That Little Extra

little-extra

You never know when that little extra effort could really pay off, whether it’s because it will positively impact you or someone else.  Success often comes to those who are willing to put in a little bit more time and energy towards their goals.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, but sometimes a little conscious effort to think positively can get you over the hump.  Perhaps a few extra minutes spent doing something like exercising would be good for you, or taking the time to call or message a friend might put you in a better mood.

There are numerous situations that come to mind where it would be so helpful or just plain nice if someone made a little extra effort rather than just doing the bare minimum.  For example, it doesn’t take THAT much effort to push a shopping cart all the way in the cart return and put it in the correct row along with the other ones of the same size and push them together.  It would keep the cart return from filling up so quickly and cut down on shopping cart dings and unavailable parking spaces. Speaking of parking spaces, I wish everyone took a little extra time to make sure they were parking in only one spot and straight. A little bit more order goes a long way.

My kids do a reasonable job clearing their empty bowls and cups off the table and even rinse them out, but then they leave them on the counter.  Apparently, it’s very scary for my teenagers to open the dishwasher, but if they did take that extra step of putting the item in there, that would be much appreciated. I can think of countless other examples like this where a little bit more effort on a few people’s parts would make a lot less work for someone else.

Then there are things like making a little more effort to be pleasant towards anyone you encounter throughout the day.  Just making a conscious effort to smile would be an improvement for some people.  Recently, I had a store clerk ask how my day was going so far, as if she was very interested.  It was a nice change of pace from the often meaningless, “How are you?” It was a very small thing that significantly improved my mood for the afternoon, so I really appreciated her asking.  If everyone made more of an effort to be kind to others, even in the smallest way, I think that would make a big difference.  Giving someone you know a random hug, asking if there is anything you can do to help them, or telling someone you have been thinking about them or appreciate them are all small things that can have a big impact on someone else.

What little extra thing are you going to try to do more often?

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Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

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Proactive vs. Reactive Approach to Life

There are plenty of things in life that we can all approach either proactively or reactively.  House projects immediately come to mind.  In my house, nothing gets replaced or fixed until it is actually broken.  I definitely would appreciate if more things were dealt with on a proactive basis.  Our health is another example.  The more we take care of ourselves by eating healthy, drinking fluids, exercising (or at least making an effort to not sit still in front of a screen for too long), going to regular doctor’s visits, and anything else we can do to help keep our bodies and minds healthy, the less we need to be reactive and take medications or visit the doctor or hospital to treat the resulting symptoms.  We can make and effort to keep in touch with people rather than complain or be upset when others don’t reach out to us.

How we interact with people on a regular basis can be thought of as proactive or reactive as well.  We can assume when people are speaking to us that there are hidden messages or ill intent in what they are saying and react in a negative way, or we can listen without the negative filter and give them the benefit of the doubt.  We can treat people with respect and kindness, regardless of how we are being treated (in other words, treat people the way we want to be treated), or we can “do unto others as they have done to us.”  We can go out of our way to be helpful and generous or do anything to put a smile on someone’s face, or we can only do something nice when we know there will be something in it for us.  We can complain about all of our problems and play the victim, or we can find ways to be part of the solution.  We can blame everyone else for our poor choices, or we can be accountable for our own words and actions and own up to our mistakes.  We can anticipate that things are not going to work out the way we want them to, or we can have hope and expectations that are more positive. We can communicate our thoughts and feelings completely and effectively, or we can be upset when someone can’t read our mind.  We can set a good example for our kids of how to be respectful, honest, and all the other traits that go along with having good character, or we can not be conscious of the example we are setting and then come down hard on our kids when they are behaving just like we are. The list goes on.

The bottom line is that all of these things are conscious choices we can make.  It’s hard to not be reactive at least some of the time, especially when negative emotions get involved.  But in my opinion, it is definitely worth the effort to take a proactive approach to life and our relationships as much as we can.  I hope you agree.

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Letting Go

letting go 2

Often one of the most difficult things to do is letting go … letting go of fears, negative thoughts, pain from being hurt, the need to be in control, , the need to be right, expectations that things will be the way we want them to be, guilty feelings, the notion that others will change their ways because we want them to, negative feelings such as anger and disappointment, and plenty of other things.  Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of tangible objects too because they are sentimental and remind us of someone or something.  So in that case, letting go is difficult because we are trying to hold on to our past or our memories.

While letting go is not easy to do, sometimes it is harder not to.  But if we don’t, then all the things we are holding onto prevent us from moving forward or living in the moment because they weigh us down.  They can cause stress and frustration and prevent us from focusing on the positives, what’s really important in life, and what we need to do to make changes so that we can move on to bigger and better things.

Fear of change can be pretty powerful, but sometimes we just need a little push or to get to the point where we are willing to let go of whatever is holding us back.  For me, there seems to be a connection with getting rid of stuff I no longer need or that is cluttering up my house (or my brain) and wanting to make changes for the better.  It is both cleansing and motivating.  Sometimes the decluttering motivates me to make other changes, even if it’s just in my attitude about things, and sometimes my desire to make changes motivates me to purge.

There are plenty of things I would not ever want to let go of though, and those would be my dreams and hopes for what’s to come for myself and my kids; the important people in my life whom I cherish; the willingness to learn and grow to be a better person, to have an open mind and give people the benefit of the doubt, and to be kind and empathetic to others; and my desire to make a positive difference somehow. Maintaining a positive outlook is definitely easier once I consciously let go of all the negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s something I struggle with at times, but I am working on it.

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Feeling Content 

Feeling content has a lot to do with feeling happy about your circumstances and being grateful for who and what you have in your life.  That can be very challenging when your basic needs are not being met.  I’m not talking about food, shelter, and clothing basic needs, although I’m sure it’s difficult to feel content when those needs are not being met either.  I am talking about being respected and listened to and things of that nature.  It’s hard to look on the bright side and see the positives life has to offer when the people who are most important in your life don’t value and appreciate you or treat you with respect.  It also becomes difficult to live in the moment and enjoy the little things when there is so much negativity on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from plenty of experience.

I just read a quote that said, “When you learn to accept instead of expect, you’ll have fewer disappointments.”  This may be true to a certain extent, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be treated with respect and kindness, to feel valued as a whole person, and to have others be honest with me.   Continue reading

Kindness

Kindness is to do and say, the kindest thing in the kindest way.This is something my grandfather was known to say.  I have this posted on my kitchen cupboard, because I think it’s important to have this attitude as you go about your day, and I want the rest of my family to think about this.

Kindness can encompass a whole slew of different things.  It can be helping others who are less fortunate, helping people you interact with throughout the day, being considerate, being generous, or just wearing a smile and being pleasant.  It can also mean complimenting people and doing other things that you know will make them feel good, big or small, like surprising them with a phone call or gift or doing them a big favor.  Kindness can come in the form of remembering your manners, holding a door open for someone, allowing another driver to go ahead of you, or allowing other people to go first or have the last one of something that you might have wanted to have, too.

One of my favorite ways to be kind is to give someone a hug if it looks like they could use one and even offer to lend an ear if that would help.  I love when my kids give me random hugs or out of the blue just tell me they love me.  Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day.  And not only will it make the other person feel good, but being kind actually releases endorphins and hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, all of which have both physical and mental health benefits for the person being kind, such as helping that person feel happy and less stressed and lowering his or her blood pressure.

Being kind is one of those things that seems to come much more naturally to some people than others, but a lot of that may be because they were taught by example.  I don’t consciously think about how many ways I am going to try to be kind to someone in any given day.  It’s just second nature at this point.  Granted, there are times when I am irritated or frustrated and I am not so kind, but I rarely have a day where I can’t reflect and think about something I did that was kind, sometimes many things.  If you consciously think about it, you can get to the point where you don’t have to.  What did you do today that was kind?

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