Monthly Archives: February 2020

Monday Motivator: Make Amends for Unintended Slights

There are stories on the internet that (and this will shock you) I sometimes doubt are true. And they are not the obvious ‘fake news’ ones. They are the ones that are just a little too sweet, have the moral tied up just a little too tightly. It’s not that I have anything against them. I am an English major; I am a strong believer in the power of literature. So, for me, a fiction can serve as good a purpose as a true story. But as someone who works in a library, I always feel the need to check the facts.

So I’m not going to share this story as if it’s true, although I wish and hope it is. Because true or not, we can all learn to be a bit better from its lesson.

A student was standing in line to pay for his books at a bookstore close to a college campus. There was an elderly woman standing behind him who came up to the counter and said to the clerk, “I want to pay for all his books.”

The student protested. But the woman insisted. She even added some treats.

Grateful to the point of tears, the student leaves. The woman turns to the clerk and says you never know the unintentional wrongs you’ve done in your life. So whenever you have a chance to make up for one of them, you should do so.

There’s more to the story, but, for me, the point was already made. If you are reading this, you are probably try to be a good person every day. But because you’re human, you mess up, and you might not even notice it. There’s the joke that hurts someone’s feelings, but you were too busy laughing. There was the person who really needed help, but you were just too busy that day. Or the friend who could have used encouragement, but “OH MY GOSH, I am slammed under all these projects.”

We’ve all heard about paying it forward, which is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, we need to pay for those little arrows that we shot and didn’t even realize that our aim hit a mark.

Monday Motivator: You Can Say ‘No,’ So Can Others

If you like your self-help gurus with a lot of salty language, Sarah Knight is for you. If not, then I will summarize here. Her latest book is on the art and power of saying no. Basically, you have the right to say now, and she provides many funny and profane ways to do so.

But at the end of the book, she mentioned something that I had not thought of: that other people have just as much right to say no to us.

That includes a lot of people. One group is obvious; it includes our parents when we’re children, our bosses now, and whoever the people are who decide what color we can paint our condo or whether we can turn that condo into an after-hours fight club.

The other group might not be so obvious because it’s so large; it includes everyone else. Yep, everyone in the world can say no to us. This does not make us losers. It’s just a simple fact of life, and to spend an inordinate amount of time focused on the unfairness of being told no is not a good use of our time.

Now, I’m not saying we don’t have options. And if our relationship proportions are way of balance, we have decisions to make. A colleague who always asks for favors but never grants them? Don’t get mad. Learn to say no for yourself. The spouse who thinks that doing one chore a month is 50/50 probably needs a remedial math lesson and to find him/herself without clean underwear one morning.

We have every right to stand up for ourselves and learn to say no. But once we learn that, we also have to learn to understand that everyone else also has that right.

Monday Motivator: Don’t Judge by Appearances

I am surprised that I haven’t been arrested at some point in my past. Not because I have done anything wrong, but because I often behave suspiciously.

Today, for example, I went to a store to buy a gift card. While there, I thought I’d look to see if they had brown mascara. Other pale people know that, at any store, there are tubes and tubes of black mascara, some black-brown, and then the novelty colors for those who are young and/or adventurous. But there are very few just pure brown.

Even in a store known for its browsing, I probably appeared quite odd: a woman going from shelf to shelf, picking up tube after tube and then putting it back, roaming from one end of the store to the other. After a while, I realized just how odd my behavior seemed. So I picked up a way-too expensive tube of mascara and bought it.

I’ve also had to stop watching true-crime shows. Every time someone interviews a police officer who says he pegged the suspect because ‘that’s not how people act,’ I always think, ‘but that’s exactly how I act.’

So from my own vast experience as an oddball, I know that I have to be careful to judge people from appearance alone. The guy who appears gruff might actually be shy. The woman who’s curt might be suffering from heartbreak and is doing everything she can not to cry. Someone might rush past me and not say hello not because he hates me but because he has a stomach virus and has to get to the bathroom.

So let’s not judge just on what we see. Give everyone the same benefit of the doubt that store clerks have given me over the years.

Monday Motivator: Set Up a Successful Environment

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I have a very hard time getting up in the mornings. I am not a morning person at all. While I often have good intentions of going to bed early and waking up naturally at six, it never works out for me. I live in fear that I am going to sleep through the early meetings that are scheduled. (For some reasons, administrators tend to be larks.)

This past Wednesday, our regular 9:45 meeting was rescheduled for 8:30. Tuesday night, I set five alarms. I’m serious. FIVE. One on my iPad. One on my iPhone. And three regular ones, with sounds that varied from gentle bird songs to a jarring fire alarm. (If you are interested, I can give you a detailed history of the alarm clocks that I’ve used and abused during the years.)

The good news is that I made it to the meeting. The bad news is that I have another such meeting this Friday, and I will go through the same anxious procedure. And I’m pretty sure that one day, I won’t make it.

While I have other good habits I need to adopt, being able to get up when the alarm goes off will make the biggest positive difference in my life right now. So when I saw the book Tiny Habits by Stanford behavior scientist, B. J. Fogg, I had to buy it.

First, he made me feel better by stating that motivation alone is not enough. I am extremely motivated to get up on time in the mornings. But for most people, motivation is not enough.  In my case, I have warring motivations: One is to get up on time. The other is to read one more chapter before I go to sleep.

He argues that what we need to consider are the easiest steps we can take to get us on the right track. For me, I needed to make some changes in my environment. And that is what I am doing.

I’ve started with my phone and tablet. At night, I now charge one downstairs and one in the other bedroom. This eliminates the bad habit of just checking my email or the news after I put down my book and before I turn out the light. And Fogg was right. It has been easy to do. And I get to sleep faster.

I’m pretty sure that this night owl is never going to become a lark. But I’m already planning to start adding in reading time so that my bedtime is really sleep time. And I’m even considering to read less-exciting books at night, so I won’t be tempted to keep turning pages.

Setting up your environment for success can really be effective, and it can be used in all sorts of situations (personal habits, work, classrooms).

(And I hope, in a month or two, I’ll have some alarm clocks to give away.)