Thursday, April 26, 2012

The One With All the Resolutions

If you were (or still are) obsessed with Friends, you may recognize the title.  It's a great episode which depicts the fragility of our New Year's resolutions.  Here's the one which spoke to me, however:

Setup: Rachel tries to make a resolution which will prove to be very challenging.  Monica reminds her of a previous failed resolution by grabbing her diary and reading:

Dear Diary, I am so excited. My resolution is to write in you every day. I'll see you tomorrow. 
(Fans the pages of Rachel's diary) Nothing!

I can relate. (Note the date of my previous blog entry).  Of course, I have some great reasons for procrastinating.  I have been juggling the school/work balance (side note, 3 nights of class left!!!) and, on a more exciting note, have been navigating the first 15 weeks of my first pregnancy.  Nonetheless, this scene reminds me that I too have failed to follow through on something which has significance for me.  

So why now?  Well, I am staring down the barrel of a three-day lock-down weekend where I do nothing but finish my master's thesis paper and presentation.  And, as I have mentioned, I am a procrastinator.  I have realized however, I tend to procrastinate with reason.  I am putting the paper off tonight so I can freewrite and play word games.  I convince myself this will help open my mind for serious writing tomorrow.  I put off work projects because I feel I work better under a deadline.  And, I put off writing a blog post because I slept most of my first trimester.  Reasons, maybe, but I'm sure this is likely personal justification to help me deal with this flaw on a daily basis.  

Those who don't understand the mind of a procrastinator may believe the things which are put on the back burner are less important.  For me, anyway, this is false.  I love writing and would love to be more up-to-date on my blogs, my baby journal, and other projects.  I love baking and have pinned tons of recipes I want to attempt (by the way, Pinterest is not healthy for procrastinators--more later).  I love reading and have an entire bookshelf full of books I want to read (and that doesn't include the books on my Kindle).  

I hope there are others who understand this disease.  I'd love to hear any remedies or tricks you've found to better manage your energies and focus.  Of course, I suspect most of the people who understand this post will never get around to commenting...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Newton's Third Law

Sir Isaac Newton
Ok, if you know me, you know I am not a physics buff. I also hate math. Typical girl. Sorry, STEM, you weren't around when I was in middle school. Anyway, Newton's Third Law of Motion, for those of you who avoided physics right along with me, is "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". (I didn't even have to look that up!) What woke me up in the middle of the night last week was the limitations of this law. Sure, it's true in physical sciences, but it definitely fails to hold up in social science. That's where character comes in to fill in the gaps left by Newton.

Consistency breeds character. Whatever your religious or nonreligious view might be, we can probably all agree humans are imperfect. It's who we are, and I have not yet met anyone without flaws. Thank God, or I would look pretty silly because I am definitely under that imperfect category! While many philosophers and great minds have pinned moral character to works, I see this as a flawed view of character. Perhaps we could call this more reputation-building than character-building. (Side note, read this great blog by Donald Miller on character vs. reputation here.) I think one's character is from the consistency in one's reactions. Whether this is reaction to something that happened to them or something that they did, people show their true nature when people look to them for answers, comfort, or friendship.  Since we all make mistakes, it stands to reason that we could be compassionate and empathetic when people do something we don't agree with or something which is deemed unethical. But what stings more than someone doing something to hurt you is how they are after the hurtful action. Think about a breakup from your past. Don't you want the other person to be sad by the termination of the relationship? The same is true for other situations. Are they apologetic and remorseful? Are they humbled and shamed? Or, do they ignore the hurt? Do they show callousness and heartlessness? In marketing, we learn the best repair in public relations for a wrong against the consumer is to admit the wrong and issue an immediate and heartfelt apology (see this story about Tom's Shoes). So when people don't do that, we begin assessing the true character of the person or company.

I am currently in an ethics and legal class for my master's degree (don't be jealous). While the text is quite awful to plow through, there was an assignment from the text which seemed to link to this topic (don't you hate it when school actually has real-world application?). We had to choose one of six ethical approaches to business. The text called the one I chose the least popular in modern times. Virtue theory. This approach talks about judging ethics by the character built rather than the action performed. There again, we are looking at the bigger picture. The motive for the action and the reaction after it is done. The book that immediately sprung to my mind was The Book of Virtues by William Bennett. Were you thinking the same thing? If not, don't worry. It's a hefty 821 pages of text and stories all centered around building virtue in various areas of life. The reason I thought about it comes from my childhood. As a kid, I read that book in its entirety. Twice. And then I reread my favorite stories as I felt the urge. I don't know why I was ever drawn to read that, but I do hope it had some influence on me.

I would side with the wise Donald Miller (seriously, read his blog) and say it is far more important and so much more difficult to build character over reputation. Your reputation is the actions you do that others witness. Your character stems from the internal workings surrounding that action or the actions of others. When something terrible happens in the world, do you immediately think of how that could affect you or how that might have been you? Or, do you think of the pain others are going through. Be honest, becase I have known people on both sides of those reactions. When you wrong someone, do you immediately swallow your pride and beg forgiveness? Or do you shy away, assumming that is the right thing to do?

Character. It's not easy. It's not always popular. No one will congratulate you. People might not even notice. It's rarely fun. But, in the end, it's all that really matters.