How You Can Change the World, One Sticky Note at a Time

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My awkward face.  Not pretty.

You may remember that I promised a laundry list of my most terrible habits at the end of my last post.  Well, I might have been the slightest bit hasty in that assertion.  You see, in a non-exhausted state of mind, I realized that it might make my life really awkward to truly lay out all that stuff in so public a manner...seriously.  What if one of you fine blokes decide you want to date me, but then you already know all my crappy, embarrassing stuff (which actually may reverse that first statement) and I know none of yours?  Awkward.  Walking into the gym, I'd be super self-conscious that everyone would be thinking about my weird habits and therefore would turn red a lot and probably stutter as well.  Awkward.  So, here's the deal...I will happily share my crutches as they are relevant to "The Clean Year" and upcoming goals.  Cool?  Thanks, I appreciate it.

Last week, I hit a wall.  A big one that had scary, militant gorillas on top of it.  And battery acid dripping down it's sides.  I wrote about the wall and the aftermath of the crash and was was surprised by how uplifted I was by both the process of putting my thoughts down on the screen as well as by the emails and calls full of encouraging words and listening ears.  Thank you.  Sometimes it is scary to just be real and lay all your cards on the table.  It puts you in a very vulnerable, uncomfortable, even awkward spot, standing with your arms raised, not knowing if a hug or a swift punch to your gut is on it's way.  It's especially difficult to be real when the "real" is just not that pretty.  Often, with great risk comes great reward.  This time was one of those.  Sometimes, a little affirmation, empathy, and just knowing that people care is all a person needs to climb back outta that funk, ready to take on the challenge that previously beat her down.  The whole journey of last week had me reflecting on how powerful these seemingly small gestures can be.  Even more, how these individual actions joined together to form a straight up tsunami of love that lifted me up right out of the gloom.

The siblings frolicking in the
majesty of beautiful Colorado!
I was lucky enough to spend time with some of my favorite people in the whole world this weekend: Janelle, K.C., and Tawney.  We spent a wonderful day together which included a nutrition lecture at amazing CrossFit Verve (which has inspired my next steps in "The Clean Year"...more to come!), a hike near Guanella Pass, slices of gooey Beau Jo's pizza and finally, me watching them (but trying awkwardly not to watch them) eat two-scoop waffle cones in Georgetown.  Sidenote: I tried to smell the ice cream and when that didn't work, even tried to sell them on the idea that I could put it on my tongue then scrape it off and spit it out.  HA!  They didn't go for it.  Good thing they love me enough to help me stick to my standards.  (Yes, I did actually suggest this, but it was a joke!...mostly.)  After a day with my family and the mountain air, I felt powerful and rejuvenated.  I knew that the coming week would be different than the last.  This was my second realization...something as simple as choosing to be around positive people or choosing to go to a beautiful place can greatly impact my state of mind.  Noted.  And filed away for future reference.

So, why spend an entire two posts talking about a bad week and it's turn around?  I find myself thinking about how powerfully I was impacted by the time and effort that people took to send me some good juju.  Whether it was a quick Facebook wall post or an email, a phone call or mountainous shenanigans with family, all these gestures had something in common: someone decided to make a gesture and then did it.  Is this powerful?  Heck, yeah!  Is this something that can literally change a path that feels unmoveable?  Definitely.

Ultimately, what can I do to pay it forward?  How can I brighten others' day with a few words of affirmation or other gesture?  I think it's about replicating what people did for me:

1. Be aware of those around me
2. Recognize a need
3. Do something (simple) about it

Seems easy, right?  But, I know how swept up in mundane details I can get.  It's almost as though my eyes are looking back into my brain and focusing on to-do lists and what's for dinner instead of looking out at the world and being in tune with the people around me.  To intentionally move through an increasing portion of my day with an outward focus instead of an inward one would help me recognize someone in need of a smile or quick positive gesture.  I sometimes find that I distance myself from negative energy/people.  In retrospect, it seems like these are the folks that need kindness the most.  Perhaps these gestures are not given because the person deserves it, but rather because it is what you would want someone to do for you if you were going through a hard time.

The second part, do something, is only easy if I do it right away.  I know I have planned to do hundreds of gestures that have fallen by the wayside in the avalanche of responsibilities in my life.  Trust me, a thoughtful sticky note or phone call is a lot more impactful than the card and flowers that never come to fruition!

Imagine what would happen if we all took five or ten minutes each day to intentionally reach out to others in a positive way.  Is this awkward to start when you haven't been used to initiating positive gestures?  Absolutely, especially when you're reaching out to people who aren't in your inner circle.  But I believe any journey worth making is often uncomfortable in places.  I want to challenge myself to remember that my smallest actions and words can be immensely powerful and to employ that power in the most positive way that I can.  "The Clean Year" is morphing into a journey about habits, negative and positive.  This is a habit I would like to adopt, a way to become more aware of others and through that awareness, able to become more compassionate and responsive in my actions and words.

Is this something you see in everyday life?  How do you think we can contribute to a more unified, compassionate existence?


~DAVe said...

Very inspiring...beautiful words.
It may just be where I am in my journey, but its like improv. Its so much easier to say yes and build something together out of honesty and trust, than to deny out of fear.

B. said...

only 50 days in and all this "education" already. This is setting up to be quite a journey..... :)

Tiffany said...

B-Welcome to my brain. =) It never stops...but now I get to document it's meanderings. So fun!

Dave-I can't help but connect so much in life to improv. It kinda teaches you how to live well!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Carrie said...

I love your attitude about this stuff. I started at verve this summer, but I've been trying to eat paleo for a couple of years now. I love the idea of just going all for it without cheat meals since every time I fall off paleo for a few months or weeks is after a planned cheat meal. See you around the gym.

Tiffany said...

Carrie---TOTALLY! I am so much more successful with at least a month or two of strict eating before any attempt at cheats. Sugar/processed foods are a literal addiction to me. To be handled with care. =) So much easier for me when they are just not an option. Not to say it's easy. Ha! See ya at the gym!