Years ago, I recall working on a major project for months. Every individual on the team was expected to do his or her own regular day job, and also work on this massive initiative on the side. At night. On the weekends. In whatever spare time you could find.
I recall the brutal travel required to get it all done. The entire team finished, and it culminated in a big presentation at company headquarters. Visiting executives were positioned in a large conference room, listening to the findings and recommendations of the group.
What that team did was impressive, and the executives in the room were pleased. That was clear because they immediately adopted the suggestions.
But they didn’t tell us. They didn’t say anything.
The team had imagined that they would take us all out for a big celebratory dinner. It didn’t happen. Instead, we simply faded back into the daily activities that consumed us before it all started.
The problem was a senior management failure to recognize the huge contribution of the team. The senior executives had an entitlement mentality. I am sure that, if you asked any one of them, they would say, “Well, that’s what they are paid for!” Or, under significant stress, they simply did not think about it.
Having served as a senior leader for many years myself, I am conscious of this more than ever. In the busyness of the job, in the pressure of the need to perform, it isn’t always easy to remember to pause and say thanks. We are on to the next thing and there are dozens waiting in line.
Ask yourself, how often have I been guilty of the same behavior?
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” -Gertrude Stein
This year, more than ever, you don’t need to venture out to the stores. The online giants are delighted to offer an alternative. A few clicks replace endlessly circling in search of a parking spot and standing most of the day in lines.
I’ve never been one for shopping, malls, crowds, or any of it. It’s far better to avoid it all. I can rewind my own internal tapes and hear my dialogue: grumbling about the parking, the crowds, the waiting, the hassle.
But this year I suppose I feel somewhat nostalgic for it all. So, I do something unexpected and head to the mall.
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” –Zig Ziglar
I decide to enjoy it: the parking, the bitter wind as I leave the car for the store, the mall.
Inside, it’s warm, inviting. The first person I see is there to assist. He’s an older gentleman, kind, not intrusive and with equal doses of friendliness and helpfulness. We talk about his family and his plans to go home for the holidays. Like the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas!” he says, laughing as much to himself as to me. He’s had some health problems, I learn, and they are behind him now. He’s glad to be back at work.
Classical music is playing and it’s live. I venture over to the piano and, eyeing a chair, slide into it and close my eyes. It’s a medley from the Sound of Music, which conjures up my childhood when we would all gather around for the yearly show on television. I must be getting old, I think, to be sitting here in a mall, listening to music, and not rushing in the least. Opening my eyes, I watch a young mom pushing a stroller. Her baby’s laugh seems to be part of the Sound of Music track.
“People may hear your words, but they you’re your attitude.” –John Maxwell
But, let’s face it: many of us won’t commit to doing that. So, let’s make this simple. Let’s improve our spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude right now, whatever we are doing, wherever we are, even if we are not celebrating Thanksgiving.
This is a guest post by Scott Mautz. Scott is CEO of Prof0und Performance, a workshop, coaching and online training company. I highly recommend his new book Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. After I read it, I asked Scott if we could run this book excerpt. You’ll find the entire book full of excellent advice.
6 Helpful Insults
Nobody’s perfect, but some people try anyway. Perfection seems like a noble goal. Managers expect employees to pay attention to detail and perform at their best. Many spouses think their significant others could strive a little harder for perfection (My wife is the one exception.)
In reality, your inner perfectionist is sucking the life out of you and your relationships. You need to squash it to find contentment and inspiration for your work and your life.
So let’s hurl some insults at our inner perfectionists, shall we?
1. “I’m gonna slap the ‘should’ out of you.”
Seriously, strike the word should from your vocabulary. When perfectionists use the word, like in the sentences, “I should go over this again to make sure it’s 100 percent right,” “This should be a lot better than it is right now,” or “I should have done X and Y,” it’s like granting a license for perpetual revisiting and remorse. Stop. Will more massaging really change the outcome? Tell yourself done is done, dammit.
“Strike the word should from your vocabulary.” -Scott Mautz
The collateral damage of your perfectionism is everywhere—don’t underestimate it.
Perfectionists tend to judge and criticize not only themselves but everyone else. The more they see their own flaws in others, the more they pick, as a sort of displacement mechanism. The constant criticism and judging isolates and distances the perfectionist from others, further exacerbating their “I must not be good enough” belief. Perfectionists are often unaware of the impact this corrosive behavior has on others. They’re assuming that everyone else is harshly judging them, so to do so as well is just the way of the world.
Expand your worldview and understand that your misplaced heat, like that of global warming, is indeed affecting the world around you for the worse.
“Perfectionists are often unaware of the impact this corrosive behavior has on others.” -Scott Mautz
Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.
How has the digital age impacted our happiness?
Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.
I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”
In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption. But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives. So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us? Does technology make us less happy or more happy? As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.
Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.
Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”
One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone. The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.
When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience. Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck. I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor. I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense. Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.
“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow
Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?
Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.
According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time. When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out. If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.
Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.
What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?
The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment. In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.
Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.