Whiting column: Being responsible can mean acting like a kid sometimes
Traditionally, we think about personal changes and improvements in January, but if it’s important enough to do in January, it’s important enough to do now.
We are so busy, it’s sometimes easy to take ourselves a little too seriously and get stuck in a rut of unchanging daily routine, both in what we do and how we act. Because we all are a work in progress, being personally responsible includes trying to improve who we are, not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those around us.
Being personally responsible doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. In reality, fun can help us do the right thing and relieve stress more quickly than most other strategies. Summer is here. Consequently, we can’t use weather as an excuse for inaction.
Fun doesn’t have to be complex or an expensive vacation.
Do some kid things: Challenge either our own or neighbor children to a tricycle race, play catch, have a pine cone fight, ride a grocery cart, organize a neighborhood dodge ball game, roll down a hill, skip on the way to the mailbox, go to the park and jump on a swing. We shouldn’t be embarrassed. All these will make us smile, and if there are others watching they will as well and wish they were participating.
Do something we have never done, learn something new or see something unexpected. If our job isn’t our passion, schedule free time to do it. Develop a strategy to inculcate it into our work.
Be curious about something and find out about it. Revisit somewhere we went as a child. Order something from a restaurant we have never tried. Go to a gathering or party we don’t want to attend; we’re liable to meet an interesting person we might never have experienced.
Avoid the negative people and the whiners in our life; they tend to suck away our energy and are trying to find an excuse for their own lack of effort and achievement.
Get in better shape and improve our health. We don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. Just start with “baby” steps. Bench press and do squats with our baby every day. By the time they are in high school we will be “buff.” Walk five minutes today and add one minute a day.
Do something that will make us more pleasant to be around. Put down and turn off our phone when talking to someone in person; even hide it. Laugh first and judge later or not at all. Empathize before we criticize. Remember, every saint has a past and every sinner a future.
Write a letter in longhand to someone important to us. Listen twice as much as we talk; then talk about others not ourselves. Say something to the person we’ve been putting off talking to; don’t wait, tomorrow may be too late.
Develop a personal greeting that we actually mean instead of the generic “how are you?” Touch base with someone from our past. Dress up and go somewhere even if nice clothes aren’t required. Do something for someone at work. Learn a new “clean” joke and share it.
Get outside. Don’t allow weather to be a deterrent. Gear up and talk a walk in the rain. Go up in the mountains and hike where there isn’t a trail and explore.
Anonymously, give something to someone who needs it. Pick a day and just walk in and volunteer. Put a smile on someone’s face: open a door, lift a package, compliment their appearance, let them cut in line. Complexity isn’t necessary; exhibiting manners will work.
Leave a $10 tip for our morning coffee, write a thank-you letter to our doctor, car mechanic, repairman or other person who worked for our benefit.
Reward our kids when they do something good or right. Teaching them accountability involves both the good and the bad. Give our significant other a present when it isn’t a holiday or their birthday. Ask them what one thing we could do that would make their life easier; then do it promptly.
Be grateful and focus on what and who we have in our life not what we don’t have.
We can even hope Congress could get out of its rut and the members improve themselves: vote for what’s right even if it’s against the party line and might lose them votes, do something to save the government money, ignore a lobbyist, do something good for a constituent and don’t publicize it, do what’s the best for the country in the long term rather than their party or themselves in the short term. I don’t know whether they would view such as fun, however.
Being personally responsible involves helping ourselves and improving from what we may be comfortable doing. It doesn’t have to be complex or difficult. Little changes can be fun and of great significance both to ourselves and those around us.
Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. He recently retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. Comments and column suggestions to: email@example.com.