A couple of days ago, I came across a list of companies owned by Monsanto on Facebook. The person who put it together wanted it to be a sort of easy-reference sheet for people to print off and take shopping with them so that they can boycott Monsanto. I did something I rarely do – I shared the list without looking at it very closely. Within minutes, one of my Facebook friends commented about how at least one of the companies listed (Coca-Cola) is not owned by Monsanto. Then he posted several status updates advising activists on what not to do – and I have to say that each of his points was well-justified.
The whole thing made me think, though, about where I stand when it comes to “activism” and whether or not it makes any difference where I spend my dollars. (It really, really doesn’t. I don’t have that many dollars to spend.) I realized that my approach is probably a little different than most people’s. Rather than boycott Monsanto, I try to support smaller companies. When I think of Monsanto, I think of seeds because they control and unbelievable number of seeds. Since I plant seeds every spring, and don’t like Monsanto’s tactics, I try to be aware of where my seeds come from. I search the internet for retailers that explain how they obtain their stock. I look for very small growers who harvest their seeds themselves.
In other words, instead of thinking about withholding money from Monsanto, which wouldn’t make a bit of difference anyway, I try to spend money with independent retailers.
But. This is not a post about Monsanto. (Fooled you, didn’t I?) This is a post about how thinking about things just a little differently can become happier, more successful, and more beautiful. Well, that last one might be a stretch, but you can definitely approach the world in a more relaxed way, thereby causing fewer stress-related wrinkles, which would make you more beautiful, right?
Just a slight change of perspective can make a big difference when it comes to lots of issues or problems. I am not an over-the-top, perky, optimistic kind of person, but looking for the most positive perspective in some situations really helps me avoid the deep, dark abyss of depression:
1. Deciding how you want to spend time, instead of bemoaning having to spend time doing some things you don’t want to do.
Instead of thinking about how much I don’t want to clean the fridge, or send invoices, I think about the run I will enjoy after those things are done. This can be a really important, life-changing shift in perspective. It’s pretty much how I ended up running Smiling Tree. I resented spending the majority of my day in an office in my last job, and could only think about marketing to potential freelance customers when I got home. Eventually I realized the only sane thing to do would be to build a plan that would allow me to spend most of my time freelancing. I got laid off before that plan was fully realized, but it was in place and I was working towards quitting my job by then.
2. Create a “done” list instead of a “to do” list.
About once a week or so, I will not go through my morning ritual of list-making while oatmeal-eating. On those days, I will jot down tasks throughout the day as I complete them. Sometimes this doesn’t work because it’s easy lose my way without a list to refer to. More often, though, I end up with a nice, long list of completed chores and a sense of satisfaction – by 2pm or so. There is definitely something appealing about crossing things off a list, but taking the time to notice just how much you get done in the space of a few hours is nice, too. Plus, my “to do” lists grow as quickly as I cross things off and seeing a “to do” list grow doesn’t feel nearly as good as seeing a “done” list grow.
3. During a negotiation, or an argument, take note of what you both agree on, rather than focusing solely on what you disagree on.
If you are arguing with a spouse, your kid, or some other immediate family member, it might be impossible for you to admit there is a single thing in the world that you agree on. Other than in those situations, though, you can almost always find common ground to use as a starting point. When you examine areas of agreement, sometimes you find paths around sticking points. Changing your perspective often activates your creativity, helping you come up with unexpected solutions.
4. Purposefully change your physical environment.
Turn your desk around. Stand up and work. Go outside for awhile. Open (or close) your blinds or curtains for a day. Wear your pajamas all day, or if you are more like me, force yourself to get dressed every morning for a week. You might not notice it right away, but changes in your environment can make a huge difference in your perspective and attitude. I have a heating pad in my desk chair, that warms up my lower back. I turn it on just about every morning while I have coffee and oatmeal. It really changes my morning outlook. Instead of thinking about how ridiculous it is that my back hurts when I get up, I think about how nice and warm that heating pad is. Since I’ve been using it, I tend to get started on working quicker in the morning. Maybe there’s no correlation, but maybe there is.
5. Choose one small thing you can do, and quit thinking about all the things you cannot do.
I cannot fit driving for 20 minutes one way, three times a week, to take a one hour kickboxing class into my schedule. I have to work. I’d really love to take a kickboxing class because it looks like so much fun. I could use the fact that I can’t fit my preferred activity in my schedule as an excuse to do no activity. Instead I look for functional strength work out videos (which generally last 15-30 minutes) on the internet. Burpees and pushups are not as much fun as I imagine kickboxing would be, but they aren’t awful, and they get me out of my chair. There are all sorts of things we cannot do, but if you find something that you can do, and do it, your perspective will move a little more toward the positive end of the scale.