Monthly Archives: October 2017

Practice what you preach

Why is it so hard to follow your own advice? On some days I feel like “do as I say, not as I do” could be my motto.
Even though I know that the people that work with and for you will copy your behavior. That means that it’s very important to practice what you preach.

When someone at work is not feeling well, I truly feel that they should they take care of their health first and stay home until they feel better. I try to get this feeling across to people, so they feel comfortable taking the time they need.
However, when I get sick, for some reason it’s a completely different story. As long as I can sit, walk and drive I will go to work. That’s setting a bad example!

Today was such a day. I had a rough night and was coughing and not feeling well. Of course, by the end of the afternoon it was even worse. Despite it being a productive day, it’s not comfortable for me and it’s not a good example for others. Changing your own behavior is difficult though.
But at least there is some hope: I already called in sick for tomorrow. No more excuses. My first order of business is getting better. Once that is taken care off I will get back to work.

Listen to your body. It's smarter than you.

From buzz to flow – regaining focus

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Focus to succeed, about being able to focus on one goal for two years. Since then I’ve read “Busy” by Tony Crabbe and I’ve come to the realization that in today’s world most people, myself included, don’t even really focus on a single thing for thirty minutes.

In some cases, when I’m working on something I get distracted by someone asking me a question, or by a phone call. However, if no one appears at my desk or gives me a call right when I’m trying to get something done I will distract myself. I will open Facebook to check for new messages, check my phone to see if anyone tried to reach me, or have a look at that incoming email.

Thinking about it I think I seldom spend more than ten minutes focused on something during the day. For some reason, I think I do a bit better in the evening. Even now that I’m on holiday I look at Instagram while reading a book, or check for interesting news stories while cooking a meal.
The few things I enjoy most are playing tennis and running and those happen to be the things that get my complete attention for at least an hour. Coincidence or not?

According to Tony, we get a little dopamine buzz every time we switch attention, which makes us feel good for a few minutes. However, as the buzz wears off we need a new fix and thus switch again. And again.
I’m addicted to the buzz…

The best thing to substitute the buzz with is the nice high that you get from feeling in flow. Getting in flow requires us to deeply focus on something that is challenging and where we get direct feedback on the result.
When I get back to work and normal life next week I’m going to try to focus on a single task at a time. I think that is going to be a significant challenge in itself!
I’ll report back on how I’m doing in a few weeks.

stay focused on the end goal.jpg

Do you wonder why?

When you see someone do something you feel isn’t nice, or right, or decent, do you give that person feedback about their behavior?

One of my customers is very serious about safety and they actively encourage everyone to give feedback to someone who doesn’t follow the safety guidelines. They are very clear about the desirable behavior. Yet even in that environment it’s a big step to really address someone to ask them to change their behavior.

About a year ago I went out to a work-related dinner and one of the man there was very pushy and rude to both me and the waitress, who was about half my age. Several people noticed has was consistently asking me inappropriate questions and everyone, including myself noticed how he was treating the waitress even worse. Yet no one corrected him.

Fairly regularly you see someone throw their junk out onto the street. Either a fast food bag or box, or the remains of a cigarette for instance. Do you ever confront them and ask them why they do it, or ask them to pick it up and throw it in a bin?

I think most people react the same in these situations. Maybe out of fear. Sometimes fear of retaliation, but in a lot of cases probably just to avoid the potentially awkwardness that it will result in.
I always wonder “why” someone jumps a line, or doesn’t bother to throw their junk in a bin nearby. I find the why almost more interesting than the act itself. Maybe they have a very good reason. Someone might have just gotten back from the dentist and be in a lot of pain. Their partner might be very ill and they have to get home as quickly as possible to help them. With some creativity you can think of a lot of reasons why someone might be behaving inconsiderate, but we don’t know, because we don’t ask.

I think of myself as being pretty considering. I try to We don't need magic to change the world
treat people with the same respect that I hope that they will treat me with. I don’t litter my environment. I even regularly pick up someone else’s junk if it’s close to a bin and doesn’t look too gross. But I hardly ever give feedback to someone directly about their behavior if they are being rude or inconsiderate to other people, themselves, or our environment. Except in traffic sometimes…but that’s a completely different story…

I’m going to try to make a change and at least ask “why” more often. People might surprise me. And if not, then my question might surprise them enough to trigger something.

Flow – Our attitude towards work

In the book “Flow” written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, he explains about several experiments around flow at work and during leisure time.

People in a reasonably challenging job, like most of today’s “information workers” and managers at any level, indicate that they regularly experience flow at work. A lot of these people spend a lot of their own time on watching TV and report that they experience flow a lot less during leisure time. Yet when they very often indicate that they would rather be spending time in front of the TV, feeling low, than at work, being quite happy and in the flow. The main reason for this is that we feel that we didn’t choose to work and in many cases, we don’t get to choose what we do when at work. Where as in our spare time, we at least get to make the choice to be miserable in front of the TV ourselves.

I don’t have any problem believing the results of this experiment, but the outcome is of course remarkable. It suggests that we could feel a lot happier, if we would be able to look at work differently.
Today, for many people, work is something that has to be done to be able to afford living, but they feel that work is really just getting in the way of their life and the goals they want to achieve.

What if we could align some of our personal goals, with what we are doing at work?
How easy this is depends both on your goals and your job of course. But as an example:
One of my goals is to be more open towards other people and forge more meaningful connections. I can integrate this into my job, by making sure that go into conversations open-minded and that I stay in the moment when I’m talking to people at work, whether that’s customers or colleagues. This will give me a chance to work on my goal, and as a bonus will most likely also make the other person feel good about the conversation as well.

The good news is that, as humans, we have the ability to control how we look at the world around us and we can (learn to) control our reaction to it. So, the next time someone asks if I have fifteen minutes to talk them I can see this as an opportunity to grow and to get closer to my goal, rather than as yet another distraction from the task that I was trying to complete. I can not only change my response to the same situation, but I can also change how I feel about the situation. I would feel in control, rather than being overwhelmed and I would be happier.
Working hard for something we love is called passion
Do you have similar opportunities to work on a life goal while at work and feel more in control and happier because of it?

Flow – Achieving Happiness

I’m currently reading the book “Flow” from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The subtitle is “The classic work on how to achieve happiness”, so it seemed like a good book to read. Not to say that I’m not happy, on the contrary, but there is always room for improvement when it comes to topics like this one.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but so far, it’s very interesting. It’s also at times a bit long-winded. Mainly when reading through the elaborate examples takes a couple of hours, which in my case most of the time means that it takes several days just to get through the examples. I didn’t find flow while reading those parts :).
I’ll try to write a couple of posts about the bits that I did find interesting though. A good reason to write a blog post is always to be able to find something that you might want to get back to later. Also, I quite often experience flow while writing a post, which means it lets me experience happiness.
And perhaps others find it interesting, enjoyable or inspiring too, which would be a bonus!

The book, of course, starts by explaining when you’re most likely to experience flow.

  • When you can fully concentrate on a single task or activity
  • When you know you will be able to complete the task, but it still provides sufficient challenge (it’s not boring)
  • When you don’t feel self-conscious

A good example for me is that I can experience flow Mirjam Tennis
when I’m playing tennis. I like to constantly improve myself and very much enjoy practicing. It is also possible to find flow while playing a match, as long as you’re more focused on the process than the outcome. I’m not too good at that and thus don’t really enjoy playing matches.

Running is another activity that lets me experience flow. It allows me to set a challenge depending on how I feel, or how much time I want to spend running when I go out. I can focus on sticking to a certain pace, ensuring that I run a certain distance, or go out for intervals and try to survive (anyone who has ever done intervals will understand that).

It is also possible to experience flow from for instance studying beautiful paintings, reading or writing poetry, cooking or eating wonderful food, dancing or listening to music. Reading all these examples made me think about many different things that I would like to spend (more) time on like going to museums, baking cakes, reading and playing golf. I’m pretty sure I could easily fill my days if they were twice as long!

At least that gives me plenty of motivation to start the next book I want to read, which is “Busy” by Tony Crabbe…