Jo, my oldest sister, used to spit-shine my face on the way to church, back in the days when all 8 of us used to cram into our wood-paneled 7-passenger van. The spit-shining wasn’t painful but I hated the feeling when she took her fingernail to my eyelashes. At five years old, I had much to learn about proper etiquette. Such as face-washing.
A few decades later, I still have much to learn about etiquette and general self-improvement. I named 2017 ‘The Year of Realizing I Am A Horrible Person’
After that, I read a handful of self-help books and prayed to the Lord for change. Soon I realized that becoming a better person can be as easy as teaching yourself to say a few new words. Here are five habits I am grafting into my world:
Know your priorities.
Sit down in a quiet place, and write a list of things you care about more than anything else in the world. Number those things in order of importance. Look at this list often, and compare it to where your time is spent. If 60% of your time is taken by your third-most-important priority, it is time for a change of direction!
You will be glad for the skill of evaluating your priorities when five Very Important People ask you to do something for/with them on the same day, which also happens to be the day you blew a tire, discovered a humongous bill in the mail and accidentally deleted all of your cell phone contacts. Know your priorities and you will be prepared for days of Not-So-Present-Brain.
Don’t open a message unless you have time to immediately respond to it.
Text, email, private message and voicemail all come with the same disclaimer: ‘If you open me at a red light, telling yourself, “I will reply as soon as I get home”, you shall thereafter just narrowly escape collision with an overturned cucumber truck, slosh hot coffee down your pant and into your right boot, encounter a freak hail storm, and by the time you reach home have completely forgotten what the message said or that you received one at all.’
Teach yourself to be self-controlled enough to reach an appropriate time slot before opening messages. Even if you only have a minute to reply to a lengthy email, you can say, “Got it! I’ll share my response on such-and-such a day.”, and then write it in your schedule to send a full response on that day.
Learn to say, “I’ll think about it.”
Immediate gratification is not normal, or healthy. Similarly, expecting your brain to always configure a great decision at the drop of a hat is not to be expected. If someone asks you a question and you can’t quickly form a sure-fire answer, just admit that you need some time to think about it.
This is especially helpful when making plans. Saying, “I need to think about this before I respond.”, will give you space to evaluate your priorities before agreeing to dedicate time to something.
Show up at special events.
If you are invited to a graduation, shower, wedding, or other milestone event, make every effort to attend.
This exact event will never reoccur again, and it was an honor for you to be added to the guest list. Despite what anyone says, your friend will notice that you loved him/her enough to show up with your support. The host/hostess will be thrilled that another person showed up to eat the cheese-stuffed dates it took them three hours to make. You’ll meet people you’d have never set eyes on otherwise.
The perfect powder on the mountains will come again. Hunting season will come again. No one cares that you don’t have a perfect dress to wear.
Just go. And if you can’t, RSVP immediately. A tree died for that little RSVP card–throwing it away would be ungrateful.
Replace social media with pie.
Social media relationships require zero investment; a hand-delivered pie is a joy forever. Take a minute to send a text just because. Call someone you said you’d pray for and say, “Hey, my lunch break only lasts ten more minutes but I wanted to spend them praying for you.” Invite people to join in on things that are a part of your normal routine.
People need people. And people want to know you, even if you are five and forgot to wash your face this morning.