Limiting Labels

A long time ago, I was talking with a fellow parent who made an interesting point that stuck with me since.

When talking about her daughter’s tendencies to avoid talking to people, she would not use the word “shy” — especially in the child’s presence. The reason? Labeling, in this case, carried a narrative that wasn’t beneficial to anyone. The mother decided to focus on specific behaviors and address them directly, instead of putting the youngster in a category that would perhaps lead to a self-fulfilling path of being shy.

Just recently, I thought about limiting labels in the context of U.S. politics.

Specifically: self-identifying yourself as a Democrat or a Republican immediately triggers assumptions by others of how you view various topics. And how it seems if two people are aligned with different political parties they’ll automatically believe there’s very little common ground.

The steadfast allegiance to a particular group bothers me. I do wonder how much labels in politics is blocking progress.

Trying to Understand the Appeal of Meat Substitutes

Products like The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have been making headlines this year. There’s obviously great interest in plant-based meat substitutes.

And I’m still trying to understand why. What kind of person is compelled to eat something that tastes like meat but isn’t meat?

I can’t see those who identify themselves as meat-eaters having any motivation to look for a substitute.

And those who choose not to eat meat are already motivated to eat plant-based foods. They wouldn’t have made the choice if they couldn’t give up the taste of animal flesh.

So who’s left? People who want to give up meat but can’t give up the taste? That doesn’t seem like a very large market, and yet the influx of dollars says otherwise.

Maybe I’m underestimating how much people love the sensation of eating meat. Regardless, the story of meat substitutes is missing me completely.

Money and Self-Worth

The rich enjoy influence, status, and freedom. Wealth is power. It’s easy to see why a lack of money correlates with a lack of dignity. I think much of our culture reinforces this worldview.

That’s a concern, because I believe it’s a trap to have our happiness so closely tied to our bank accounts. Earning money is only a part of all the things we choose to do, which means it’s only a part of who we are.

I’m just noting this as a reminder, especially to myself.

Waiting for the Good Stuff

I believe the late Steven Covey made an observation that people sometimes view love as something you have or not; in other words, it’s a perspective that sees love as a noun.

But love, he pointed out, is also a verb. You can choose to love someone (or not). So if two people used to love each other but no longer do, did the love disappear because of a mysterious reason? Or did the two people just decide not to love each other anymore?

It seems like this lack of action might be limiting factor in other contexts. We don’t have to hope for the day that we’ll be more grateful, optimistic, or happy. We can simply make the decision, today.

The Unexpected Opportunity

A couple days ago, my wife and I planned to have our family go to a local community event.

One of my young boys protested. Loudly. He just didn’t believe he’d enjoy himself.

Having seen this type of behavior plenty of times before, I gambled that he would have fun once we got there. So I didn’t give him the choice to opt-out.

To my relief, turns out he did have a good time. Afterwards, I had a short conversation with him, pointing all the cool activities he got to do. I wasn’t trying to rub it in. I simply observed that if he got his way and stayed home, he would have missed all the fun that I was unable to promise him up-front.

One day my son will learn that life has few guarantees. And that many times, opportunities are only available when we’re open to the possibility.

The Meaning of “I’m Sorry”

A common interpretation is an admittance of wrongdoing. That’s a heavy blow to the ego to the person saying it, especially after a heated disagreement. Which is why the phrase is so hard to verbalize.

But what if we see “I’m sorry” as a way of communicating that we want things to be better, and are ready to move on?

Spoken this way, more often than not, they end up making that very intention come true. If that’s the outcome that matters, it’s probably worth a shot.

Intention Credit

As parents and teachers, we’re good about praising the effort of our kids.

We tell them we’re happy they tried their best when they don’t finish first. We point out that being nice to others is a winning strategy, even when others don’t always reciprocate. We acknowledge the solid attempt, not just the favorable outcome.

Once we grow up, we don’t get this type of credit very much.

Instead, as adults, we live under the constant pressure of a results-oriented culture. Yes, the bottom line matters, but there are times when well-intentioned actions don’t produce like we wanted. We need those failures counter-balanced by crediting what went right, to create a better outlook for next time.

Works for children. Works for grown-ups too.

Communication Overload

As technology enables innovative ways to connect, it also introduces many challenges too.

Once someone knows your Twitter handle, email address, or phone number, that person can reach out at any time. Add these instances up, and now you’re faced with a huge task of filtering the welcomed contacts from the not.

There’s also the problem around expectations. When someone can reach you, there’s a built-in expectation that you’ll respond. But the increase in outreach volume makes this difficult, if not impossible.

And if the people you want to connect with are on a certain platform, there’s additional pressure to be on it too. And these days, everybody seems to be on everything which creates more issues.

I think the people that have dealt with communication overload the best are the ones that are clear about their boundaries, in terms of what channels they’re willing to use and how they use them. Then it’s up to others to respect those rules.

In short: communicate about how you communicate.

Groaning Is Optional

These days, when I’m seated on the floor and I try rising to my feet, it’s not easy.

Sometimes the joints are stiff. Sometimes my muscles are tight. During the struggle of getting up, I often groan with the effort. Yeah, I know I’m getting older. But it’s also depressing.

I lamented to a friend today, who is roughly the same age. Her reaction?

She laughed because she’s had the same experience. I laughed with her. I felt better.

I’ve always known that laughter can be an effective coping mechanism for frustration, especially for situations out of our control. My friend happens to be good at seeing the humor during times of despair. I’m not, but maybe I can get better.

Laughing seems a lot more appealing than groaning.

Consumers and Reusable Food Containers

When I bought a bubble tea yesterday, I also acquired a plastic cup, a plastic seal covering the top, and a plastic straw sticking out of it. Once I finished the drink, all that plastic was thrown away.

Does it have to be this way?

As of today I can buy a coffee at a Starbucks and use a travel mug I brought from home.

I’m allowed use my own bags for the produce I buy at the farmer’s market, or the bulk bins at the grocery store.

Though I’ve never done it, I can’t imagine there being an issue of putting leftover food from a restaurant meal into Tupperware I brought myself.

Would a place that sells bubble teas allow a customers to supply their own reusable cups and straws? Definitely worth a question.