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Podcast 16: Go the Extra Mile

Updated: Feb 23



What's a secret ingredient for successful adulthood? Try giving it all you've got--and then a little bit more. Think you have what it takes to go the extra mile when you have an invisible disability? See if these ideas are for you.....



Definiton

Go the Extra Mile may have been a phrase you've heard before, but it's something that I bet you've rarely thought about applying to your own life. However, many adults have told me that it is their "secret weapon" if they have invisible disabilities. It means: "doing something more than what is expected" (Ashley-Roberts, 2023). Sounds simple, right? But it can be hard to do. Yet, going the extra mile is a powerful way to re-shape your life into a success story.

For instance, unlike children who are always either at home or school, adults frequently face all kinds of challenges throughout their day. For instance, how many adults do you know who struggle with personal relationships; either at home or in the community? Maybe they can't find a roommate or a spouse. Perhaps, they are constantly fighting with their neighbors. Or, maybe they just can't communicate with their kids. If so, going the extra mile in these situations means: "someone does more than they are required and does it with generosity and not for personal gain" (Power of Positivity, 2023). In other words, offering help or support, but not expecting anything in return.

It should be noted that going the extra mile can have a special meaning in personal or romantic relationships. Glikman (2023) calls this "nourishing" a relationship and Marriages.net (2023) calls this "love language". Examples could be giving your girlfriend the first 15 minutes of your attention every day when you wake up or taking your child on a picnic--just the two of you. It could be offering an elderly neighbor a ride to the grocery store or planning a surprise baby shower for a special friend. All of these ideas are great examples of going the extra mile and nourishing your relationships.

Going the extra mile is also a critical component in the work environment. As Birt (2023) explains: "Go above and beyond [on the job] or do more than is required or expected of you". To an employer, that could mean taking on a difficult project without complaining. To a fellow employee, it might be job-sharing when someone is clearly overwhelmed with work responsibilities. Going the extra mile is especially important when you're interviewing for a new job or requesting a promotion. The first thing the employer will look at is your work ethic and how committed you will be to your new situation (ADD CITATION!). Having gone the extra mile gives you a powerful advantage here.


Benefits

McCormack (2017) says going the extra mile will give you the "feel good factor", along with boosting your career, helping you fix your mistakes, and impacting others in a positive way. Lattimer (2019) looks at it from a broader perspective when she explains that going the extra mile will: a) perk up your energy; b) give you a sense of purposefulness; c) attract positive energy and feelings back to you; and d) encourage healthy and challenging life goals.

Raman (2015) adds that going the extra mile can make a real difference in how you relate to others everyday, as it promotes a "giving mentality" where the more you give the more you get. He asserts that, "If you want to be known as someone who makes people feel good, be willing to go the extra mile". This definitely applies to home, school, work, or community, where you will discover the following benefits: a) You relate to people better; b) You attract people to you with similar values and beliefs; c) People will trust you and be loyal to you; d) You develop a positive mental attitude; and e) You'll continue to discover ways to make others feel better. In other words, you can make all of this happen by just going the extra mile.



Connections to LD/Dyslexia

While going the extra mile is clearly a powerful tool that can make your life better in many ways, it is ironic that it is rarely connected to disabilities; especially invisible disabilities. In fact, in an extensive literature search, I could only find one article that even approached this topic.

Maloney, Brown, Ciciurkaite, and Foley (2019) conducted a fascinating study with 42 working women with disabilities. They reported that these women "faced [both] intentional and unintentional structural discrimination and must weigh the pros and cons of disclosure and navigate devaluation threats in pursuing workplace accommodations." The authors found that these women proactively addressed such stigmas and negativity by going the extra mile. If this is true in adulthood for these women, is it true for you?

Do you ever face any negative consequences of your disability? Let's look at the big picture first. Did you know that people with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower educational levels, less economic participation, and higher rates of poverty than their non-disabled peers? Perhaps because of this, only 19% of America would tell someone that they have a disability at all (University of Minnesota, 2023).

Then there's the influence of disabilities as seen through a more personal lens. Murugami (2009) raises a red flag about ". . . persons' with disabilities lack of self-actualization, low self-esteem, poor self image, and negative self-concept". These factors often go hand-in-hand with a variety of health issues: depression, stroke, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and poor oral health (WHO, 2023). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. As my colleagues and I have emphasized for 30 years, the personal toll of invisible disabilities like LD and dyslexia can be a heavy one. Adults have repeatedly told me about on-going, intense feelings of: stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, isolation, loneliness, and being overwhelmed or defeated (ADD CITATIONS HERE!!!). Sometimes every day just seems like one struggle after another (Makati Health Center, 2019).

As you already know, living with disabilities is no walk in the park. But, if any of this describes you, take a hint from the ladies in the Maloney, et. al. (2019) study. See those often-daunting issues for what they are--and still move forward. Try going the extra mile to get the benefits given above. The Tips below will get you started in a new direction.


Scenarios



(A) Constantly being criticized and put down

Audra lives with her older sister Alicia in a small, one-bedroom apartment in the inner city where she works cleaning office buildings. She and her sister were raised by their mom, a single mother who was often in and out of drug rehab for most of their lives. Alicia helps Audra out when she can, but she spends most of her time on her phone or criticizing Audra. This has been happening for years, as Audra struggled to graduate from high school due to her dyslexia. Since academics were never easy for her, Audra often depended on Alicia to help her study or pass tests. Now she wishes she had never asked Alicia for help, as she often calls her "a dummy" or makes fun of her cooking or how she looks. Audra looks at her life and sometimes thinks she will never get away from her sister or find a different, fulfilling life for herself.

(B) Ask for a promotion

Bill has been working at the same restaurant since it opened 10 years ago. He started part-time after high school and worked as a bus-boy, a dishwasher, a waiter, and a prep-cook in the kitchen. He found that he really liked to cook and was accepted into a culinary arts program at the local community college. But given his learning disabilities, he soon dropped out because he was embarrassed to ask for accommodations. Recently, Stacy bought the restaurant. She is an energetic lady who plans to take the place in innovative, new directions and make more money. She also wants to create a Sous Chef position in the kitchen and is looking to hire someone to take on those duties. Bill feels that he is perfect for the position, given his strong work ethic, extensive experience already in this setting, and his can-do attitude. He also gets along with everyone and love a new challenge. So, how does he convince Stacy?



(C) Volunteering

Betty just loves politics. Her parents were both politically active and all of her brothers and sisters were expected as children to pass out flyers and leave materials in mailboxes for various candidates and causes. Everyone argued politics as the dinner table and Betty's proudest day was when she was old enough to vote, even though she needed assistance due to her low vision and learning disabilities. She has finally retired as a primary teacher and now wants to get back into politics in a big way. She has volunteered at the local office for years and was just asked to be a Caucus Chair for her state. She is so excited, despite various people voicing subtle--and not so subtle--misgivings about her taking on these important responsibilities. How can Betty prove them wrong?


Tips and Tricks



Tip #1: Give compliments or random acts of kindness

We all live in a world where everyone seems to criticize everyone else for all kinds of things; what you wear, what you look like, what you believe, and who you are. Most of us just learn to grit our teeth and move forward. But what if you have invisible disabilities and have lived with a daily barrage of criticism and negative comments all of your life. What if that's all you heard is how dumb and stupid you are--and you finally start to believe it yourself? For many people, their first instinct is to fight back. But returning one attack with another just feeds the fire. Instead, a way to get out the this sticky web of craziness is to go the extra mile.

There are many ways to address being criticized. Metcalf (2023) suggests that when you feel someone is criticizing you, ask yourself immediately if what they are saying is true. If it's not, just detach from the messenger and the message. This sounds good, but can be very hard to do. That's why going the extra mile, by deflecting the criticism into a compliment or a kind act, can be such an effective tool. As Celes (2023) explains: "Treat them with kindness. Be generous with your emotions with them. Drop them a compliment. Give them a smile. Say hi. Ask them out for a meal. Help them out in the areas you know they can benefit from. Get to know them personally." While it may seem like exactly the wrong thing to do, give it a try. You'll be amazed how well it works.

For instance, Audra feels constantly criticized by her sister Alicia. She realized that this has been going on for many years and has deteriorated into the primary way they communicate with each other. One day, Audra had enough. She thought: "I can either go after her with the breadknife or figure out something else to do". She read the tips in this blog and decided to try going the extra mile--because "What else am I going to do?"

Every time Alicia called her "stupid" or "dumb", she ignored it, because Audra knew deep down it just wasn't true. Whenever Alicia criticized the way she dressed or cooked dinner, Audra just just changed the subject or left the room. She learned never to ask Alicia's opinion about anything, but tried instead to make her sister smile by treating her to a meal once in a while or giving her a hug when she felt she needed it. She started giving her compliments out of the blue or leaving her little messages telling her how great it was to have a sister.

The biggest thing that Audra did to change her life was to finally realize that she wasn't dumb just because she had dyslexia. In fact, when Audra thought about it, she had a pretty good life. She really liked her job and had been promoted twice. She was saving up to move into her own place, where she could finally live the way she wanted. She had a great boyfriend who was always in her corner and wonderful friends who loved her just the ways she was. Maybe it was time to depend less on her sister--and more on herself.

If any of this applies to you, try going the extra mile. You can also, check out these websites to give you more insights into living with critical people:





Tip #2: Learning How to Negotiate

A skill you can always use as an adult is negotiation. For example, you might be negotiating to buy a new car or rent an apartment. You could be trying to convince your family where to hold the next family reunion. Or, maybe you are self-employed and trying to negotiate your next contract. Any, or all, of these situations require lots of specialized skills to get what you want by convincing others. This can be problematic, especially if you have LD or dyslexia when you struggle to organize your thoughts or communicate clearly with others.

Here's where going the extra mile can really make a difference. Negotiate means to come to some type of agreement with someone else. Typically, it involves discussion, bargaining, and agreeing on a specific topic or situation. While negotiation can be as simple as what kind of pizza to order, it can also be as complicated as buying a house or choosing to have another child. One of the most complex negotiations you will ever face involves interviewing for a new job or asking for a promotion. This can be a tricky business but when you've already gone the extra mile, you're way ahead of the game.

Vemparala (2023) gives you many proven ways to earn that promotion; most of them are practical suggestions to go the extra mile. For instance, he says to: document your work accomplishments, always dress appropriately, and keep improving your skills with new vocational goals and training. He also advises to be a team leader and be sociable and cooperative with others. He explains that you will be promoted by volunteering for extra work or learning new job responsibilities. A good way to illustrate this is by Bill's situation in Scenario B. Bill has a clear goal at work; he wants to get the Sous Chef job when the new owner re-organizes everything. He feels that he has a lot of positives already in his corner and just needs to convince Stacy that he can do it.

Bill is already ahead of the game because he has a proven track record in this setting where he always dressed appropriately and worked well with his peers. He was always volunteering for extra work and was trying to learn new roles in the restaurant. Now, he just needs to document everything he's done, get a few glowing reviews from the other employees, and clearly explain what he wants to learn, as well as bring to, the Sous Chef job.

But, it's the clearly the "explain" part that could be a hurdle for Bill. Every now and then, Bill has problems focusing on a task, prioritizing, or learning new steps in sequence. Disorganization is Bill's middle name due to his LD. He confides in his cousin, Bob, who just got a new job himself. Bob immediately calls his Vocational counselor at the Community College. After meeting with her, Bill got extensive help writing his resume, plus valuable information about interviewing with Stacy. The Vocational Counselor also hooked him up with someone in the Disability Office who gave Bill lots of tips about focusing and prioritizing, along with how to learn sequentially. Bill was now ready to go.

He asked to meet with Stacy and explained that he was applying for the Sous Chef job. They talked for a while and he left his new resume with her. Two weeks later, he volunteered to stay after work for a private party. While they were cleaning up at 2am, Stacy offered him the job. Bill bought Bob and nice bottle of wine to thank him for all of his help.

Do you feel like you need to move to a new job? Or, are you just ready for a promotion for an old one? For more great ideas, see the sites below:





Tip #3: Facing ignorance, discrimination and stigma


Being a stranger in a strange land is a phenomena that most people with invisible disabilities live with everyday. Whether at home, work, school, or in the community, folks with LD and dyslexia have often told me that nobody--but nobody--seems to understand them. Mis-communication, few connections, and lack of knowledge are the roots of ignorance, stigma, or discrimination.

Nevertheless, one of the most effective ways to directly address these issues is to be the best person you can be. While that probably sounds like a silly meme, most Americans have little or no knowledge about what an invisible disability is--or how it can shape someone's life (Matthews, 2012). That's where you become a "teacher" and go the extra mile to demonstrate why you as a person deserve respect and support. Lattimer (2019) stresses that going the extra mile helps you to: a) get a sense of your own worth and purpose; b) be a positive influence on others; c) energize yourself and those around you; d) attract positive energy and reactions directly back to you; and e) create healthy, positive benchmarks and achievements. In other words, the harder you try and the extra mile that you go, you will create a positive atmosphere and a favorable impression on others. When you're trying to teach others about invisible disabilities, there's nothing stronger than a positive role model. Be the example of what works--not what's not working.

For instance, no matter what the setting, there are lots of simple ways that you can exceed the expectations of those around you and be a positive role model. You could stay late or go in early to finish an important project at school or at work. You could be a mentor or sort out a problem for someone else. You might be there for a friend or just listen when they need you. You could give your time and energy to volunteer for a cause or a group that you believe in.

Betty, in Scenario C, is a great example of that. She is a fervent advocate for humanitarian causes, and gets great joy collaborating with others in the political arena. Her experience and enthusiasm make her an asset to any group, but some of her colleagues doubt her abilities to be a leader due to her sight and processing limitations. But Betty knows she's got this. As a former teacher and volunteer, she knew exactly what to do with a few simple accommodations. For example, when Betty's low vision made it difficult to read very small print, she would use a bar magnifier. She used various apps on her I-Phone for oral transcription or text-to-speech (TTS) support. If a document was exceptionally confusing, she asked a friend to read parts of it to her. Those aids also helped greatly with Betty's reading and written language problems as well. With a spelling and grammar checker on her laptop and a TTS reader, she's always ready to go. Now, Betty just needs to use all of this support and go the extra mile to convince others about all of her capabilities. It's time for her to step up to the plate with a wonderful written report or a great presentation. Let her actions convince folks that she is the right person to be their new leader and erase negative stigmas.

If you need to go the extra mile when folks doubt or don't understand your abilities, use Betty as a role model. She did it, can you?


Resources



References




Transition Connection

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