Doing More with Less: Improving yourself

Ruth Haag
Sep 24, 2013


Two weeks ago, I wrote some suggestions about how to live with less money.  Some of the commentators were bothered that they were not able to have the luxuries that others had, and many commented on the fact that as adjusted for inflation, minimum wage is less now than it was in the 1960s.  Last week, my column showed that the number of hours needed to be worked at minimum wage to purchase items is fewer now than in the 1960s and thus, things cost less now.  In response to that column, some of the commentators felt that some people are born into better positions in life and have life easier all around.  True, we are all a product of the family we were born into.  But, what happens to us in life and how we handle those problems is not only related to the income that we were born into.  And, being born into a low income has strengthened many great people.

Solving Life problems

The last time that most of my family was all in the same room together was when our oldest daughter was married.  Before that, I always had the impression that only other people’s families had life-changing issues.  I remember looking around the room that day and thinking that each person in the room had met with a dire life event, and somehow came through it.  The group in the room shared four deaths of children, a debilitating stroke (not Bob’s at that time), two cases of infertility, a bankruptcy, a divorce and multiple career changes caused by lack of work.  That was when I realized that everyone has problems in life; the differences between people come from how they cope with these problem.

When faced with life-problems whether they be medical, monetary or relationships, each person has two options: either to complain and feel sorry for themselves, or to accept the problem and change themselves as a result of it.

How to move on

The best way to move on after a life-problem is to be willing to change your expectations.  Some things that you expected to happen didn’t; that’s OK, what are you going to do next?  It helps if you can actively find the good in your new situation.  Of course you can look back a bit and feel sorrow, but you can’t afford to stew in it.  Find something that you always wanted to do and now are able to do, because of your life-changing problem. 

Improve yourself

You can become more positive if you think about others.  

Instead of thinking about what others should do for you, how about thinking about what you can do for them? 

Here are some ideas of improvements that anyone can make today:

Stop yourself before you say or write anything rude

If you feel someone has treated you well, thank them

If you are able-bodied, park your car far out in the parking lot and walk in.  You get exercise and leave the closer spaces for the less able-bodied

If you see someone needing help, then help them.  For example, hold the door for young parents with baby strollers.

Instead of being irritated at a bad encounter with someone, think about what you can change in yourself to make the next interaction better

Give someone who is down or depressed a small gift

Share: if someone likes something that you have and you are not real attached to it, give it to them

Write to your mother

Send a card to a person who is ill

Maybe your neighbor didn’t mow their grass because their lawnmower is broken.  Strike up a conversation and find out.  Then offer to help.  Then help.


Think about the people who have helped you in life, and write them a note of thanks

Arrive on time

Check your grooming; do you look pleasant enough for everyone else to be with you?

Learn something new


Commentators:  What do you do when you want to improve yourself?



"You can become more positive if you think about others."

"Instead of thinking about what others should do for you, how about thinking about what you can do for them?"

Good comments

Raoul Duke

Just have fun with it. Life, that is.

The General

Oh ho Jimmy, careful, careful


Improve myself Ruth? Drink coffee alone & think. btw. It took a man 27years to gain his patent. (Bores Manufacturing) Any ideas on going fwd. with an idea? (Spent my allotted $$ on a marketing company.) They garnered many responses, chiefly Rubbermaid Corporation. Thanxs.

Ruth Haag


I think that you are asking about how to market your patent. I have lots of ideas about how to go about this. I'll be happy to discuss it in my blog the week after next.


Easy for a very privileged white woman to say. Only a very entitled baby boomer could write this post. Born into slavery? Don't whine about the wealthy people in the nice house, just think positive and enjoy your gruel. Want to be a scientist? Just tell everyone you are one whether you have a Phd and peer reviewed articles or not. Ever taken a walk in the park? You too could be an environmental scientist! Ignore reality and you will be happy and if you complain about fairness you're a complainer. If your lucky don't admit it because that would violate the natural order of subservience. Poor people are poor because they lack merit not opportunity. Remember, everything happens for a reason and if your born into poverty it is His will so don't be envious of 16 year olds driving Mercedes. They probably earned it with positive thinking.


you write as if your lot in life is to remain down and out in underpriviledge land and you cannot fight to get out. That isn't true. Everyone has a shot at getting what they want. Your inability to try and your lack of trying and blaming the rich is in YOU not the rich or well off. you can break the so called mould you are making for yourself any time.....just by trying. Do not blame her and her writing for your lack of trying or your lack of ambition to make a better place for yourself. That is totally unfair and unnecessary. Just try and see what progress you make by standing up for yourself and making an effort to step forward for once with a positive attitude.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I don't ask others if I am doing a good job or not at the shop or on something else such as a D&D game, I expect there are things I can do better and ask with that in mind.

"Hey [customer], you've been coming here a while. Give me two things you think I can do to be better."

It simultaneously compliments them by drawing on their opinion and recognizes that they have been participating/observant for a known period of time. It also humbles me before them expecting that I have weak points I am opening. Phrased that way it also forces some thought into it beyond "nothing" or a simple "well, you really should carry X item" because it asks for two examples.

As for the point you made about checking what you write...that is a big one. Especially here. I have written replies to many articles or commenters that I force myself to leave on the screen, walk away, do something else, then come back to to reread and ended up deleting it. I felt ashamed that I didn't handle myself as best I could in a back-and-forth with Licorice Schtick a while ago. I could have made my same points without the scathing sarcasm, yet there it was.

Since then I have attempted to be better in my responses and selective in what I comment on, to who, and how it is phrased.
Also...I need to work on brevity.


"True, we are all a product of the family we were born into. But, what happens to us in life and how we handle those problems is not only related to the income that we were born into. And, being born into a low income has strengthened many great people."

Very true. Most people follow the crowd instead of being themselves. I still cannot understand the tattoo craze. How about the "gangsta" craze by wearing sagging baggy pants? There is no reason to follow the crowd or to imitate them. When you were born, there was only one of you. Why do you want to be like somebody else?

I lived in poverty when I was a child but that didn't stop me from making a better life for myself. Poverty should not be an excuse to better oneself. Stay in school and do well. Start up an internet business based in your home. You have the internet. Use it to better yourself.
"Low Income People Can Succeed-Just Think Outside The Box-Some Noted Examples of Low Income People Who Obtained Success"
"From Welfare to Faring Well: Successful People Who Never Gave Up"


She is right. Standing up for one's self and stopping the self pity after a fall is all you have to get pack in any game. Don't wallow in adversity and pain, you won't survive. You have to pick yourself up, dust off and get moving. It hurts at first but each morning it hurts a little less and pretty soon the hurt is gone completely. You get over it. Focus your attention on what you are doing, the new plan you have and you will find it leads you. Take charge and go with it. When you reach the end, start a new plan. You will be surprised how freeing it feels. Success is wonderful.It need not be big succeess either.


No Ruth. The marketing firm safely opened MANY doors for me. (Corporations quickly want/take your ideas) Rubbermaid expressed interest in my product. Rubbermaid wanted to talk to my patent funds then & now are s.l.o.w. hence my issue.

Ruth Haag

Sorry for the slow reply, I had weekend visitors. At Rubbermaid are you talking to an attorney or more of an acquisition manager? It makes a difference.