Standing in my living room, I am completely confounded. I forgot the reason I came into this room. I’m certain it isn’t to watch the dog hair dance with the dust in the sunbeam coming in from the window, but that is what I am doing in this moment, fascinated.
I am three voices all at once. The voice that chastises the condition of my housekeeping (look at all the dog hair!). Another that is urging me to remember what I came for (time doesn’t scale, get a move on!). A third voice that marvels at how things like dog hair and dust can stay afloat…wondering if there is an air current in the room that holds them aloft…as curious as a three-year-old.
Voice three wins, I pull out my phone to “google” how dust can travel upwards against gravity. Surprise; my inkling was correct, it’s a warm air current from the floor vent. And then I remember what I came for, and my day continues. Except that because voice three won out, I am a little happier and satisfied. I have a smile on my lips.
Voice three doesn’t always win out, usually it is the loudest voice that gets my attention, cutting through the fugue of competing demands on my time. However, I recognize that constantly yelling at myself (even mental yelling) is not a great way to live. Sometimes you just have to rebel…against yourself. Sometimes you have to take the moment. Even when that moment is not “Instagram-able”, it still has immense value.
This brief moment of wonder gives me a feeling of well-being. Later today, it will give me something to talk about at dinner with my family (other than work). I am especially exciting to share it with my son, who is also curious and learning about air currents in science. Later this week it will motivate me to dust and to brush the dog (probably not in that order). Most of all, it breaks the rigidity of a demanding day with a moment of inquisitiveness.
Switching pace and focus, even just for a few moments, has so many benefits. Clearly my body was signaling to me that I needed a break, short-term memory loss (like forgetting why you walked into a room) is often a sign we need to give ourselves a moment to let our brains catch up to where we are. We are not living to work; we are working so we can truly live. Being deeply curious about the world around us is a part of that living.
I am grateful for my ability to stop and enjoy this simple moment. What simple moments are you experiencing today?
I was on a flight recently, where the voices seated in front of me became loud enough to hear. Person One was telling Person Two all about his workplace, and it was grim (hence the loud voice). There seemed to be nothing of redeeming value at his place of work, and when Person Two helpfully offered an alternative way to approach the concern, Person One launched into all the reasons why that couldn’t possibly benefit him either. Then a heavy silence followed (and I put my headphones on to escape the awkwardness).
I contrast this to a different flight where a similar event took place, this conversation also began with negativity about work, but when the second person helpfully offered an option, the first person pursued it with curiosity. Even though the turn of conversation began with a healthy amount of skepticism from Person One, she stayed open enough to the option offered to ask questions, allowing Person Two to share his own experience with making his job better and how it had benefited him. This led to a constructive exchange where their voices became softer and those seated around them were no longer privy to their conversation. At the conclusion of the flight, as we were all standing up to de-plane, they were shaking hands and exchanging business cards and commitments to keep in touch.
It’s a good reminder that opportunity doesn’t exactly knock, or announce itself. If we are not paying attention, negativity can kill opportunity. I’m not advocating perpetual positivity; there is enough misguided advice floating around to make positivity feel toxic (I’m talking to you “Hustle like you can’t lose” social media posts). Healthy skepticism isn’t a bad thing. However, only seeing the world through “wet-blanket” negativity ensures you remain stuck in whatever is creating negativity for you – it’s a paradox.
When you feel really negative about something at work, see if you can get curious enough to prevent building a story that reinforces your untested view (or try to build more than one story). Talk to someone you trust who will explore alternatives to your perspective. It could be you are right; good companies make bad decisions sometimes. It could also be the beginning of a new opportunity (like my example of the women on the plane), or it may build resilience in the face of an unfortunate circumstance. Life will never only be sunshine and roses, we know this. Thankfully, it also isn’t always doom and gloom.
If you are stuck in a negative place (it happens to all of us, part of being beautiful human beings), give yourself compassion. Take a break, disrupt your routine (go for a walk, etc.) and have faith that this too shall pass. Opportunity will be there when you need it, if you remember it comes softly (and without announcement).
I’m sitting in my sunny kitchen, on a beautiful morning, basking in this moment of balance and “rightness”. It is a good moment to soak in; I sip my coffee and stretch my legs into a sunbeam. Moments like these are precious, they create access to gratitude and thankfulness, which are really important to well-being. They can also create a “call to action”, to have life stay this way, an internal voice that demands “…if you made this happen today, you can make it happen every day!”
It would be easy to mistake that voice for self-confidence… it’s not. Unless I control the universe (which I don’t), creating the conditions for my peace, outside of myself, is not within my power (influence, yes… power, no). Making a commitment to have life always balanced and calm is a set up for failure because that call to action, sets out on a path to control things, so peace is defended. Can you feel peace move out of possibility with the gear up to defend it? Creating a condition where there is a threat and a forthcoming battle (even when none may exist). This defense takes constant vigilance. I have to remind myself; the goal is not to always have peace…peace only comes from knowing whatever life throws my way I will handle it and find my way back to well-being. Peace comes from inside of me, not from the world around me.
There is a Zen saying “the obstacle is the path”, which means that if I am chasing peace as my goal, I’m vulnerable to every life hiccup and concern, because I’ll see them as in my way, I’ll be constantly guarding the “status quo”. However, if I am open to the fact that there will always be obstacles (like excruciating moments of personal failure) as well as times of deep contentment, I am not taking a defensive position, but am open to whatever comes, knowing I’ve got this.
“I’ve got this” doesn’t mean I won’t screw it up, it means if I do, I’ll figure it out and learn something in the process. This is not an easy thing to keep top of mind, but with self-compassion I accept that I am a work in progress. So, I’m going to grab another cup of coffee and enjoy the calm I‘ve created within myself, and the fact that I have a moment to enjoy it.
You’ve also survived 100% of your worst days, how do you let that comfort and source you?
Boundaries are a necessary part of well-being. They are also slippery little devils that are at risk of eroding with the pounding of each “wave” of life. Most of us, and I include myself in this, have a difficult time defending our boundaries without feeling like we’ve failed at something (or failed someone). It can be excruciating.
Boundaries are commitments we make that ensure we do not infringe on the well-being of others, or our self. Simple enough. Enter trade-offs. Trade-offs are those mitigating circumstances we accommodate to keep the peace (with others or within ourselves). As an example, I’ll sacrifice my yoga class to watch my son’s hockey practice because it’s important to him that I be there. However, I’ll sacrifice kiddo’s hockey practice to an urgent deadline at work to meet a client’s needs. So on, and so forth.
Trade-off’s present themselves as the little lies we tell ourselves when confronted with competing demands. They sound like this: “It’s just this Wednesday, the rest of the month I can get to that yoga class.” “It’s just this one hockey practice, I won’t have urgent deadlines like this all the time…” Boundaries are the 10,000-foot view, something that is good when looked at as part of the “big picture”, but difficult to practice once you get into the muck of life.
It’s important to pay attention to these rationalizations, because here is the thing; if that yoga class were so important to me, I would find the time. I find/hold the time needed to get to my son’s hockey. Notice the pattern? If it is important to someone else, I’ll be there, so if I am paying attention, the element of sharing an experience with someone is what compels me to commit (and re-commit) to an established boundary.
Seeing this pattern is key to understanding my own motivations for keeping boundaries in place. I trade things off all the time, why? Why do I let work-time over-ride family-time? What does it give me when I flex that boundary? What does it take away from me (and others)? These are very important questions to consider, and a source of rich information. Are you flexing boundaries out of love or out of fear?
It is also the act of re-commitment that keeps healthy boundaries in place, because there will always be circumstances where we need to flex a boundary (especially the ones on our time). What boundaries do you have that are well established and working for you? Which ones get eroded? Check in. You may find the motivation you need to get a healthy boundary working for you more consistently.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my back deck, enjoying the last of the summer sunshine. It’s the time of year when I savour the remaining days of our vacation, basking in newly made memories of beaches and hikes, while anticipating fall and a return to routine. It’s bittersweet. Already it is dark by 8:00, a sure reminder that summer’s languid days are coming to an end.
I love fall, it is my favourite time of year. It’s always been a time of fresh starts, perhaps because of the way the school calendar works in North America… back to school means taking stock, readying yourself for what’s next… and replenishing what’s been outgrown over summer.
I’m looking at what I may have “outgrown” this summer, feeling overwhelming gratitude for my readers, as well as a calling to make a deeper connection with you. Our lives are infused with potential, and through that vein I want to explore more of what a working life has to give; so often our focus is pulled to deadlines, schedule and what is not working, yet working life has the potential to give back and to nourish, ensuring our lives benefit from the fruits of our labour.
Starting this fall you’ll see a continued focus on potential, career growth, and how to make it all work at work, but there will also be more blogs like this one, taking stock of what your working life offers your whole life, and pausing to enjoy it – celebrating work as a way to empower living (versus living to work).
I hope you enjoy the tweaks and find this new blog material compelling as you savour your summer and ready yourself for fall.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.