Merging Work and Play

I love the sense of playfulness the artist captured in the movement and sheer delight of the two children in this picture.   I took this shot while waiting for my plane in the Greenville-Spartenburg airport in SC.  It is a reminder to have fun, to find time to play in our lives, and to experience light hearted moments.   I am heading there again this week and remembered this photo.  I got to thinking that the average person spends an inordinate amount of time at work and not enough time in play.

The traditional American work ethic is to indulge in leisure pursuits or “play” only when our work is done.  There is a common belief that work requires self discipline, long hours, and sacrifices.  As a career coach I often ask people what the word “work” means to them.  I get answers like; “boring, drudgery, wage slave, too many hours, frustrating, exhausting, routine, hard, meaningless, etc.”   I remember asking my daughter as a new college grad what came to mind when she hears people talking about getting a job and going to work.  She thought for a moment and then said:  “I see a sweaty bald guy in overalls dragging a ball and chain in a warehouse with a concrete floor and small windows and it’s raining outside and the water is dripping on the floor.”  I wonder how many other people have such dour imagery around the concept of work!  (FYI my daughter is an entrepreneur at heart and is enjoying being a freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver as I write this)

We are taught that we must strive for success and be our best, and work hard to get ahead.  Well meaning parents  teachers, and  other authority figures tell us to “keep your nose to the grindstone” and “pay your dues” and “climb the ladder to success.”  This doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  Does this advice motivate you to go out there and get a job?  Surely there is a way to make a living and be happy at the same time, a way to merge work and play.

What if we shift our perspective and start bringing a sense of  playfulness into our jobs?  Wouldn’t our workday be more pleasurable?  Absolutely!  Let’s look at the concept of play.  As in this photo, the children appear to be alive in the moment, are having fun and seem to be exhilarated.  (Considering they are sculptures that’s kudos to the artist.) How can we bring this joy, this sense of fun and being present into our daily work lives?  A good place to start is by looking at your situation with “new eyes”.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your work environment support you or deplete you?  
  • Are you doing work you enjoy and find satisfying?  
  • Do you feel valued and appreciated at work by peers and management?
  • If freedom and flexibility are important values for you does your current work provide these?

Think of play as an activity in which you are fully present, enjoying the moment, feeling free, valued and appreciated by the other players.  Whether you work for somebody else or are self employed there are ways to bring more playfulness into your life.  For starters, if your work environment doesn’t support you, change it.  This is easier to do if you are the boss but even as am employee there are often options to personalize your work situation.  Would you be more comfortable (and potentially more productive) with an ergonomic chair or an office with a window?  How about suggesting flex time or job sharing to balance your work and leisure time? 

What are you passionate about?  Can you create a livelihood doing things you are passionate about?  (See The $100 Startup for guidance on this.) Is there a way to bring passion into your work?  If you work with a team, do you mutually appreciate and value the other “players”?  What might you do to contribute to the well being of co-workers?   What needs to happen in order for you to have more fun at work, to feel energized and yes, playful?  Sometimes it is as simple as shifting your perspective and changing your attitude.

“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”  Mark Twain






Foster an Attitude of Gratitude

The day after Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as “Black Friday”.  I propose we think of it as “Light Friday” instead and bask in the glow of Thanksgiving.  It is a perfect time to reflect on all we are grateful for in our lives.   We have a family tradition of holding hands around the table and going to each person who then shares their appreciations and blessings.  Often this includes sending out loving intention to absent relatives. 

We are fortunate in our family to have two living grandmothers and one of the appreciations shared this year was just that.  Both my mother and mother –in- law are hale and still quite hearty in their mid 80’s.  As they both live in the Carolinas and no longer enjoy flying, we don’t see them often.  My daughter Nicole suggested we organize a “grandmother’s getaway” so that she could spend some time with them.  Last month the four of us had five glorious days together and enjoyed the beauty of Myrtle Beach, SC. 

I took this picture from our hotel balcony on our last morning.  There is something purely magical about witnessing the sun rising seemingly from the ocean.  I love the dawn, the light of a new day.  Each morning is a new start, a fresh slate.  You can set the tone of your day simply by appreciating it.  Every time I see this photo I will remember the great time we four had together.  My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the octogenarians, playing bridge and hearing about yesteryear when the world was simpler.  They find smart phones, GPS, and digital cameras to be “mind boggling” (to quote my mother-in-law).

Nicole and I listened to her grandmothers share their stories and their practical wisdom.  She and I both realized how fortunate we were to be there with them, to still have them in our lives.  As we move through this holiday season, I hope we can hold that sense of gratitude not just for our family and friends but for the larger community of mankind. 

I encourage you to foster an attitude of gratitude and spread it around.  Here are some tips to develop it:

Keep a gratitude journal.  Every day or two write down things you appreciate.  As a regular exercise, I ask my coaching clients to list 3 things they are grateful for each week.  It helps to remember that there are good things happening in our lives despite whatever challenges (like job searching), we may be going through.

Take a walk in natural surroundings.  Take time to breathe in the fragrances of flowers, the earthiness of fallen leaves or the tang of winter air.   It is very soul satisfying to just be very present to the magnificence of the natural world around us.

Write a note or letter of appreciation.  Tell people who have helped you or touched your life how much you appreciate them. Give them a recommendation, write a testimonial, or send them a card.  If you receive some of these, save them and review them when you are having a “black” day or an “off” week.  

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation”.  -Brian Tracy

Wishing you all a warm and wonderful holiday season!   -Dee 

Work: Labor or Love?

Labor or Love?

Work, is it a labor of love?

Today is Labor Day in America.  It became a national holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement following the deaths of workers during the Pullman Strike.  Fearing further conflict, the bill was rushed through Congress a mere 6 days after the strike.  Much has changed in the workplace since then.  Now we largely look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and the kickoff of the football season, a day off for fun and relaxation. 

If we view this occasion as it was originally conceived, it is a day to appreciate those in the workforce and celebrate employment. I ask you; do you feel celebratory at work?  Are you fully engaged and joyfully expressing your talents and skills?  Do you really like your job? Are you appreciated and rewarded for your contributions?  Do you feel energized by the work you do?  Sadly, I don’t think the majority of workers would answer yes to these questions. 

When my daughter graduated college, she had a hard time being motivated to get that first job.  I asked her what came to mind when I said the word:  work.  She thought a minute and then said; “I get a picture of a sweaty bald guy in a warehouse pulling a huge chain.”  My internal response was “yikes, she views work as drudgery!”  Sadly, I think many people view work from this perspective. (Happily, my daughter now loves her work as a blogger, freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver).

For many people, a job is tied to the idea of being in servitude to get a paycheck.  I’ve had coaching clients tell me they are miserable in their jobs but are locked into the “golden handcuffs”.  They feel they cannot leave their jobs for fear of losing health insurance and other benefits.  I ask them, “If you really can’t leave your work, can you find a way to be more satisfied with it?”

What would happen if you shifted your perception and viewed work as a creative expression of yourself?  How might you bring your natural talents and skills into your work life?  Can you see how your work could then become a “labor of love”?  I believe that each and every one of us can find or create work that is inherently fulfilling.  If you are currently in a job, consider how you can experience it with more joy.  Ask yourself:   

  • What is one thing I can do this week to find more pleasure and satisfaction at work?
  • How can I make the best contribution to my workplace, my co-workers, or my employer?
  • What can I change in my daily routine to make my job more interesting?   

If you are looking at career options, consider these questions:   

  • What am I passionate about?  How might I express my passion through my work?
  • Is my work an expression of me?  Is the work I do in alignment with my value system? 
  • What kind of work would energize me?
  • Who could utilize my natural talents, skills, education, etc.?  Where is there a need I can fill?   

If you can’t find a way to “love the work you’re with” it’s time to look elsewhere. You might consider creative self employment, starting a small business or a combination in income producing endeavors.  Remember you don’t have to do a particular kind or work, you have choice!

“Follow the path of your potential and live the work you love”  –Dee


Finding Peace

Holiday TreeMost of us are familiar with the phrase “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” How many of us consciously practice it in our everyday lives and what does it mean exactly?  From my perspective, peace and goodwill begin with me.  It is that internal sense of absolute quiet and calm glimpsed in those moments or gaps between the zillions of thoughts that zip through our minds on a daily basis.  Our brains are like huge computers running a multitude of programs simultaneously with frequent pop-up boxes that distract us from clear thinking.  If we can focus on the gaps between the bits of streaming information, we can realize moments of lucidity and calm.  When we are centered and connected to that inner quiet, we exude a sense of peace and, not incidentally, goodwill.

Typically in the U.S. we get wrapped up in a flurry of seasonal preparations and holiday activities; purchasing presents, decorating our homes and workspace, and engaging in social and religious activities. The holidays can be very stressful, particularly if you get caught up in trying to get everything accomplished in time. We put stress on ourselves to get all these holiday tasks and obligations completed and still manage our already busy daily lives.

Here’s a suggestion for alleviating the stress: when you notice yourself getting caught up just take a big breath in, let it out slowly and completely.  Repeat until you’ve restored a little inner quiet.  It is amazing how this simple act performed consciously can be so self-calming.  When you are at peace, it impacts everyone and everything around you.  Perhaps the greatest gift we can give to others is to be at PEACE ourselves.

When you are out and about this holiday season, look at the people around you, share eye contact, smile, acknowledge them, start a conversation.  You have an opportunity to shift the atmosphere around you. We can share an implicit appreciation of one another, or GOODWILL.   In eastern traditions this moment might be described as Namaste, which may be translated as “the goodness in me recognizes the goodness in you.”  See how many of those moments you can experience in the coming days and notice how you will be promoting, “peace on earth and goodwill to men.”

Wishing you the peace and joy of the season!


Gremlin Taming: how to free yourself from your inner critic

Picture of a garden gremlinI’ve been revisiting a gem of a book; “Taming Your Gremlin A surprisingly simple method for getting out of your own way” by Rick Carson. I’ve worked with this marvelous material with my coaching clients over the last few years to help them overcome self limiting beliefs and negative self talk.  I’ve found Rick’s book so useful that today I registered for a 3 month tele-course with him to learn more “Gremlin Taming” strategies and techniques.  Here’s why I like his work and this book in particular:

  1. It is written simply, no esoteric detail or religious dogma.
  2. The author personifies the “narrator in your head” as a Gremlin who influences you. (My concept of a gremlin is like the picture above.  I found this little gray guy at my son’s house this summer just hanging out in the garden.)
  3. It is flat out full of laugh out loud bits especially the stories from the author’s personal experience.
  4. There are fill in the blank pages, like a kid’s Big Book of Fun, to help the reader with self discovery.
  5. In describing the “acts” we put on, he uses such terms as “Back to the Land Woodsman, Red Hot Mama, Pious Puritan, Hard Rocker, Damsel in Distress and Macho Man”.  (Have you met some of those folks?  Yeah, me too!)
  6. Lots of pages have hand drawn illustrations, most of which are quite humorous.
  7. The definitions are clear and easy to understand;

“Your Gremlin: is the narrator in your head.  He has influenced you since you came into this world. He’s with you when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night.  He tells you who and how you are, and he defines and interprets your every experience.  He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal, from moment to moment, day to day is to squelch the natural, vibrant you within….your Gremlin wants you to feel bad.”

The Natural You:  is the one inside that miraculous mass of matter out of which you are now peering.  The natural me is inside my own body, which is at this moment holding a pen.  From inside this aging sculpture of hair, eyes, teeth and limbs, the natural me is writing the words, “Hello in there”.  You just pulled in through your eyes the words, “Hello in there.”  The natural you understands the essence of my words. Your mind is busy making sense out of them.  Your Gremlin, meanwhile, is gnashing his teeth and screeching something like “This is ridiculous!” or “You’re just going to get your hopes up and end up disappointed.  Nothing’s going to change, least of all you.” Or “You need another self help book like a hole in the head.”

“Beliefs: are just opinions that we develop loyalty to, so that we can pretend that the world has at least a modicum of predictability.  Doing so helps us feel safe.  Ironically, we sometimes fight to defend our beliefs, creating anything but a safe situation.”  (so true!)

Taming Your Gremlin is both playful and powerful.  It emphasizes self inquiry and self acceptance as the keys to higher awareness.  If you are looking for liberation from your inner critic, check out this book.  And come on back and visit this blog.  I’m sure I’ll post more on Gremlin Taming as I go through the tele-course.  Here is the author’s website:

In relationship to your (spotlight of) awareness, you can be a passenger or a driver, a victim or a participant, a pawn or a player  You choose.  Not once and for all, but in each moment of your precious life.”  –Rick Carson

The #1 Reason You Aren’t Getting Hired

I heard from a former client recently who has been having a hard time finding work.  He shared his frustration about applying for “100’s” of jobs not getting interviews, or if he did have an interview, not getting a job offer.  After 18 months of this, he was pretty angry.  He proceeded to give me a litany of reasons for his negativity.  Let’s look at these four:

1. Employers are rude, they won’t even acknowledge that they have received my applications.

2. The economy sucks, no one is hiring.

3. Companies won’t pay me what I am worth.

4. The people doing the hiring are guilty of age discrimination.

While these statements may have some truth to them, they are undermining the candidate’s chances for employment.  Why?  Because the unhappy jobseeker is blaming externals for his predicament and his negative attitude is derailing his forward motion.  Yup, the number one reason you may not be getting hired is your attitude.

Let’s look at each of these complaints from a more positive perspective.

1. Employers are swamped with applicants and may be short staffed.  Imagine yourself as the hiring person being deluged with resumes, many of which are poorly written, hard to read, and inappropriate for the position.  Having been in the position of screening resumes, I can tell you it is an exercise in patience to review each one and make thoughtful decisions regarding which pile to put it in:  maybe a fit, not a fit but maybe could be considered for something else, and totally unqualified for the position.  Then you take the maybe stack and sort it down to the strongest candidates, coming up with the number of candidates to be interviewed (like the top 3-10).  Is it reasonable to expect every person be sent an acknowledgment that their application has been received?  I don’t think so.

2. Even in economic downturns people are hiring. You may just have to look harder to identify where you might fit. 80% of jobs aren’t advertised. I encourage you to do some information interviewing to get the inside scoop on a company’s culture, needs and potential openings. If there truly are no jobs in your field, consider starting your own business.  Really look at your resume.  What else can you do with your experience, education, training, and talent?

3. What are you worth, really, to a potential employer?  In your correspondence and contact with an organization you need to stress what YOU can do for THEM, not the other way around.  Can you save them time, increase productivity, save them money?  How will the organization benefit by hiring you?

4. Although there may be age discrimination, carrying it around as a chip on your shoulder is not going to help you get hired.  Instead of tackling the “age issue” emphasize your experience, your knowledge, the wisdom you bring and the maturity.  Another advantage of hiring older workers is that they tend to be reliable, dependable, and diligent workers. Turn your attitude into thinking about what a great catch you are for some fortunate employer and see if that doesn’t make a difference!

Bottom line—put yourself in the employers’ role, wouldn’t you rather hire a candidate with a positive attitude?  Yeah, so would I.

Go forward confidently, energetically attacking problems, expecting favorable outcomes. Norman Vincent Peale

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. Thomas Jefferson

More great quotes on attitude