Monthly Archives: February 2014

Monday Motivator: Be Careful When Playing the Comparison Game

Last week, I managed to get embroiled in a Facebook argument about the appropriate demeanor of the silver medalists on the Olympic podium. Like most Facebook arguments, no minds were changed, but it reminded me of a study I’d read about silver and bronze medalist winners.

Silver medalists tend to be unhappy because they compare themselves with the gold medalists and view themselves as losing the gold. Bronze medalists, on the other hand, compare themselves with all the people who didn’t get on the podium and are quite happy as a result. 

The lesson is clear (at least to me): Be careful with whom you compare yourself. In general, there will always be those who are more or less successful than you at any given time. There will be those who are in better physical health and those who are sicker. Some people will have more money while others have less. On any given day, some of the folks around you will be happier while others will be more miserable. 

There can be a danger in comparisons with either group. You can give up in misery because you’re not as successful as some folks. Or you can become complacent  because, after all, you’re a much better worker, friend, student, etc. than that slacker over there. 

Obviously, the wisest course is not to spend time playing the comparison game at all. Or at least, make it a solitary endeavor, trying each day to be a little better than the day before. 

Monday Motivator: Try to Find a Bright Spot

The Jolly Librarian was out sick two days this week, which is why the Monday Motivator is on Wednesday this week. I had some sort of stomach bug, and while people in all walks of life indulge in self pity their own way, probably most single people can recognize themselves in at least part of my way:

Ugh, I’m sick.

I have no ginger ale or crackers. I should have bought some. But I didn’t. And there’s no one who cares enough to bring me any.

Okay, I have bread and tea. But they are downstairs, and I’m upstairs. There’s no one to bring them to me.

Obviously, I will now die alone and no one will care at all until I don’t show up at work. How sad it is to be me.

The only good thing about this scenario is that after a few hours of this, I am as sick of myself as I am physically sick. 

Now, no one is ever going to describe me as a Pollyanna, but, over the years, I’ve realized that the self pity is a signal that I’m actually getting better. (When I’m really sick, I barely think anything other than “must throw up again” and “must now lie on the bathroom floor in misery before throwing up again.”) So if I have the brain power to whine, I have the brain power to think of something else.

So I made the effort to find a bright spot, any bright spot:

  • The tea and toast seem to be staying put in my stomach.
  • No one else at the library is sick, so work is covered.
  • The Olympic Games are on, so I won’t have to switch through dreadful daytime shows.
  • Living alone means that I’m not having to take care of or talk to anyone in my incapacitated (i.e. grumpy) state.

This attempt doesn’t always work, but, more often than not, it really does help me start my way back to a better mood.  


Monday Motivator: No One Plans to Be Mediocre, But . . .

Recently, a friend and I were having a philosophical discussion about work. “After all,” she said, “not everyone can be stars. Some people have to be in the middle.”

“True, but no one has to be mediocre,” I answered. And I believe that, but that belief has not stopped me from sliding into mediocrity at times. 

No kid ever hopes to be the mediocre adult: the one who doesn’t do the best work, who doesn’t take chances, who spends hours on the internet hoping the day will pass away. Yet so many people do just that. 

Many of us tend to blame external circumstances:

  • My teacher (or job) is so boring; no one could be interested in this stuff.
  • My boss (or professor or workplace)  doesn’t  care about me.
  • The job market is so bad that I have to take this awful job that doesn’t use my talents.
  • I’m going to be a chemist; I shouldn’t have to care about literature.

It looks less impressive written down; when we say these things in our head, we have the dramatic internal music playing with the appropriate James Earl Jones voiceover stating eternal victimhood.

But let’s face it: There really is no excuse for being mediocre. In my job, I will never be the best person at data analysis in my reports. That is just a fact. Still, that fact should not be an excuse for me to gaze at Facebook or Pinterest while I hope something more exciting and more aligned with my interests comes my way.

I still have to put in the time and the work. I ask for help when I need it. And while I know that my report will never be the one shown as a good example to SACS committees, I’ve put in the effort. And even more than that, the more effort I put in, the more I become interested in data analysis and the better I become at it.

Now I’ll never choose to spend a free evening with a statistical report over Jane Austen. Still, it’s a victory because life is too short to be spend it wishing to be somewhere else.

Mediocrity is not one of the seven deadly sins (because unlike sloth, things do get done), but it is a dangerous road to find yourself on. It’s not a good way to spend the present. And doing mediocre work simply means we’re daily practicing doing mediocre work, which puts the future at risk as well.


Monday Motivator: Chase the Grays Away

I’m not sure what it was: 

  • The cold rainy weather with threats of ice.
  • The unexciting Super Bowl.
  • The fact that Sherlock ended its season.

But this morning, there just seemed to be a cloud of gloom everywhere. Bad moods dominated. People were snapping over things that last week would have, at most, caused a shrug. Even questions were posed as challenges. If we were all in a music video, this would be the moment that Katy Perry would appear singing and suddenly we’d all be rescued from this gray abyss into a vivid, multicolored happy world. 

But, alas, no Katy Perry appeared. If we were going to be rescued, we would have to do it ourselves. And I suppose that is true of most things. So we looked at each other and accepted the fact that we were grumpy. Then we resolved that this was the last we would speak of it. 

Now we didn’t magically start singing and dancing. But we did start to smile occasionally. And some days that’s enough!