Mental Health And The Relationship With Social Assistance


Working alongside those in receipt of social assistance, I am always in close proximity with people who go about their days with varying degrees of mental health.  Some mask problems well, some openly share with whoever is in earshot, and some are actively engaged getting the help they need to get on with life.

What strikes me often is not only the high number of people who are struggling with their mental health, but that many still see themselves as alone. Sometimes I’m surrounded by 20 people for a few weeks at a time and a person will be entirely unaware that there are 7 other people in that single group who have disclosed to me that they have the same condition such as anxiety or depression.

If we all had visible labels stating our issues, it would be quite revealing; not always good or always bad, but quite startling to see what you’re dealing with is shared with someone else. There are so many people who seem to be in good mental health; they smile, go about their tasks alone and seem okay. However, they’ve really just made a choice to deal with their mental health issue in the best way for them that they know of. Others of course will tell anyone and everyone which is how they personally go about their day.

Now don’t think please that mental health problems like anxiety and depression are linked to those on social assistance exclusively. There are many in receipt of social assistance who don’t have anxiety and depression or any other mental health diagnosis. For most, receiving financial assistance isn’t a badge of honour but rather an embarrassment; something to hide at social gatherings etc. While a hit to self-esteem and confidence, certainly not clinical depression or anxiety.

Having said this, I see that the longer a person remains on social assistance, the more likely they will experience mental health challenges. Many people report they put off applying for social assistance help for as long as possible. Why? They say that to do so was an admission that they’d hit rock bottom. Going to apply and handing over all the necessary documents like ID, rental leases, bank statements etc. was a real eye-opener and a moment of shame. Quite often they say, “I never thought I’d end up here. I’m glad it’s available mind, but it’s embarrassing. I can’t wait to get off.”

It’s well-known that mental illness isn’t exclusively reserved for the poor. There are many people with mental health concerns who seemingly have it all. Professional athletes, heads of organizations, community leaders, doctors, lawyers, teachers – maybe you and maybe me for all you know. I don’t mean short-term moments of sadness and regret. I mean full-blown depression and anxiety.

In Canada I’m glad to say that mental health awareness programs are flourishing and a growing publicly acceptance. Gone in large part are the days where families hid the mental health concerns one of their members had; where if you told people you were struggling with your mental health you were seen as weak, needed to be in an institution and a high risk; certainly not capable of being productive. Thank goodness.

No, these days if and when you share that you’re experiencing anxiety or depression most educated people will offer support. Getting help with daily living is a sign of strength not weakness, and the most enlightened know that people with mental health challenges can be highly productive in a working society. Sometimes medication or therapy helps, sometimes it’s a small change in the workplace environment or an accommodation to the workload for a time.

I do know from first-hand experience that there appears to be an association between being in receipt of assistance for a prolonged period and emerging mental health issues for many. That’s understandable I think; too much idle time, experiencing rejection too often from employers, too much isolation from others socially, removed from being productive in a workplace,  Thoughts such as, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Where did things go wrong?”, “When is it going to turn around?” and “I never imagined in a million years I’d be in this situation. This isn’t me!” surface with growing regularity.

The thing is, those of us in good mental health need be mindful to be kind and supportive to those experiencing mental health challenges.; and because it’s invisible, it’s important to bring kindness to everyone we interact with. Not only could we  find we are not immune to experiencing these ourselves, but there’s a human cost to be paid. Good people can feel devalued, potential can be overlooked, opportunities to gain an appreciative and highly-skilled employee might go missed.

Give someone in receipt of social assistance and dealing as best they can with a mental health challenge a job and you’ll see a huge change. Self-esteem picks up, confidence rises, their investment in being successful and their gratitude for the hope you’ve given them will shine. Employment isn’t the only answer of course but it’s definitely going to improve someone’s self-perception and outlook.

If you’re an employer, you can help by curbing prejudices against social assistance recipients, supporting those with mental health issues, and treating those that apply with respect and care by at the very least acknowledging your applicants. Hiring and supporting social assistance recipients with mental health issues is a good business decision too. .

 

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Looking For Work?


Looking for a job or the next step in your career can be a stressful experience. While you may want a new position, you’re not at all looking forward to the résumé writing, online applications, rejections, flat-out being ignored altogether when you apply for a job you really want and then of course the interview process. The rejection and ups and downs of the job search thing is frustrating, nerve-wracking and for what? A low-paying job doing something you’ll dread, working for people who don’t care about you but only how much they can wring out of you before you quit or your fired?

It doesn’t have to be this way, nor should it. If this has been or is your experience, no wonder your desire to look for a new job is pretty weak. Let’s look at some ideas to keep motivated during this search.

First of all it’s a good idea – even if it seems completely obvious – to know why you want a new job. Are you burnt out in your current job, looking to put your recent education to use, looking for a part-time job to supplement your income or perhaps looking for a promotion? Knowing clearly why you want a new job is critical because in the moments when you feel frustrated and just want to chuck it in, you’ll want to remind yourself why you started looking in the first place.

A successful job search is planned out just like any meaningful project. Whether it’s building a house, running an ad campaign, raising funds for a charity or designing marketing materials, planning is critical. Too many people unfortunately start their job search randomly looking at employment websites. That shouldn’t be your first step.

After you’ve determined why you want a new job, assess what you’re starting with. Anyone starting a journey takes stock of their supplies and identifies both what they’ve got and what they’ll need to acquire. In the case of a job search, what are your assets? Examine your education, past and current experience including paid and volunteer work. Objectively take stock of your job-specific and transferable skills, your financial resources and the extent you’re willing to travel to work.

Now to decide what kind of work to actually pursue. Looking at that list of your assets, what jobs are you qualified for now? Do any of these jobs appeal to you? If so, great! If not, are you willing to invest time and money upgrading your education to acquire the academic qualifications you’ll need to compete for the kind of jobs you might really want? This could involve some research with local College or University Guidance Counsellors to help you out.

By the way, if you feel you’ve got time and youth on your side, don’t fret about finding the perfect job that checks off all your wants and desires. If you’re light on experience, there’s a lot of sense in doing a variety of jobs to help decide what brings you happiness; what you like and don’t like. A variety of jobs gives you perspective, might even appeal to an employer if you place yourself later as having broad first-hand experience. So if you can’t settle on THE job, relax and give yourself the green light to explore several jobs for say, the next 5 years.

Now what’s important to you? Are you after job satisfaction, money, a certain kind of environment to work in or a job that involves travel? What do you imagine is the kind of boss you’ll work best with? There are many factors that you should look at to find what’s important to you and if you need help doing this, get yourself connected with a local Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Career Specialist. These are the people who can best help you look at the factors that will ultimately bring you happiness in the work you do.

So with some job or career loosely or firmly in mind, turn to looking at the organizations that have these kind of positions. Taking the time to see how they differ from each other, what they rank and value, the atmosphere they create for those that work there is time well spent. You don’t want to find you love the job but loathe working in the atmosphere that surrounds it.

At this point you’ve got a career or job goal in mind that you’re skills and experience align with, and you’ve identified one or more companies that you’d like to be a part of. Now is the time to look at applying. Just because there are no current postings doesn’t mean there are no opportunities. Networking and initiating conversations with those who do what you want to do, work where you want to work and hire people like you is essential and often overlooked. Get known.

Once you’re connected, keep focused. Sure go ahead and ask about opportunities but do seek advice on what you could be doing in the here and now to strengthen your chances when a position is advertised. Positioning yourself to succeed shows them your keen and gives you momentum when otherwise you’d feel stalled.

Whether your 25, 45 or 60, take stock of what you’ve got, what you want and why you want it.

The steps above will take some time to transition through; varying for each person. Skip a step as unnecessary and you might be looking for some time.

Make Kindness Count


Show kindness to the people you come into contact with each day and you’re doing something thoughtful for both them and yourself. That sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Showing some kindness to customers, co-workers, animals, the environment, strangers, friends and family; it all translates into making the day a better one for all involved.

Need some ideas to get you going? Fair enough. Please comment and add some of your own and pass this piece on to others – maybe an act of kindness on your part!

  1. As you approach a door, take a glimpse behind you to see if there isn’t someone you can hold the door open for. Whether you let them pass ahead of you or you enter first and hold it ajar for them, it delays you for 4 seconds tops.
  2. Acknowledge people with a smile as you walk along a street. Some of the most fragile people in our society feel completely invisible. Yes, something as simple as eye contact and a smile conveys, “I see you” and sends a positive vibe.
  3. Send an email to one person today expressing something you admire in them.
  4. Leave a note of appreciation for the night cleaners who empty your garbage can, dust your furniture, clean your cubicle or office. You may never meet them, but you can imagine the surprise when out of the blue someone unexpectedly says thanks.
  5. Get up and offer your seat to others when on transit. Be they elderly, pregnant, in poor health, or perhaps entirely able-bodied and young, it’s still a nice thing to do. Kindness doesn’t discriminate.
  6. Drop your change into the charity collection box which is probably on the counter by the cashier or just under the drive-thru window.
  7. Turn the tables on the drive-thru employee and as they hand your food to you, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for this! I hope YOU have a great day!”
  8. If you hear the recycling and garbage trucks coming up the street, walk out to meet the people picking up what you’re disposing of and thank them for doing their job.
  9. On a blistering hot summers day, offer the people picking up your trash a bottle of cold water.
  10. About that clerical support you benefit from each day; tell them how much you appreciate what they do just loud enough so a few of the people around them hear the praise. Keep it genuine and short.
  11. Go through your clothes closet when there’s a change of seasons and bag up any items you no longer wear and drop them off in a charity box or second hand store. Be kind; wash and dry them first.
  12. When others are rude, give them the kindness they may not deserve anyhow. What they are doing might be entirely out of their norm, they might be under extreme stress and pressure.
  13. Schedule family time and make family a priority.
  14. Cut your lawn and keep your weeds down. Neighbours will thank you.
  15. Put a lid on your recycling bin if it doesn’t have one. No one appreciates picking up your plastics and paper which has blown all over the neighbourhood.
  16. Let the faster vehicles pass unimpeded. Does it really matter if you’re not the fastest car? This keeps their road rage down, gets speeders out of your rear view mirror and if someone’s going to get a ticket, let it be them! Be kind to yourself.
  17. Cook dinner; something they love even if you don’t.
  18. Clean up your room without being asked. This goes whether you’re 14 years old at home or 47 years old at the office.
  19. Acknowledge the customer in line if you can’t get to them immediately.
  20. Answer the phone with a smile; it translate better on the other end even though they can’t see your face.
  21. When a co-worker has a particularly challenging time with a problem, offer to lend a hand.
  22. When you walk in to the boss with a problem, have a possible solution to suggest.
  23. Share the road with others whether they are on a bike, walking, jogging, driving a car or truck.
  24. Keep from getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Whether on the lake or the roadways, you’re endangering lives and risking hurting the ones who care about you back home.
  25. If the food or service isn’t up to par, let owners know without being rude, loud or obnoxious. Take the high road and tell them in a helpful way so they can be better.
  26. Thank the newspaper carrier, the postal worker, the hair stylist, the car wash and gas station attendant.
  27. Extend an apology when you know you had a part to play in what went wrong.
  28. Give credit where credit is due.
  29. Praise publicly.
  30. Discipline privately.
  31. When you ask someone, “How are you?” stick around long enough to hear the reply.
  32. Make time for the people you don’t have time for.
  33. Do something fun for no other reason.
  34. Get healthy so you’re around for those who love you and would miss you.
  35. Visit dad and mom; call if you can’t.
  36. Laugh often; your heart will thank you.
  37. Bag your own groceries and speed up the checkout line.
  38. That check out line for people with 1-12 items is for people with 1-12 items.
  39. Recognize the good in others and the good in yourself.
  40. Pat the dog and get out for a walk.

 

 

Believe In Yourself, Then Get Going!


“It doesn’t matter if I believe in myself or not because that doesn’t change the fact that other people are holding me back, denying me my chances. Bitter? I’ve got every right to be. Unemployed, no job interview in years; at my age who’s going to hire me now? I haven’t got a hope. I might as well just pack it in and give up.”

The above pretty much is word for word what I was told by someone out-of-work recently. Examining what was said, breaking it down into pieces, here’s what I see as issues:

  • no personal accountability
  • self-perception as too old
  • loss of hope
  • bitter, frustrated attitude
  • lack of interview experience (perhaps fearful as a result)
  • unemployed

That’s a quick summation of what’s been expressed. I wonder as you read those words if you did so in your own voice or if you imagined another? Did you picture the speaker and if you did so, what did they look like? Have you pictured a woman or a man and how old did you create them in your mind? 64? 60? 58?

The above statement came from the mouth of a man of 51. His prevailing attitude is unfortunately his biggest problem because quite frankly he’s projecting a strong, negative image. An employer would find him a tremendous turnoff for he comes across as a cancerous virus, dumping his negatively on everyone he interacts with. He’s got a self-imposed scowl on his face, appears to look at people with smug disdain, and there’s no way he would be welcomed into a workforce for fear he’d infect those around him. Even though he’s of average height, he somehow appears to look down on those around him.

The irony is that he’s got job-ready skills and experience. The bitterness he’s carrying around with him however has left him with no patience for tailoring his résumé to each job. This he declares is an utter waste of his time. I didn’t point out that being unemployed time is one thing he has in abundance. Why go there and be provocative?

Now the one thing people know who have worked with me is that I’m not afraid to share with people my personal opinion when it comes to identifying their challenges. In other words, I’ll tell you what I believe you need to know and not only what you’d like to hear. It might be nice to hear only the things which you are doing well, but sometimes the most important information you can have shared with you are the things you might consider changing and/or improving upon.

After deciding upon what to share; the information the person needs to hear, the next challenge is deciding how to communicate that information. Sometimes a soft, gentle approach works best, lest you offend the person. Letting someone self-identify their challenges works well on occasion, or having the person tell you what others have suggested to get at what they’ve perhaps heard before. Ah but then there are times you decide that while this person before you is deserving of your respect, what they truly respect is blunt, raw, no holds barred, tell-it-like-it-is, is, in-your-face brutal honesty; “Your attitude sucks. You’re your own worst enemy. Stop using your age as your personal crucifix.” Take your pick.

When all is said and done two things really emerged; he’d stopped believing in himself and he wasn’t doing anything to help himself. Instead, he was engaging in self-destructive behaviour, threw up and fortified on a daily basis a defence that kept people away from him and limited himself in the process. To actually get the help he needs, he’d have to drop the façade, open himself up to trying and be receptive to intervention. Ironic then that before he could believe in himself, he chose to find someone he believed in and respected.

Getting some job interview experience is relatively easy. You start preparing by defining what a job interview actually is. You find the questions you’re likely to be asked, go over the format you’ll use to answer them, cover body language, first and last impressions etc. then have a go at a mock interview. Building on that, you ready targeted resumes with the help of someone who knows what they are doing. With better applications circulating, interviews are coming so get ready. So much for the easy stuff.

The more important and harder aspects of preparing for job interviews is what’s going on between the ears. You can improve your chances immensely simply by going in with a positive attitude which comes about when you actually DO believe in yourself. Look, no one owes you a job. Like most other people, you’ve got to prove you’ve got what the employer is looking for and needs, backed up with proof from your past. Are you going to face rejection? It’s highly likely so expect you’ll put in some effort that won’t produce the immediate results you want. Get over it. Don’t give up. Get going again. You owe it to yourself.

Job searching requires some mental fortitude. Believe in your ability to eventually succeed and get what you’re after. This must be your prevailing thought. Accentuate the positive and you’re not required to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

If you have a hard time changing that attitude ask yourself honestly what it’s doing for you to keep it.

 

 

 

 

 

Opportunities Squandered Or Seized?


Look even casually at anyone you truly admire for having met with success and you’ll undoubtedly find a person who given an opportunity, made a conscious decision to seize it.

There are the athletes who train hard outside the limelight and put in hours when it’s just themselves and their strength and conditioning programs. There are the explorers who took risks heading off into the then unknown with hopes of what they might find to fuel their dreams. There are the students in school who place themselves in the hands of others to learn, become educated and lay the groundwork for their individual futures. What binds them all together is the choice they made to place themselves in positions to succeed.

Not everyone however recognizes the opportunities before them or makes the decisions you and I might assume they would to better themselves. We can look around and easily find students in Universities and Colleges who have a lack of investment in the learning before them. We can readily find athletes with potential who become complacent; who settle for mediocre, would rather party than continue to commit to the regime of training and self-discipline that had them formerly on the rise.

From the outside, it’s often clear when we look at others who is committed and who is not; who is seizing opportunity with both hands and who is squandering that which may or may not come again.

What is harder and less appealing is to look at ourselves. We don’t always recognize real opportunities when they lay before us, and even when we do, isn’t it the case that we often squander them? The reasons? Perhaps a lack of money, courage, self-motivation, reluctance to put in the hard work required, competing commitments etc. For those that squander chances and opportunities, there’s always a reason.

I work with people in receipt of social assistance, most of whom are unemployed and some of whom are underemployed in part-time jobs both in and outside their fields of training, education and interest. You might assume that every one of these people would be looking to improve their financial situation; looking to get back to being gainfully employed and productively contributing to the society in which they live as a result. You’d be wrong. Just like in any other group of people, you’ll find the highly motivated and the ones letting opportunities pass them by.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the distinct privilege to work closely with 10 unemployed people who are looking for employment. Each of the 10 had the same introduction to the two weeks given to them individually. They heard that one of my key expectations was that they must want a job more than I want it for them to be successful. They were even advised that if they didn’t want to put in the work required, I’d rather they didn’t choose to join in, and no penalty would befall them for turning the opportunity down. Now of these 10, there wasn’t one who didn’t agree.

Things being what they are however; and yes you’ve probably guessed it, not all 10 seized this opportunity with the same enthusiasm. At the end of the first week I asked everyone in the group to share how many jobs they’d applied to, how many calls they’d made and how many interviews they’d had. While each person reported at least some achievement, one person reported no calls made, no jobs applied to and not surprisingly no interviews forthcoming. Puzzling.

This isn’t the place to share all the background I explored and learned for reasons of confidentiality however, I can say with conviction that this is an opportunity squandered. Sure there’s personal factors; there always are. Not one of the 10 in the group doesn’t have barriers to overcome and in this they are just normal people like you and I. Everybody has challenges; things that we either face, struggle with and commit to overcoming or things we choose to give power over us.

Now what of you? What’s your personal situation at the moment? I’m willing to say that you’ve got something now before you that is an opportunity hanging in the balance. It might be an employment program, a return to school, a job that would need a move on your part, an apprenticeship, a course to upgrade a licence or certificate. You might have put off this opportunity for a long time too, and with the passage of time you’re feeling that chance is now becoming more remote than ever. But it still keeps nagging at you.

Is it your age, wondering how you’d pay to go back to school and still pay the mortgage and provide for the family? Is it not wanting to have wasted the education you have already which at one time you thought would set you on your career path? Maybe it’s that your afraid of the pressure it takes to throw yourself back into a determined job search; pressure being something that has in the past triggered your dependency on drugs to cope with; a path you don’t want to revisit.

The good thing about opportunities is that they come to us all the time. You’ve got several before you today in fact. Today – yes today – could be the very day you make a decision to seize one.

 

 

There Will Always Be Somebody…


Faster, stronger, taller, leaner, smarter, richer, quicker, etc.

Any or all the above and more; there will always be somebody somewhere who you’ll find has an advantage over you in those regards. Some of you will say, “So what’s the point?”, with respect to trying to be better and give up.  Others will say, “That’s exactly the point!” and they’ll give up too. A third group of responders will say, “I see that person as a source of inspiration of what could be, but I’m not competing with them in the first place – and that’s the point!”

Are you out to be better than everybody you know or are you out to be the best you can be – just measuring your self against your own history? You don’t after all have any control over someone else’s training schedule, diet, study habits, stamina, investments, etc. In fact, you only have control over what you do yourself; and over this you have full control.

It’s you that drives change dependent upon how much effort you’re willing to invest in making what you want to come about in your own future. Commit to improving and you set a mentality in motion. Give in, give up, give out and you stay the course, possibly even degrade and diminish.

So exactly what are we looking at here? Self-improvement I suppose. You could opt to be the best you can be or you could opt to be a better you than you are at the moment. Quite often seeking to be a better you in whatever area of your life you are looking at is a preferred option. After all, the absolute best you could be sounds like it requires maximum effort; perhaps an unwavering effort because no matter how much you improve, you could always be better than that new level of improvement.

Seeking to better yourself on the other hand means putting in more effort, not the most effort, and if you’re stuck at the moment frustrated with yourself that you’re just not making ANY effort, some seems more obtainable than expecting yourself to make a complete 180 and go at change with 100% commitment.

If you’re looking to lose weight and you want to shed a sizable number of pounds, motivating yourself to cut your weight little by little, a few pounds a week can be very motivating. Expecting 10 pounds a week by crash dieting, working out with extreme intensity when you haven’t worked out for 25 years is just a recipe for extreme disappointment and letdown. Not to mention of course it puts you in danger.

Now job searching? Ah again with the hunt for employment! It works the same way. A lot of people have spent years trying to decide, “what to be.” They think about careers, worry themselves sick (literally) with worry. Ironically trying to, ‘be’ like everyone else who know their purpose in life, have found meaningful work to do, and who make it all seem so easy. Why are they comparing themselves to others in the first place? They live their lives, you live yours. Your path is unique to you, as is theirs to them.

Improving your own fortunes might be what you’re after in a job. Maybe its financial independence, getting the money to buy a cottage and boat. Maybe for you it’s about making a difference in the lives of others; finding fame and glory, owning your own business and calling the shots. Or maybe it’s really just about finding something you don’t hate; that ‘loving’ your job seems too extreme. You’d be happy just finding steady income and having someplace to get to in the morning when you rise.

My advice is to look around at what others do for sources of inspiration. Ask people what they do, if they like their jobs or careers, how long it took them to land in the jobs they have, what they did before they found what their doing today. Sure, as I say, look around for inspiration and get ideas about what’s out there. However, you’re unique from everyone else is everyone you know. What’s seemingly right and a great fit for others may not be right and the best fit for you.

I’m glad you want to be better; that you want more for yourself in the future than you have at this moment. Being a better you is really a good and healthy personal choice. Being the best you can possibly be might sound impressive – and it truly does – but that comes with extreme personal accountability and responsibility that you probably aren’t ready to commit to given where you are at the moment. In other words, you’re setting yourself up for setbacks, disappointment and increased stress brought on yourself by no one other than you.

Being better means you’re committing to being better but not being infallible. You’ll have days where you blow the diet, fail to job search or lose money on an investment. The key is you know these will happen but overall you have days with more effort than you’re putting out at the present. You’re overall movement is forward; you’re improving and getting better.

Being the best you can be might sound good at first thought but be out of reach. Being a better you is extremely commendable and far more realistic. Absolutely nothing wrong with setting your sights on personal improvement.

 

 

Growth Starts With An Open Mind


Your future is likely to replicate your past and present unless an element of change is introduced. In other words, do what you’ve always done and you shouldn’t be shocked to find that things stay relatively the same. This is wonderful if you generally like things the way they are. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different, hopefully better than what you’ve got, change is more than just desirable; change is critical.

Most people are quite open to change actually, as long as the change required isn’t uncomfortable or involve too much effort on their part. These kind of people have a guiding philosophy that goes, “I’m open to change as long as things stay relatively the same; or if the change is occurring in people around me and not in me directly.” Uh, that’s not going to work.

This article however has the word, ‘growth’ in the title, so why the focus on change in the opening couple of paragraphs? Growth occurs simply put when change occurs and one learns from the process. Just because things change however doesn’t guarantee that growth occurs. A person can move from one city to another hoping for a fresh start with that change of address. While the intention might be good, without behaving and acting differently, it is likely that the person will find themselves living the same kind of experience and being treated by others the same way they were in the past because change only occurred in the address not the person. Their behaviour remained the same and thus the world around them continues to interact with them in a similar way, and they continue to experience their reality in much the same way.

Personal growth occurs when new challenges are initiated, new experiences are undertaken and one is open and receptive to receiving. An open mind; seeing things perhaps that have always been there before us but looking at them through a new perspective. Sometimes this comes about through instruction from a mentor, an expert or an instructor. Sometimes things become revealed to us equally through the eyes of a child, by accidental discovery or through pause and reflection.

We can of course open our minds to a problem every by simply by introducing a different stimulus. If you’re having a problem with something, you’ll often find that taking a break, going for a walk or any diversion really can help you return with a new perspective and often a solution you hadn’t considered before. What’s occurred is the break in the thinking process; you’ve returned without the linear thought lines you had, and see things anew.

I have found that for me personally, there are many moments when I’m working with other people which places me in a position to learn. Formally speaking, I might be the facilitator in a workshop, the expert helping give employment advice or being the listener as someone shares their troubles. While I might be seen as the one imparting the advice or sharing my knowledge, these are moments of growth for me personally if I recognize them as such and open my mind to the moment.

So for example, when I’m passing on some information, I may find that the person I’m attempting to instruct is having a challenge grasping what I’m saying. If I keep repeating the message over and over hoping to drive the point home eventually I may succeed, but it’s unlikely. Why? Because the way I’m delivering the message isn’t being received in a meaningful way by the other person. By opening my mind to other ways of delivering that same message, I will invariably find I meet with success. How? I opened myself to the moment, reassessed the situation and arrived at a new way to make a successful connection, having my message not only be sent but most importantly be received in the way I intended at the start. True communication has occurred as a result and we both learned something in the process; each of us growing as a result.

You’ll find that many employers are wary of the seasoned veteran; the know-it-all who comes to them with decades of experience. It appears to the applicant that they’ve got this sizable advantage over the relatively inexperienced competition who they don’t legitimately give much thought to. However, often times an employer will favour and select an individual with less experience simply because they are open to change, receptive to new ideas; in short they will grow in the position. They fear the person with decades of experience will be – despite their assurances to the contrary – close-minded to learning new procedures, methods and practices. This is the classic, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mantra.

There is a fallacy in white-washing an entire population or group with the same brush however. Some older workers make excellent employees because they marry their experiences both work-related and life-wise with an open mind. They continue to grow and learn and are genuine in their excitement about continuous learning. The challenge they face is expressing this and being believed.

Wisdom would seem than to be going about with an open mind, being on the lookout for learning opportunities which are around us daily. Seeing things from multiple perspectives, being receptive to new ideas, and pausing to reflect when hearing views different from those we hold ourselves. May you continue to grow.