How To Create A Fulfilling Life (Like a Salad Brimming Over With Apple Chips)

How do we have a fulfilling life?

First, we have to recognize what is getting in our way.  Often we were taught to be “nice” and take care of others.  That is terrific, except who is taking care of us?

When I was young I was painfully shy.  I walked around middle school looking at the ground.  But now I enjoy getting up to speak in front of a group.  Somewhere along the way I developed confidence and the ability to speak up.  It’s not always easy though.

Recently I had gone into a Panera Bread.  They have the most tantalizing salads.  My favorite is their Fuji Apple Chicken Salad.  My mouth waters when I think about eating one.

I ordered my favorite salad, but when I picked it up I noticed that there were only 4 lonely apple chips.  Now I don’t know about you, but 4 apple chips are not going to cut it for me.   And to make matters worse as I got half way through my salad, I noticed I had run out of Fuji apple salad dressing.  There I sat with my dry, lettuce-predominant salad and realized I was definitely unhappy about this state of affairs.  Now I was taught that “nice” girls don’t speak up.  They just suffer.  In silence.  At least it was silent to the outside world.  In my head, I was having a raging dialogue.

I argued with myself:  What do you mean you’re unhappy – learn to deal with it I.  But I wanted to get up and grab the manager by the lapels and shout “you call that a Fuji apple chicken salad?”  I knew that really wasn’t what I wanted to do.  But I didn’t want to choke down the bare lettuce either.

So, after debating about this for awhile, I finally mustered what confidence I could and headed to the counter.  “Excuse me” I said.  I was terrified but I discovered I just couldn’t seem to leave this matter alone.  I’m not sure why but my coping skills were at an all time low.  This sense of injustice rankled.  I slowly raised my chin, smiled and said politely, “I only got 4 apple chips” with barely the hint of a whine.  In my imagination it was obvious what I needed and in my mind’s eye, the woman turned and grabbed a handful of apple chips for me.  But in reality, she didn’t.  She waited – quietly.  I was in this far so I did the only thing I could do.  I took a deep breath and asked, “Could I please have some more apple chips?”

She opened her mouth.  I figured she would explain company policy.  But she merely said “Sure.”  I was amazed.  I turned to leave the counter.  Only then did I  suddenly remember my other issue.  I hesitated for a long moment.  The bravery I had somehow located previously had not quite deserted me yet.  I turned back, took a deep breath, and thinking I was taking a foolhardy risk, stammered “Could I please have more Fuji apple dressing?”

Do you know what she said to me?  To this customer who had clearly gone through great stress to fight her way to the counter against all of society’s teachings?  Twice?  Who had felt incredibly rude making these requests.  She asked, “Would you like one container or two?”

One container or two?  Wait, I could have asked for two?  I was practically in shock!

I have to tell you what happened the next time I went to Panera Bread.  Now I was feeling a bit bolder by this point.  I ordered my favorite salad.  And when I went to the counter to await its loving preparation, I asked conversationally, “So is there a prescribed amount of apple chips you are supposed to put on the salad?”  I was clearly feeling bolstered by my last success.

And do you know what happened?  The salad maker grabbed a gloved handful of apple chips and placed them in a tray on the counter.  I was in shock.  I munched happily on the apple chips while standing there.  He then realized I was clearly waiting for the salad and said “Oh – I bet you want them on your salad.”  So he took this enormous heap of apple chips and piled them on top of my salad.  My gorgeous Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, brimming over with apple chips…


So why is it we feel we don’t have a right to speak up for ourselves?

I don’t know if it is age related but for some reason as I get older, I feel slightly more entitled to ask for what I want.  And I’ve been coaching others to do the same.  In fact, I see no reason why we shouldn’t learn this at an earlier stage of life so that our lives can be brimming over with apple chips as we become empowered.