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Archive for November, 2009

Job Insurance –Being grateful for what you are doing

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Having a job is, in and of itself, a reason to be thankful. Very very thankful. But gratitude is one of those things that easily gets lost in the stress and bustle of actually doing the work and having a life simultaneously.  Try not to let that happen.  Be grateful for the work you do.


Well, for starters, it’s just plain dumb to take a negative attitude toward anything.  There’s plenty of research to support the claim that thinking positively keeps you healthier.   It’s a better way to live.  Period.

But thinking positively about your job no matter what you’re doing is also an important part of your overall strategy for staying employed as long as you want to.  Being positive about your job means you will do it better.  Better performers are the ones to keep–and promote.  Better performers get noticed and wooed by other companies.  Grateful people are easier to work with and to have working for you.

So if you want to stay employed, put some effort into being positive and upbeat, even if  you do have a heavier work load than seems fair.  AND:  Don’t start telling yourself it’s “not fair.” That kind of judgment is just negativity in a self-righteous wrapper.  It doesn’t make any difference what’s “fair.”  It’s your job.  For the time being, you want it, you need it, and the more gratitude you can have for it, the easier it’s going to be to do it.

The cornerstone is being happy you have it.

I can hear your “yes but’s.”   The “You have no idea what I have to put up with” rebuttal seems so justified.  But it isn’t.   How awful the job is or isn’t is not the deciding factor in whether you can be grateful for it.  Deciding to grateful is.  Your attitude toward your job is 100% up to you.

There are offices who manage to do the impossible day after day because the people who work there believe in what they are doing and are happy to be doing it.  There are other offices with more flexibility, pay, and perks who are full of complainers and unmet business goals.  Which kind of place are you creating with your own attitude?  How much negativity are you buying in on without realizing it?

That’s another piece of this you need to pay attention to.  Getting sucked into a negative group mind set at work happens so automatically that you don’t even know it’s happened.  You just end up going home grumpy every day and start to dread the next one–unless it’s the weekend.

Work is never perfect and there will be days that don’t go at all well.  You can still be pleased and grateful you have the job.  You can still be cheerful.  You can still do your best to do the work as well as possible.

Even if we don’t need money, we end up working at something.  It’s a basic part of being human.  If you are doing work, make sure part of how you approach it is to be grateful.

Work is good.  Be grateful.

The Benefit of Cycles

Saturday, November 14th, 2009


We’ve reached my least favorite month of the year–“dreaded November.”  Growing up in Wisconsin, January was the daunting month.  But snow and subzero temperatures pale in comparison to what November dishes up in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s dark enough to develop photographs at my dining room table at noon, and the rain and wind just keep on coming.  Ah, November…  The perfect time to look at the wisdom of learning to wait.

The gloom and cold and Mother Nature’s nasty fits have sweet purpose for everything in the yard that has either died or gone dormant and for us–as a reminder that resting is an important part of living well.

The “fun” parts of cycles are easy to get used to—the growing, the flowering, the fruit.  But this is the time of year that reminds us that things die.  The lovely blue lobelia.  The crimson leaves of the maple.  The zucchini plant (finally!).  Quite a lot stops being what it was–some permanently and some until next spring.  The idea that “it’s over” is not so uplifting for most of us.  But it’s every bit as important in the cycle as the flashier parts.

Nature going dormant reminds us that parts of our lives need to die sometimes, too.  Friendships, pastimes, jobs we thought we’d have until we retired.  The reasons for the end of each are more complex than with plants.  But they have reached that same point in the cycle–an ending.  Endings come just slightly before the next beginning.  But that’s really hard to see.

Maybe the friend moved away.  Maybe the hobby got boring.  The person you can’t love anymore may have died in the real sense or just in how you saw him or her.  The job—and maybe the whole company—may have gotten eliminated.   It’s easy to get comfy with what we like and expect it to go on forever.  But that’s the natural progression of things.

Most of us aren’t very good at dealing with these little deaths.  Instead of seeing them for what they are–necessary transitions—we dwell on what was, convinced that’s what still should be.  Every time we do that, we miss the point, and the chance to savor that quiet time that comes before starting again.

Being still and waiting is not easy in this age of instant everything.  We flip a switch and have light and move from place to place on seventy-miles-per-hour freeways.  We can buy or learn anything we want at any time of day online.  The downtime that comes when something ends is not over in an instant.  We need that interlude, much as we are impatient to be done with it.

First, of course, we get to rest.  But we tell ourselves we don’t have time for that.  This rest is important for more than relieving weary bones though.  Getting clear of what was before you move on to what’s next streamlines the process in the long run.  Letting an idea steep for a while often gives it additional depth and breadth.  Waiting, instead of jumping into the next thing as soon as the last one is finished, can give much needed perspective that makes it easier to get things to go right once you do get going.

But how do you wait?

With patience.  Much as we want to believe we have total control, we don’t.  Things happen when they are supposed to not when we think they are supposed to.   The simple act of accepting that notion is powerful.

With hope.  Wise waiting includes believing that good things are on the way.  Getting things to grow involves trusting they will.  When you don’t believe what you want, need, and are focused on will come, you keep changing course—sort of like planting different seeds in the same spot the garden every other week.

And with gratitude.  Being grateful you’re part of something bigger than your personal timetable is the fast route to serenity.  Let life be what it is, and you will automatically slow down when the chance presents itself.

Whether it’s kids or carrots, growth is never uniform and consistent.  There are spurts, and there are plateaus.  There are times when you wonder if you really did plant what you thought you did because nothing’s coming up.  Respect those times.  Let that part of you be dormant.  Wait.  Trust that growth will come again.  That your efforts will bloom and bear fruit.

Even when it’s dark and cold and wet outside, the warm fire of promise burns inside you.  That makes resting good.


Working happy

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Last week I got my carpeting replaced.  I live in a small house, but there’s a lot of carpeting.  And it had been there for twenty years, so pulling it up could not have been a very pleasant job.

But the two guys who did the work conversed pleasantly, with lots of good-hearted laughing when they were working near enough to talk to each other.  What an unexpected lesson in how to work happy!

They both seemed very pleased to be doing what they were doing and did it well.  But they also did it in a way that took them home in a good mood.  How many of us approach our work that way?  If I’m not paying attention, I can make myself grumpy getting the simplest things done and I’m my own boss!

I wish I could tell you the secret of their attitude effectiveness, but I can’t.  I understood the laughter, but I didn’t grasp one word of what they were saying.  They were speaking Russian.

If you are ready to suggest that they were probably making fun of me, my choice of carpet, or my house, shame on you!  I’m a psychologist and a screenwriter by training.  I can deduce a lot from tone of voice and pitch.  These guys were happy.  Open.  Enthusiastic.

When I spoke to the salesman who sold the carpet about them after they finished the job, I learned the lead guy is willing to work every day of the year if they want him to.  He will work 18-hour days if needed.  He trains other young Ukranian guys in his trade so they can have a good future in this country as well. And in his spare time, he’s building a house for his parents–since he’s already built one for his own family.

This isn’t about how unique this guy is–much as he is.  This is about the power of wanting to work.  It’s a mindset that’s gotten very little encouragement in the last fifty years in the US.  With the economy retching and writhing, perhaps we are getting back to it.  That would be so good.

Maybe those of us who’ve been blessed with all this opportunity will start to see work as a plus and a joy again.  And maybe we will be healthier simply because we have relearned how to be happy at work.