How Will I Be Different By Being in the World?

On Tuesday we talked about our impact on the world.  Today, we’re talking about the world’s impact on us.  How will we be different by being in the world?  Can we control what we absorb?

Our world is comprised of many factors—all of which can have a positive or negative affect.  It’s our job to navigate those factors.  Briefly, I’ll mention them here, and then we’ll discuss each one individually.

We are surrounded by people who influence us—family, friends, colleagues.  We may be drowning in clutter or disorganization.  We may fuel our bodies with junk food or drink ourselves into oblivion.  We may be inundated with background noise that zaps our strength and concentration.  We may fill up our quiet moments with mindless TV or movies or social media.  We may settle for an ordinary environment when we could have a beautiful environment.

All these are forks in the road.  We can choose to divert to the path less-traveled and be better for it.

Take people, for instance.  We all know a person who’s a complete emotional drain.  She complains.  She gossips.  She saps all the happiness right out of you.  It’s time for you to step up and end the relationship, or at least set boundaries about when and where you see her.  And if she’s on your team at work, it’s time to delegate, so you see her less.  Is this cruel?  No.  It’s protecting your workspace.  It’s making it safe for you.  It’s the very reason I stopped going to the teachers’ lunchroom early on in my teaching career.  I was happier in my classroom where I couldn’t hear all the negativity.

Moving on to your environment.  Are you frazzled, disorganized?  Is your house or office a mess?  Is it discouraging coming home, only to have a whole other set of chores you have to do?  Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that life doesn’t stop for the weary, and sometimes it seems impossible to keep up, but then it might be a sign that you’re trying to do too much.  What can you cut out?  Think drastically here.  If you have plants, and you don’t have time to water them, get rid of them.  If your desk is piling up with papers, take a day to shuffle them into bins, at least so you know where they are.  If you have piles and piles of laundry to do, throw in a load whenever you think about it.  That way you’ll at least have them washed, so you can fold everything in one session.  If you can save some money (maybe a few of those cappuccinos or lattes you’re buying throughout the week), you can hire a babysitter for two or three hours on a Saturday morning, to do some quick and efficient errands without the kids.

All these things require intention.  Decision-making.  Hard choices.  Are you ready to make them?

We all know the importance of eating healthfully, but truth be told, it’s really hard when we’re surrounded by easy, fatty foods.  Who wants to chop vegetables and bake a meal after a long, tiring day?  Not me.  But if you can plan these things in advance, then it might be a smidgen easier.  Perhaps shop for two weeks at a time, so you’re not running to the grocery store constantly.  Perhaps (if you can afford it) buy prewashed and pre-chopped vegetables and fruit.  It saves time, and it makes it more likely that you’ll eat them.  Okay, not always, because wouldn’t you rather reach for the chips (mmm, yummy!) than an apple?  Which brings me to another point.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t even have chips in the house.  They’re too tempting for me.  I’ll down a whole bag in a weak moment.  So I don’t buy them, unless we’re entertaining guests.  The same goes for boxes of cookies, in my book.  I know my weaknesses, and I choose not to set myself up for failure.

Exercise is a little harder for me, because I struggle with finding time.  I’ll relate a story, so you’ll know how I’m attempting to overcome that mind barrier.  I was in a spinning class once, and the instructor was validating how hard it was just to show up to class, and she went on to say that that’s exactly what we needed to be telling ourselves.  “Just show up.”  It doesn’t matter if you only walk 5 minutes or do half a class, just show up.  That reminded me of Martha Beck’s book The Four-Day Win, which is an excellent book, by the way, where she says that any task can be divided into 4-day “wins” where you reach an easy goal and feel successful.  In the exercise realm, she said it was so hard for her to work out, that she set her first goal as just showing up to the gym, and what she meant by that was that she drove to the gym parking lot, sat there for 5 minutes, listened to her car radio, and drove home.  Then in a subsequent goal, she upped the ante and had to go INTO the gym and do 5 minutes of exercise.  She started feeling better about it all, and kept increasing her time.  Now she works out regularly because she tells herself to…just show up.

Intention.  That’s all it is.  But it feels so much better.  You’re happier, healthier, freed from clutter.

That raises the social media problem.  Are you leaking valuable time by reading blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and/or online newspapers all through the day?  Or do you designate time to do so?  Now, it’s not my opinion that all this is wrong; it’s just that it makes you feel drained and crabby.  At least it does me.  I see everything I neglected to get done, and it irritates me, because really, I didn’t learn much—at least to warrant the vast amounts of time I’ve spent on the web.  So, I’ve had to limit my computer use…and the times I’m on, because otherwise I would never get anything done.

I don’t mean to be preachy.  Heavens, that’s the last thing I want to be.  These are simply things to think about, because how you structure your life, is what you’ll get out of it and how you’ll feel about it.

Now, I added one more environmental element, because I think it’s important.  Is there a way to beautify your environment—to either add color or ambient lighting or noise (such as a waterfall)?  A couple of my tricks are simple, but they do enhance my happiness, strangely enough.  Candles in the evening, no matter what we’re doing.  Small vases full of flowers we’ve picked on walks.  Bouquets from Trader Joe’s.  Aromatherapy sticks, stuck in bathrooms and by the kitchen sink.  Beautiful photos of family or landscapes or graphic art on our computer screens.  Art supplies in the kitchen drawers for easy access.  Lots of green plants, so the dining room is our greenhouse.

You might enjoy other things.  Identify what they are, and fill your living spaces with them.  It helps.

So, the questions for today are: What can you do to change your environment for the better?  How will you change the world’s impact on you, and will you be intentional about it?

[Post image: The girl frolics by african_fi on stock.xchng]


  1. Shawn
    Dec 15, 2011

    I work at a desk all day and it’s boring as all get out if I don’t spice it up, which is why I’m on social media all day. I do limit it greatly at home, though, so once there I try TRY to spend very little time on a computer. I don’t feel cranky; just tired, like I never get a break. I have started to take To Nothing breaks where I force myself to sit and do just that. Pretty nice feeling, actually. Nicer when I do it more than once a day. : )

    • Elissa
      Dec 15, 2011

      What a great idea, Shawn! Do Nothing Breaks, it is! I’ll give full credit to you! LOL.

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