else is concerned, what you do is fascinating, important, and crucial to... well... maybe not the survival of mankind but definitely the survival of the company you work for. You are tough, you are knowledgeable, you are confident, and you are ready to take on anything. If you are, indeed, not in love with your current job - those are the characteristics that will help you find another one.
If you are self-employed, the well-worded, to-the-point, competently delivered elevator speech is just as important, because your next client, next referral, or next reader might be just around the corner.
Week 4 - Know what you want and ask for it.
You might not always get a positive answer, but hey, you'll be no worse than you were before you asked. On the other hand, you never know who and when might come up with just the thing or the idea you've been looking for.
Consider all aspects of your life - home, family, work, income, health, responsibilities, etc. Think of the challenges you are facing in each of these areas. For each area, write down on a card, what needs to be done or has to change to alleviate the challenges.
And then start asking. Obviously, it's not as if you can just walk up to anyone and say, "Give me a million dollars to solve my financial problems". BUT you can share with your circle of friends or with a group you are a member of - here is my problem, here is how I want to solve it, any ideas what would make the solution possible? The brainstorming is bound to be all over the place and generate a lot of ridiculous ideas. But there are bound to be some good ones that you haven't thought about because you have been looking at the problem for too long.
Big Little Stories
- When science fiction becomes life.
- When I grow up, I want to be just like them.
- Being a gentleman is back in fashion.
- Give someone a gift of home.