Creating happy work spaces
Like the breath we take, Mondays keep coming and going. For many, Monday seems to adversely affect them, dreading the beginning of another work week. Some starting this as early as Sunday. Today started as the sun rose brilliantly over the hay filled pasture, quickly followed by dark rain clouds and a couple of downpours by 10 a.m.. Our lives can feel just like that too - bright or dreary.
Life is easy when it's easy. When a
day or event brings us down, what do we do? Often we either fight it or resign ourselves to it. I hear
a lot of us complaining. We often feel stuck in being unhappy. We can change
all of that - if we change. Monday
will be Monday; the job is the job; people will be people - at least for today.
So, what can change? Maybe we can – our attitude or perspective?
Changing me was difficult for many years. I just could not seem to think my way through this and it was so much work. I discovered I needed to change from the inside out. First thing I learned (finally) was that each of us chooses our thoughts and feelings. They are tightly woven, interconnected and often inseparable. When I feel crummy - unhappy, disappointed, angry, frustrated - I see now where I am the common denominator. What creates the feeling that needs to change? A belief is where it starts; an expectation that it should be different. I must accept that my thoughts and feelings interfere with my happiness; my sense of me; even my abilities. I have to accept these are my feelings and only I can change them. I also accept they are temporary - every changing. It may not be easy to own this truth but it holds great freedom. When I pretend I am not responsible I can blame something or someone else for how I feel. Then if that something or someone never change, I am stuck where I am. Outside forces hold all the power to my happiness and my self esteem.
If you are ready to change, begin with the easiest indication by recognizing physical reactions. Start at your head and move through to your feet. Is my body heavy? Where? Does my head ache? Maybe I have an upset stomach. My shoulders may be tight or my back is aching. The body is a great measurer and informer of comfort and discomfort. We learn from our bodies and then we use this wisdom to control our thoughts and feelings.
Next, listen to the thoughts. Most are quiet, negative and judgemental thoughts. Since we only use 10% of our brain power, it is disheartening if the majority of our thinking is self defeating. Negative thoughts about people, the job, the day, finances or the boss are chirping away. Often, my thoughts were about how I don't measure up. We may prefer to judge how others behave, think of their affect on us, but in reality, the judgement originates in our own thinking about our self.
The third, and often the most difficult to uncover, is what I am
really feeling. Mad and sad are common but are actually secondary emotions. When I delve into the depth
of a feeling, I come up with three consistent responses: fear, shame or hurt.
These decide how I feel, think, act and react to the world around me.
They decide how I perceive my world and how others are treating me. There are
many manifestations of these three elements but here are a few examples. Fear
makes me avoid, procrastinate, or confront. Shame leaves me feeling less-than
or better-than others or keeps me focused on other people – what they do to or
around me. Hurt makes me want to protect myself by distancing myself or pushing
people away.When I have one, I seem to cope okay. When I have two or three, my day can turn pretty dark very quickly.
I have to admit changing me has been the hardest journey ever ventured. It was easier to hit the snooze button and blame the world for causing my unhappiness. But, these rewards far exceed my greatest expectations. We can't stop Mondays and can't control whether they are bright or cloudy; but we can chose to enjoy the day. Yay! We can be free, full of joy and quite happy.
Jane came to me recently for career coaching. She just had to get a different job and wanted to make sure it was the right one this time. Her career had been a series of default positions, putting her into a great job, but one she did not like. She likes the industry and her company, actually wanting to stay right where she is, if possible (anything is possible, isn't it?). She loves her manager and most of her co-workers are really positive people. Why would she doubt her ability to find a job she likes? Why isn't she discussing this with the HR folks instead? What could be the real problem?
Well, like most of us, every job Jane has had on her career path came to her by default. Through an array of circumstances and reasons, her work life evolved without her actually creating it. She was a bystander, not a creator. She does not know her pre-designed destiny yet - the deep, real inside drives, desires and needs. She is at a stage in her life where she feels a disconnect between her and her job. She wants happiness, fulfilment and purpose. Like many, her thought was, "Is this it? Is this all there is?"
The disconnect Jane is experiencing is quite common. It often occurs when a person is working for the paycheque that will buy all the things perceived to create happiness (home, clothes, car, holidays) and worth (position, respect, responsibility). When the job gives us all these things yet still feel a void, we search for an answer.
In career counselling, the focus is holistic in nature. A client is guided through a self discovery, pulling every aspect of their self into one beautiful tapestry. Their work is from the inside out. This is not about vocational selection but rather taking oneself on a journey to find the destiny that creates inter-connectedness. A process where all the aspects of their humanness, their deep needs and desires, become met and then become part of the journey for others.
Many clients face blocking issues while they explore their unique, valuable internal path. There are many blocks. A common one and one that came up for Jane is self-judgement; a denial that true happiness is necessary, attainable or that she is even worthy of it. The magic that occurs in this process is the realization that every strength and tool she ever needed is already lying right there; right inside her. She just had to put all the pieces together. She will be whole with clear direction on living her Life at work.
Since we spend our very best time of our life at work, it makes sense to me that we are designed in such a way that our job is an extension of who we are; not a definition and never intended to be a daily grind. This does not mean life is a breeze and everything will or should always fall perfectly into place. It means we all trudge Life's road together. And, when we are on our intended path, the trudge is easier, the load lighter. So, being happy at work is our intended destiny, whether or not it is necessary, attainable or if we are worthy.
* The name has been changed to protect the client's privacy. To all my Jane friends, thank you for letting me use your lovely name. I hope you don't mind :)
The other day I was at a meeting with a group of women I know. Greeting one of the ladies, she put her hand on my cheek, pushed me away and said, "Nope, I'm angry with you."
Shocked and unnerved, I asked, "Why?"
"I'm very very upset with you. I will talk to you after the meeting", was her response.
Well, through the meeting, I wracked my brain, trying to remember the few conversations we had and figuring out what I could have done. Interesting, isn't it that it became all about me.
When I am confronted or afraid, I go to a special place in my psyche. For me, it is a lovely box. I liked it so much as one point in my life that I actually lived in it. It made the outside world very safe. My husband has a castle, one of my friends has a jail, a gal I work with has a deep dark hole. It is a place to go where the pain is held at bay. It shuts off the feelings and places me right in the middle of being able to cope. Nowadays, through lots of hard work, I live outside my lovely blue box with the tight lid or at least keep the lid off it so I can see out there when I am unsure.
I jumped right into that box that evening. I know I did because I didn't have any feelings. I wasn't angry, indignant, upset, sad or mad. Nothing. I had nothing I could share in the discussion at the meeting because I was busy thinking and thinking and thinking some more about what awful thing I could have done.
After the meeting, she told me, "Follow me." At the door going out, she turned and said, (as accurately as I can recall) "I am going to say what I have to say and I am not going to discuss it with you nor argue with you. I do not want to hear anything you have to say." And she did. By the short time it took her to tell me what she had to say, there were other women around. Out the door we all went and as she walked away she kept talking, turning to yell at me some more as she went to her car.
Now, although I am in my box I can still feel physical reactions to circumstances. I became light headed, couldn't think, sick to my stomach with shaking knees. I know these reactions now. At one time I was quite disconnected from them too. One gal came to see if I was ok (that's what us women do - gather), the others left right away - no eye contact (we do that too!). Still in my safety area, I assured her I was fine; hurting, reeling from this but I would be ok.
I am now beginning the third day since this event. Although it makes me think long and hard about trust and relationships, my focus is more on how we behave with one another. When I can go to the higher level of conscienceness, I can see the whole picture. But, when the pain comes to me I come crashing down to the earth in the reality of a few things. First of all, I trusted this woman when history has told me not to. Secondly, I wanted to be part of her circle for some crazy reason which started this whole thing. Thirdly, I didn't follow my instincts (that quiet, whisper I tend to ignore) at the beginning nor at the end. So, all in all, it shows me (again) that I still have lots of work to do on my inside job!
I'd like to share about the two states I just referred to. I call them, for myself and in my training, a state of Spirit vs a state of humanness.
My humanness hurts, acts, reacts and lives on this planet through the lessons it has learned. These lessons come from others, from books, from the media, from learned personal experiences, other people's lives and through any other absorption means the brain can muster. For example, in this situation - when I really dug deep, I realized I wanted to be part of this woman's inner circle and wanted her to be a part of mine. I had no conscience thinking on this line at all when I did what I did. I am not free to explain what I did as it involves yet another person. Suffice to say, I had no malice nor intended inappropriateness in what I did and still believe that today after some very serious reflection and work on this. So, what would cause this to happen? Especially without me thinking this is what I was doing? Because I always refer to this kind of action as 'very grade 7', I am guessing I learned this around the age of 12. I learned if I include you or am included by you into this perceived circle of influence, I will be ok or better than ok. My intentions were good, positive, helpful and kind in nature. Yet, because the state of humanness took over, it turned south in a hurry. Accused of the complete opposite, I was left standing there with nowhere to turn to resolve this issue. The woman refused to discuss, hear me or allow us to find some kind of fix.
This happens in the work place all the time. Where do we go with that? How do we feel ok in our own skins, able to perform at our very best level when we are in a box? Hard to use the copy machine when hiding away! And, we all hide - that is our humanness tool. Hide, avoid, run away, deflect, procrastinate, gossip - all some of the methods for dealing with life in this state.
Here's one idea. It comes from the state of Spirit! If I have ways of dealing with my hurts,
grief, embarrassment, anger, fear or shame, and I understand every one of us does,
then what kind of humanness is this woman going through to cause her to behave
this way toward me? My natural reaction was quite opposite of what I did. I wanted
my friends to take sides. I wanted to scream and shout. I wanted to punch
something. I wanted to do destructive things. Yet, where would that put me in relation to
living with myself? So, coming back to the state of Spirit, if what I did had
zero negative intentions and was the truth as I knew it, where is this reaction
coming from? How did this hurt her or cause her to be afraid of something that
she would come out as aggressive as she did? How come she doesn't see me or my intentions
the way I see it?
Seeing this situation through an alternate perspective gave me immediate peace. When the pain would come back, I could literally feel the shift in states. When it shifted, all kinds of shaming / blaming judgemental thoughts jumped into my head - towards this woman and towards me - alternating back and forth. Physically I would react too. Then I would process through some more of these powerful emotions and the state of Spirit returned - feeling peaceful, loving, compassionate, tolerant and accepting.
I may never have the
opportunity to discuss this with her. We may never resolve this issue. She may stay angry, bitter and resentful to me
for the rest of our time. I have no idea.
What I do know is this: when I 'get it' that she is reacting to whatever
thoughts and feelings are going on for her, I can separate the behaviour from
the person; that she has things going on that are not mine, and they are
painful for her. When I take the time to look very deeply into my part of this
whole event, I can see my own humanness so I can correct this in the future to avoid ending up here again. I want to trust my
instincts now. I can see my hiding place is still
just a jump away. I also recognized I haven't been in my lovely, decorated
blue box for quite some time. That is great improvement from only a couple of
years ago. I learned that not all people are safe; especially the ones I already
know are not safe for me! I learned I can be kind to others and do a good job still
when I process through those very difficult emotions. I am still a
good person - even though someone else is angry at me.
The most valuable gift I received in this experience is knowing I can love her at a Spirit level and love myself at a human level.
With billions of people doing billions of jobs, do you ever think about how connected we truly are? Just take a look at something near you - something sitting on your desk, your computer or the clothes on your back. The very essence of what it is has touched the hands of tens or hundreds of people before it ever reached you.
The materials used to make it, the people who put it together, the machinery in all its locations, those who packaged, shipped, retrieved, warehouses, displayed, sold and even those who financed each of the operations.
By the mere chance you own that exact thing makes you connected to each of those people; makes your job in your company connected to each of those other companies in every one of their jobs, crossing over numerous industries.
What we do, in our work, is very important. How we see our roles, responsibility, product and service is a direct influence to others - around the globe. When we think we have nothing to offer it is not a true belief. We have much to offer. We have much to receive from others. We are not an island in the big sea of life. We have a purpose; a reason to be here; a need to be useful to others.
Make today matter. Make your Life at work matter! Yay!
Today is my Mom's 84th Birthday. My Mom was way ahead of her time in many ways - working, volunteering, practical jokes, caring for her parents and it goes on and on. She started out taking a secretarial course in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the 1940's. She worked for the military for a time. Although I am not sure why, she went off to a hairdressing course in the '50's. Maybe it was because it was important to my mom that she be around until I went off to school. I was the youngest in our family. She opened up a hair shop in our house at first and later, she owned a shop in our small prairie town. She was very talented with crafty kinds of things. When I was in elementary school, she owned a flower shop. I loved going there. There smell was calming. As a default, when jobs were scarce or the small town got smaller, she would take administrative positions. Money was always very tight but we always had good food, a large garden and knew lots of farmers.
When she moved to Calgary, she found her destiny, blessed to be an interpreter/counsellor with the deaf community. It was great how she was able to bring all her attributes, loves, skills and talents into the one job that filled her heart to the brim.
I respect the dedication my Mom had for her various careers, ending with her passion right up to retiring. Yay! Monday was just another day for her to do what she loved to do; work with the people she cared about and who cared deeply for her. They still call or drop by often.
So, make your Life at work be something that brings out the very best in you!