Seeking To Be More Positive


I’m willing to gamble that like me, you’re someone who likes to have positive things happen in your life. I think that’s a safe bet. That’s not to say we’re immune to troubles; that we don’t have problems and challenges to deal with of course, but we do like it when good things happen to us.

The question then is whether or not these positive things happen to us randomly and by chance or can we somehow go about our days drawing these positive events to us? Well, just as I believe you can create good fortune through the things you do, I hold that yes, we can put ourselves in situations which we’ll find positive. If we do this on a regular basis, then we generally have a series of more positive events, and these then become linked together, thus creating a pattern.

Now of course, negative things must happen to us all; physical ills, accidents and problems not just for us but for members of our family and friends, yes they’ll continue to happen. We cannot eradicate death, disease and …. well, you get the point. However, those things aside, we can if we choose, go about our day with positive thinking and having our eyes open to situations which we can benefit from being involved in and to which we can add benefit for others.

Think for a moment of the people you come into contact with every day. As you do so, are you able to discern the ones you find generally more upbeat and positive? Again, like me, I’m fairly certain you can. These folks generally appear happier, they may automatically wear a smile when they see others, and they have an overall positive outlook. These are the kind of people you genuinely want to say hello to and have a conversation with because you just know you’ll enjoy it. My guess is you enjoy being connected to them. Wouldn’t it be great if what you see in these people was embedded in all the people you worked with daily?

The naysayers and negative types are likely thinking to themselves that the kind of work setting I’m describing doesn’t and can’t exist. They would say to think that any work site would have just positive people going around all day is a fantasy. Well, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d expect them to say? There’s irony for you!

A generally positive outlook is what you’re after here. Yes, you’ll still find aspects of your job frustrating and you’ll still undergo stressful situations which challenge the positive energy you’re seeking to bring out. Like every other thing worth having, being positive can be learned. It make take years to get where you want depending where you are now, but it’s worth striving for I believe.

One thing you can do on a practical level to get started is look for positive upsides when difficulties arise. It’s so easy after all to gravitate to the negative and see problems when problems present themselves. But in those challenges, there is likely an opportunity to find a positive. Losing a job is a great example of this. It’s stressful for sure, there’s a loss of income and identity, a fear of what will happen and it can be something we want to keep private rather than share out of shame or guilt. However, losing the job we’ve had can be flipped into positives. We now have the opportunity to look at other options we would have said earlier that we’d love to look at but just don’t have the time for. Well, now we do.

The stress that accompanied that former role is gone now too; replaced I get it by the stress of looking for work, but there are varying kinds of stress and some are actually beneficial. It can be very invigorating to be explore new employers, new careers, school options etc. It’s not all doom and gloom.

The loss of a job can also give you more time with your family, allow you to get the odd thing done around the house you’ve put off too long. Cleaning out the garage or painting the living room might just clear your mind of tasks hanging over your head and that’s a positive thing isn’t it?

Look for good when bad things happen. This is a gift you can give others too. If your job brings you into contact with people who have frustrations and problems, you should certainly acknowledge their feelings – absolutely. However, if you then get them talking about the positive opportunities they may have now that they didn’t have before, you may lighten a heavy load and get them thinking more positively, which in turn can make your interaction better overall.

And the really nice thing about being positive? You draw people to you who are similar in their outlook. That combined outlook is energizing and creates a positive relationship be it in your personal or professional life.

Feel Just Like You Did Last Year?


In every household around the world, the calendars flipped on January 1st, marking not only a new year, but a new decade. The internet is full of people posting about the new hope that this brings, the fresh starts, the opportunities that await and it would seem all we have to do is jump on board the bus and we’re on our way with an overly enthusiastic and energetic group of positive people. How can we not have a grand time?

Yet, something is wrong. Today seems just like yesterday and yesterday felt pretty much like previous days before that. While the calendar turned over, your life seems pretty much unchanged otherwise. So you’re starting to wonder, “With everyone I read about touting the arrival of 2020 as a reason to celebrate, why do I feel left out? If anything, these overly happy and positive people have me feeling more depressed than I was before.”

Let’s be clear about one thing shall we? The turning over a calendar alone hasn’t brought about magical change for ANYONE. Having said that, it’s what flipping the calendar represents that has people excited and optimistic. Take reading a story in a book. The chapter you’re reading seems rather long and is really moving a little slower than you’d like. It’s You flip the pages just to see how long it will be until you reach a new chapter and you see there’s another 12 pages. You could skip the 12 pages of a book but you can’t do so with life. The arrival of 2020 is like the first few words on that next chapter; the one you hope will speed up the action, draw you fully in to the plot and get you wanting to read more; really caring about the protagonist and wondering how they’ll fare in the end. So this is what 2020 is and why so many are excited.

But here’s the catch; you and I – them too for that matter – we all have to work to put ourselves into the positions we need to be in for us to take advantage of the opportunities 2020 is going to bring. If we don’t invest ourselves in the work it will take, the phone won’t ring nor will we get that single email that we dream of that leads to an employment offer. 2020 can be the year that we look back on and believe was the moment our lives were forever changed for the better, but we have to do things that bring about such change.

Ah change. It’s what you want isn’t it. That’s not a typo because it’s not a question but rather a statement. You want change. But change doesn’t happen when you sit and do nothing and the chance of change happening for the better is only marginally better when you keep doing whatever it is you’ve done in the past. Real, significant change occurs most often to people who do things differently and with applied energy.

Whether you’re job hunting, looking for a promotion – hey maybe even looking for Mr. or Miss Right, two things are needed; 1) a change in how you’re going about things and 2) a lot of work on your part. The thing about the work first; it is work to find work or to land a promotion or to be discovered by the person who is hoping to meet you this year. Work though in this sense is something you should relish; after all you’re going after something you really want, so your motivation should be heightened. As for a change in how you’re going about things, it stands to reason that if you keep doing things as you’ve always done them, it’s likely the results you get will be similarly the same.

Okay, so it’s January 6th today, we’re about a week into the new year and you’re feeling down because you’re standing alone with your 2020 party hat on, the streamers are on the ground and the noisemaker in your hand just seems so phony.

Avoid looking for company so you can be miserable and disillusioned together. Misery might like company, but this isn’t the company you want. If you really want to feel alive and celebrate success, what is it going to take to get you personally motivated? Again, might be talking a job, losing weight, repairing a family issue, buying a car, improving your mental health, being more assertive etc.

My suggestion is to consult an expert in the area you want to obtain success. What they’ll want from you is a commitment to your end goal and this means you’ll have to put in the work necessary on your end if you want their help to be truly beneficial. Otherwise, you’re just giving away your time and money.

If you are genuinely and honestly wanting to improve some aspect of your life, there are all kinds of people who want to work with you and support you. Be prepared however to do things that will require stamina; both physical and mental. If you want it bad enough however, I’ll guarantee – that’s right I’ll guarantee – that you’ll achieve your goal. Why? Because when you want it bad enough, you discover that putting in the work takes less effort as you build on your own momentum. Getting started and building that momentum is the hardest part.

If you feel nothings changed, maybe it hasn’t – yet. But it can and it will if you really want it.

 

Victims And Their Predators


Yes I suppose I’m upset, but more accurately, I’m disappointed; again.

I’m sad too, because once more, some good people have every reason to become cold and hard. Most are women – but there are men too; the victims of abuse. I ask you read on.

Why oh why I ask myself again and again are some people so intent on ruining the self-esteem, confidence and self-perception of others? Why is it that small people determinedly go out of their way to elevate themselves in sick, disturbing and twisted ways by intentionally diminishing others? What makes some people pour their energy into financially, emotionally, sexually and physically hurting and exploiting others?

Her name could be Sandra, Delores, Kelly, Cindy, Fatima, Tatiana or any other. She could be living in poverty, entrenched in the middle class or among the well-to-do. She just might have a degree or her Masters, dropped out before getting her high school diploma or be back in an adult education classroom. Her height, weight, eye or hair colour don’t define her, nor the country of her birth, the family she calls her own. She is at the same time anyone and everyone; your next door neighbour, the person you share the bus with, the driver in the next lane, the co-worker you admire for her good work habits. She could be your daughter; and you could be entirely unaware. And not be excluded, his name could be Dan, Keith, Jordan, etc. with the same realities as those above.

I’ll tell you this: he or she didn’t deserve what’s happened. She didn’t ask for it, he didn’t seek it out, neither one is in the least deserving of being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Let’s make it personal. YOU; yes you, you are blameless. You deserve better; you’re worthy and your not at fault. What you looked for, what you thought you’d found, wasn’t the abusive, manipulative relationship you ended up in. Those emotional beatings you’ve been on the receiving end of are just as real, just as devastating as a physical assault.

So what’s prompted this? Well, as you’d have guessed, once again, I’ve encountered victims of abuse; suffering at the hands of their past and current partners. What do these predatory men who’ve inflicted this abuse on these people have in common? Here’s their description:

  •  They are polite, well-spoken, charming and well-mannered
  •  They introduced themselves as caring and loving
  •  They discouraged contact with the victims friends
  •  They separated the victim from receiving help/support
  •  They went too far, apologized, said it would never happen again
  •  They bought gifts, they came smartly dressed
  •  They keep the victim guessing, on their guard and nervous
  •  They set impossible standards, demean and shame

Recognize anyone you know? These are the fellows who can charm parents of the victim into actually taking their side, who act and sound remorseful when it suits their needs and punish, pummel and humiliate when they are in the mood for, ‘fun’. These abusers dash hopes routinely, snoop through purses, get their mutual friends convinced they are the, ‘good’ one. These are the ones that turn kids against the victim; making it out that the victim is to blame for the fights, the arguments, the separations, the divorces. They are often extremely intelligent, convincing, likable and their greatest skill is manipulation. You might even like them very much yourself and come to doubt the truth of the victim’s claims.

I’m working closely with two victims of abuse at the moment. We’re looking to move forward with interviews that will lead to employment offers. I’ve only a small glimpse of the abuse suffered and endured. I’m hurting for them – and I’m not being trite – I’m being serious. But my hurt is absolutely nothing in comparison to theirs and please don’t think I’m suggesting it is.

What I see is two beautiful people both inside and out. They’ve got a lot to offer potential employers. They are bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated, have superior interpersonal skills and… they are fragile, damaged, but not for a moment are they anything less than amazing and deserving.

What they want; what they deserve is decent jobs and stable, caring, meaningful relationships in true reciprocating partnerships. What annoys me and saddens me is when good people – strike that – beautiful people become jaded and hardened towards the world; when they distrust (with reason) others and miss the very healthy and secure, loving relationships they so crave. Those abusive, small-minded, evil abusers at that point have won.

If you know an abusive individual, stop pretending they aren’t doing any harm. Distance yourself from them and call them out. Abusers don’t like being in the light. If you know a victim, offer support, believe them and stand with them. Be a good ambassador for humankind. At this point, more abusers are male, more victims female. If you’re a male, you’ve got an onus to be one of the good guys; to keep alive the slim glimmer of hope for some woman that good men, while hard to find, are still out there. This is especially true if you’re in a position of authority and work with vulnerable populations. It falls to all of us however to be decent.

If you’re moved by this, impacted by this, add your voice. A like, a thumbs up, a comment. Let us stand together.

Pressure, Stress And Mental Health


By any chance, have you noticed people around you seem to be dealing with increased pressure? Perhaps too that not only are they experiencing more pressure, it’s coming from multiple sources and rather than being resolved quickly, these pressure linger?

Pressure and the stress that comes with it, seems to be more wide-spread these days. You know, there was a time when a person kept their troubles and stressors to themselves. After all, they didn’t want to appear incapable and put their work in jeopardy. When the worked piled on and piled up, the thinking was you’d roll up your sleeves, bear down and ramp up the speed. You’d come in a little early, work through a shortened lunch, stay a little later, then at some point, that mountain of work would become manageable again. Your stressors would dissipate and everything would fall back into balance.

What I see in 2019 however, is many people are putting in more effort and still falling behind. Not only are they working hard to get through the work they’ve been assigned, there’s more coming and it’s coming more frequently. So many people are playing a shell game; working on something until they have to switch tasks because something has a shorter deadline, then putting some time back into an earlier assigned job whenever they can squeeze it in. The result for many is finished work that isn’t their best; passable perhaps, but they know the result they’d love to have realized just isn’t what they’ve produced.

When a busy person takes on more, there’s two possibilities; they can handle the extra work load or they can’t. If the extra workload is successfully managed, they often get rewarded with a hearty thanks – and additional work, as they can obviously handle the increased work! The person who can’t handle the extra work; albeit they may have said they believed they could take it on – now has a known limit. In other words, the boss knows the maximum amount of work they can handle. In a just world, the boss would ensure the employee doesn’t get assigned or take on more than their capacity, but in reality, that boss is under pressure too. If the pressure they are under is get their team to deliver more, that extra work might just keep funneling down to the employee.

Pressure and stress impact our mental health and our mental health is something we don’t just put on when we get to work and remove at the end of our shift. We carry the state of our mental health in our travels back home, to the supermarket, when we spend time with our families and friends. When we aren’t observed to, ‘be ourselves’, guess what? We now feel additional pressure to be the person others have come to expect us to be not just at work, but at home too.

The result can be consistent and constant pressure to perform. Our homes; traditional places of sanctuary and places to retreat from the world and relax, become places where we are still experiencing pressure. Everyday tasks like washing the dishes, dusting and preparing meals seem taxing. Someone makes an innocent comment like, “we’ll have to buy some milk” or, “have you seen my car keys?”, and well that’s it; we snap back. Suddenly that pressure that’s been building bursts open. It’s not that the car keys or the milk alone are major issues, it’s that they are that one extra thing that you just can’t take on at the moment.

That stress you’re carrying with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is invisible much of the time. There’s no cast as there is with a broken limb, there’s no label that identifies you as stretched, no hourglass in your hands that shows just how little you’ve got left to give. Some of your precious energy reserves have actually been put into covering up your stress. That forced smile, the longer trips to the bathroom where you’re actually just trying to escape and have some, ‘me’ time for 5 minutes alone. When nobody knows – even though you think they should – they are the most surprised people when you act out of character and tell them to get in the car and go get the milk themselves; find their own car keys and stop leaving them just anywhere in the first place.

Sometimes of course we can work past our limits. Typically we do so for short periods and then return to our normal state. It’s even good to push ourselves the odd time to see what we’re capable of. But then, this new level becomes what others interpret as what we’re capable of all the time. That’s not right; that’s not fair and it’s not accurate. When we put extra energy into something at home or work, that extra energy is derived from somewhere; it doesn’t just materialize. Energy is finite.

Replenishing is the key to productivity. What is it you do in other words, that restores your capacity to deliver on the expectation of both others and yourself to perform? Reading? Meditation? Getting out for a walk? Whatever it is you do to recover and restore your good mental health is as important as any work you do.

It may sound counter productive, but in a day when you’ve got a ton of things to do, you may get more done if you go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Thirty minutes outside or with your door shut at work and a good engaging book in your hands. Maybe close your eyes, breathe deep, some quiet music playing through some noise cancelling headphones? Whatever it is in other words, consider building it in to your busy day so you restore some of that balance you have when you’re at your best.

Should We Spread Our Joy?


Let me just get my answer out there. OF COURSE!

Sometimes I meet people who are traditionally happy and joyous throughout the year, but who, for reasons of not wanting to upset other people, suddenly downplay their natural positivity in the month of December. As I say, these are the kind of people who are naturally upbeat, positive and happy. Having empathy for others who may not be going through the best of times around December, and Christmas in particular, they go against their nature and act subdued.

I believe there’s another line of thinking which justifies sharing our own happiness and joy with whomever we interact. This is the act of being true to ourselves, and if that means our actions, words, tone of voice, smiling faces and overall positivity is in stark contrast to some others, it can have a startling affect.

For starters, being positive can uplift people. After all, do you want to be around people who are gloomy, sullen and suck energy or would you rather choose to be around people who energize you, make you smile,  bring you happiness just by being in their midst? These are the very people Scrooge once said, “…should be boiled in his own Christmas pudding”; the ones who go around wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

Now I’ve also heard the argument that because unemployed and impoverished people are affected so greatly by the season, which often accentuates their feelings of want and need, we should scale back on spreading our personal joy. Well, again, I disagree. I’m not insensitive, it’s just that being impoverished or out of work doesn’t automatically mean a person must go around looking down. In fact, some of the happiest and most positive people I’ve met live in poverty. They aren’t happy about their financial status of course, but they’ve realized that their financial status is only one part of their lives. There are many other facets of their lives which bring them joy. Why allow this one area to dominate who they are and how they view themselves? They choose happiness and positivity.

Yes, I’d rather be known as a fellow who wears a smile, stays positive and is good to be around than the opposite. Of course yes, one has to exercise some good judgement here too. When someone is talking about their bleak situation and out of politeness asks how I’m doing, I wouldn’t go over the top telling them about plans to have some big extravagant party to celebrate the season or how my investments were tripling my income. (They aren’t by the way; oh to be so lucky!)

No, I’d exercise some decorum; show some restraint in what to share, but I’d still have a smile on my face and tell them in answer to their question that I was just fine and thank them for asking.

The second argument I make for being positive, happy and merry is that it reminds people of what is possible when they may have forgotten. Don’t assume this is a given. Sometimes when we lose what we once had, we all need reminding of it’s value and in the case of happiness, merriment and positivity, they can all come again; for everyone.

When I’ve worked Christmas eve at work, those making the choice to drop in to our employment resource centre are typically either in for solace and sanctuary or to wish us the greetings of the season; a very merry Christmas. If they can do so, I certainly will wish them nothing but the same; that they too find merriment and happiness both then and the year ’round. Sometimes we’ve sat down not as clients and staff, but as people – (a rather significant distinction) and shared a drink, a bite or two and some laughs.

Being poor doesn’t mean one must by association be of any one mood. You’ll find sadness, regret, joy and happiness, neutrality and the entire gambit of emotions. Why? Why precisely because the opposite is true. Among the wealthy you won’t universally find decadence, happiness, positivity and an entire void of stress. It isn’t money that brings happiness; it’s within us to be what we choose to be – that which makes us feel as we choose.

I will continue to positive, be happy and be joyous. Don’t think me insensitive, don’t attempt to shame me into being anything I’m genuinely not. My smile is there for anyone that chooses to see it as an outward expression of my state of mind. I also find that a smile on one face tends to bring one out on another. The opposite is also true by the way..

So do I wish you a merry Christmas on this fourth of December? Do I hope you have the best day possible? Do I trust you find happiness this day and each other day? YES!

By the way, ever been served by someone in the course of conducting some business who is robotic? You know, they do their job but there’s no human emotion, no smile, no genuine appreciation for your business. Have you not thought to yourself, “It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little?” Ah, you have? Then you understand entirely and you get it. Good for you.

Be that beacon of happiness, that one person who goes about their work with a smile and is genuinely appreciative of others. It will work wonders for your mental health.

Teamwork: Co-Worker Care


It’s at the core of what teamwork is all about; first and foremost. Caring for others on your team with whom you work from the time you greet each other until you part for home.

Teamwork is so essential to working productively and successfully that it’s almost a given in every job posting you’ll read these days. Oddly enough however, when it comes to providing an interviewer with concrete, specific examples of teamwork, many people I speak with struggle. Many tell me that they don’t really have experiences working on major projects, taking the lead on initiatives where they delegated responsibilities etc. While those are examples of working on teams, they are but two ways to demonstrate teamwork. However, there are other, and I will argue much more significant ways to demonstrate your effectiveness as a valued team member.

Just yesterday, one of my colleagues was off work unexpectedly. In addition to her absence, our team had two people on vacation, one working at a second location and we’re currently short one person on our team until a replacement is hired. With our supervisor off for the day, it fell to those of us working to shore things up. As it happened, another colleague and I had a scheduled meeting in the morning on-site, which meant for us both to attend, we’d need a co-worker to staff our Resource Centre for an hour or two with our placement student alongside.

So up stepped one of my valued colleagues; happily and willingly able to set aside the time she’d counted on to do some planning. After our meeting was over, I returned to take my place. While the meeting had kept me away for an hour and half, all had gone smoothly for my colleague. Except, honestly…we’re all stretched a little thin these days, and we’ve been over-extending ourselves for quite some time. As it turned out, that time she gave up to cover was really needed to regain a measure of control and feel prepared for what she had going on later in the afternoon.

As it happened, my colleague started sharing with me just how stretched to the limit she feels. Not only was she stretched thin at work, but a prolonged home renovation is also going on, and I immediately knew that this meant there was no place for her to relax and recharge; what home should be. As she talked, I could see the visible signs of stress; talking rapidly, nervous laughter mixed with big gestures and just venting. This is good; this is healthy, this is sharing a burden and reality with a listener that cares.

Aside from listening, I could really empathize with her because as I say, we’re all feeling stretched and I’ve been through reno’s at home. Throw in the emergence of the Christmas season, decorating a home, taking on a responsibility at work I’m aware of, and I could immediately get a feel for what she was feeling. By allowing her to share, she actually started to feel better. Then she did something I found intelligent and kind. She asked if I wouldn’t mind allowing her to go to lunch when I’d planned to, meaning my own lunch would be set back an hour. How is this kind? It gave me a chance to do something tangible to help.

While gone, I spoke with our placement student; a smart, aspiring young woman who has her own sights set on working in the field and with whom I can see myself working alongside. Here was a teachable moment. Having seen and overheard much of this interaction, I pointed out that this is exactly how to demonstrate care for one another as teammates. It’s funny how many of us are comfortable saying we love our jobs, we love our work, but the thought of saying we love our co-workers sounds odd if not just plain wrong. Well, it’s little things we do like letting each other vent, putting the needs of another ahead of our own etc. that demonstrate care and love for one another. It was important to put a label on this. “Loving” your co-workers isn’t likely on the University curriculum.

While sitting there awaiting her return so I myself could go for lunch, I got a text from my colleague. It was a picture of her lunch, with the words, “Feeling relaxed. Thank you”. I grinned and felt a measure of happiness for her. That’s all it took to bring control back. When she returned, she brought a tea for me, a coffee for our student and I even got a hug of thanks. That too is love and care reciprocated.

Now this isn’t monumental teamwork that saved the company thousands of dollars or brought some new client onboard. This is an example of everyday, small but significant interactions where you can either step up and support one another with genuine care for your coworkers, or you can say, “Not my problem – I’ve got my own problems. I’m going for my lunch now. See you in an hour.”

It’s the little things we do – you and I – throughout a day that over time become our reputation. When you pitch in, cover, listen, empathize, extend help, support each other, encourage each other – these I argue are the testaments of your teamwork.

On every team, some will get it and some won’t. Be one who does.

“How Do You Always Stay Positive?”


8 people sat before me yesterday, only 1 of whom I’d met before. It was our first of a 7 day journey, embarking together on bettering knowing ourselves and then looking at the possible occupations that we might pursue. I include myself in that phrase, for although I am employed, I too will confirm what I know already and discover new things about myself as I facilitate this workshop.

It’s my practice to ask each person their name, why they are present and what they hope to get out of the experience. This is an excellent check for me to ensure we’re on the same page. It’s great confirmation for each participant, knowing they won’t be disappointed on our final day because if there is something they are expecting beyond my own objectives, I have time to build it in.

After hearing from them, I typically tell them about myself. Why not? I mean I’m a part of the group too. I know I always wonder about the backgrounds of  facilitators when I attend their presentations. However, yesterday I went about it differently. Rather than give them my career path, I opted to give each person an opportunity to ask me one question, which I promised to answer as best I could. This way I reckoned, each person would get at something they wanted to know, and I’d get an early glimpse of their thought process.

I was pleasantly surprised with one gentleman’s question. We’d only been together for about 20 minutes when he asked, “How do you always stay so positive? You have a lot of energy and I believe you are always positive.” I was surprised because as I say, he’d only met me 20 minutes earlier and had already picked up on my positivity. Here is the power of the first impression and I was understandably happy he’d picked up on both my energy and positivity.

I gave him a spontaneous answer; “I choose to be.” I went on to tell him and the group listening in, that we make choices not just each day, but hundreds of times a day. When things don’t go as we’d expect, we have a choice on how we react. Now the location I am in this time around is not my usual work destination but rather what is for me, a satellite office. I had technical issues with my computer login and as it turns out, had to download a new operating system which would take about 2 hours. My choice was to go around and express this frustration with 6 or 7 nearby co-workers, or – and this is what I did – contact IT and had them walk me through the process. This choice got me the result I wanted sooner, (connectivity) and conserved a finite amount of energy I’d otherwise have poured into complaining. My choice.

Now I know this sounds trite doesn’t it? I mean just choose to be positive. However, it’s the simplest explanation why any of us are typically positive; we choose to be. One thing I did share was an admission that I’m not always completely positive and yes there are some times I choose wrongly; later regretting I didn’t make a more positive choice. Thankfully those times are few.

Last week we had a snowfall which made the commute in messy and a coworker told me how much she hated the snow. I told her how pretty it looked to me and how it covers up so much dirt and grime of the city. “You’re always so positive”, she too said. Well, it’s a choice again isn’t it? I mean the snow has arrived and is now a factor for us all to interact with. It’s our response to the snow that makes it welcomed or something to complain about. We interact with the event in either a positive or negative way. I chose positivity and that choice makes traveling through it a more pleasurable experience.

Now as for you. Would you describe yourself – and would others generally describe you – as a person who comes across as typically positive? I tell you this, being perceived as positive in general is so much more attractive than the alternative. Given that premise, why wouldn’t we all choose positivity over negativity? And if not negativity (for that’s the other extreme), I’d rather be positive than fluctuating back and forth all the time to the point where others are never quite sure what mood I’m in from one day to the next, from one moment to the next. I like consistent positivity.

And here is a poorly kept secret of mine. I have found that surrounding myself with people who are generally positive and upbeat feeds my own energy and positivity. I get what I give, and I hope being positive attracts others who make the similar choice to me.

When you first make the choice to be positive it’s a change. When you repeat that choice a few times it becomes a pattern. When you come to act positively on a regular basis it becomes your reputation. This is perhaps why after only 20 minutes, this gentleman picked up that positivity was in my nature. How observant of him and what a kindness he gave me in both recognizing that quality in me and asking how I do it. Hopefully, he thinks about my answer and tries it out for himself. Positivity can be learned and it’s contagious.

Sorry Team, Not My Best


Yesterday I wasn’t at my best near the end of the day for my teammates. Ironically the reason why was precisely because all through the day, I’d been at my best for a number of people. I found myself jumping from one person to another, expending a lot of ‘me’, without time to pause, reflect, debrief and center myself. My 11 years plus office mate I historically debriefed with has moved on.

It started at 7:40 a.m. and ran right through until I shut down during a team meeting around 3:15 p.m. At 4:10 p.m., I walked out the doors where I work and carried it right into the usual transition sanctuary of my car. It wasn’t until early evening at home, cup of orange pekoe in my hands that I worked through the days stories and gave them up.

Like me, you’ve had those days where you too gave a sizable portion of yourself to others, beyond your typical capacity? At some point, your saturation level was reached, yet you were pushed beyond into your reserves and without your typical full self-awareness, that one extra thing came your way. And it’s that one extra thing that causes us to either shut down or act in some way we wouldn’t typically. The proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.

The weird thing about yesterday was I’d sum it up as a good day for the most part. It sure didn’t go the way I’d drawn up the day in my mind when arriving at 7:30 a.m. though.

I’ve already worked through a full day yesterday twice; experiencing it live and working it through in the sanctuary of home last night. I’ve no desire to lay it out here a third time. Suffice to say, in addition to the regular responsibilities of the day, 4 people unexpectedly shared with and entrusted to my keeping, their own substantially heavy life events.

Now this is a privilege; to be the one person who comes to mind when a crisis comes up and help is needed. I’m so thankful that I’ve done enough in the past that my voice at the end of the phone, my physical presence or reply to their email was what they sought.

It was a perfect storm you know; arriving at work early with an idea to revising some workshop materials, having a call 10 minutes after arriving even though that call came 20 minutes before I officially start at 8:00 a.m. Then heading into a workshop 5 minutes before it was due to start after a huddle with two team members about an important topic expected to arise at our meeting later in the day. Then working through the a.m. break because I was needed, prepping for a lunch meeting with someone who also needed me but couldn’t make it. Hurriedly eating a shortened lunch after giving up 45 minutes of it for someone else who needed me. Responding to a couple of consults from co-workers via email seeking my advice on how to proceed with someone’s trauma, wrapping up a shortened workshop and then heading right into a team meeting for the final two hours of the day. It might be exhausting to read this paragraph, but it was ever more so to experience it first-hand.

That might not sound like a lot to many of you. Comparatively speaking, you might have days much more draining that mine. I’ve no wish to contest who’s days are more taxing so I’ll concede that for you the reader, you may have far more energy draining days. The thing about working with people though, for those of us who live it, is that if you really want to be effective, you have to open yourself up and touch emotions to empathetically feel some semblance of what they are experiencing. Then you listen, acknowledge, support and where appropriate and invited, provide hope and encouragement with some advice on finding resolution and forward movement.

To do this and do it well, you listen attentively and respectfully; it’s time consuming and can’t be rushed. So when you think about it, you move quickly doing what you’d expect and in the moments when you should be processing and recovering, you’re unexpectedly in the middle of another story; and there were some major ones shared with me. So it’s move quick, halt; move quick, halt; and it happened all day.

So in my team meeting, with no debriefing, no down time, receiving a full agenda and all of us feeling individually pulled and stretched of late, I shut down to avoid saying and acting in some way I’d later regret. It wasn’t any one thing someone said but rather a few comments which in those circumstances, had me disengage and I told the team I was doing so. My capacity was exceeded, my reserves near exhausted, and we still had 45 minutes to go at that point. I knew I had one last call to make to someone who only seconds before our meeting, also really hoped I call before the days end.

My perfect storm.

I’m glad actually about one thing. After 3 decades in the Social Services field, people’s anguish and life stories still impact me and affect me. That’s important for me at least, to know and have awareness of. To know I am still of help? That to me is it’s own reward.

Today shall be good. I shall be better.

 

Work No Longer What It Once Was?


Call it running on autopilot or coasting on cruise control, the stimulation you used to feel when the job was challenging has disappeared. When you’re talking with friends and family, you’re heard telling them you could do this job with your eyes closed and one arm tied behind your back. When you first felt this way, it was a statement of bravado and self-assurance, but more and more, well, it’s become mundane and easy.

It seems like you’re never completely satisfied. I mean in the past there seemed so much to know and you struggled to master all the information required to be really good at your job. You wondered how those co-workers around you knew so much and performed so well. Suddenly though, you became one; now you’re the go-to person who effortlessly sails through the day, never really having any drastic lows or highs. You’re dependable, productive and instead of using your head to increase your intelligence of the job, you’re using all your mental energy just to get through the days. It’s not that it’s hard to do the job, but it’s exhausting when you keep hoping and looking for additional challenges and find there’s none to be had.

Now you’re in this dilemma aren’t you? You know, the old problem of choosing to either stay in this comfortable role you’ve got with a decent income and some security, or to step out into the stimulating world of job searching once again for something better. Hmm… security vs. stimulation. Autopilot vs. sanity.

I bet by now you’ve already had the little voices in your head whispering conflicting thoughts. “We can’t leaves; obligations we has.” “Stay we must; easy it is, nasty job searches – hates them we does!” You’re inner Gollum has taken route and when there’s nothing around you but the silence, the conflicting differences of opinion and positions keeps whispering. How’d you get here you wonder?

It really does come down to a matter of choice. It may eventually come down to whether or not you stay in this current job or whether you leave for another employer. However, before those become your only options, are there other possibilities at work? If you could transfer to another department, take on another role in your own area such as cross training or maybe even develop a new job position to present to Management, would that be possible? If you could do any of these things, you’d maintain your security, pension, seniority, vacation entitlements and of course income, but you’d feel rejuvenated and stimulated anew.

It’s not possible for me sitting where I am to know if any or some of the above are options for you in your workplace with your specific circumstances. Creating your own job when it doesn’t exist in the organization you currently work in might be an option you’d not thought of. Not only is the idea of doing something new a spark, but the energy required to conceptualize what this new role might be, prepare yourself to present and defend it to Human Resources or Senior Management and then extol the virtues of how it will positively impact on the bottom line could be exhilarating. If you only go to your boss and ask them what they’d say to you inventing a new job for yourself, it’s likely to go nowhere.

Like I said above, it may or may not be possible in your work to transfer to some other area. If you’re a welder and the whole company is 3 of you, there might not be any movement possible.

You might also be a person who has been doing the same job for twenty years or more, and feel that this job you’ve come to master is all you know. Reinventing yourself at this point might be too much of a challenge; returning to school, re-training, having to come up with money for all that and then facing a job search without the security of knowing you’d be hired. Are you worrying about that infamous dilemma, “Who’d hire me when I finished school at my age?”

It’s scary isn’t it? This problem of whether to stay in a job that’s easy but consuming yourself or venture out with great uncertainty; being afraid that whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. Consider that it’s going to be a struggle either way though. You’re either going to struggle coming into work knowing you lack the courage to do something about your fading self, or you’re going to berate yourself because one day you’re going to look back at this point in time and regret you lacked the courage to take a leap of faith.

Perhaps it’s the very lack of a guarantee that you should be thankful for. I mean, that’s part of the stimulation, the invigorating feeling you get from self-determination and creating your next chapter. Yes, you’ll have setbacks, barriers, challenges, raised expectations and disappointments. You may just feel alive again too, find a new identity and come to admire yourself for having the required courage to take a chance and risk your life on something better.

I’m certainly not going to tell which is best because I don’t know what your existing skills and education are, what you’re considering, what you’re gambling on and how stuck you are at the moment. But I do know somebody who knows all these…you.

My Advice: Hold Off Job Searching


Sounds like odd advice from an Employment Counsellor to give on the surface of it doesn’t it; putting your search for a job on hold. Yet quite often, that’s the advice I give some of the people I meet with.

Now if you’re employed and see yourself first and foremost as a taxpayer and believe that everyone in receipt of social assistance should be completely investing 100% of their time looking to work, my apologies. There are some situations in which I believe looking for a job is not only ill-advised, it can set someone back tremendously from finding employment in the long haul.

Take yesterday as an example. For two weeks, I instructed a dozen people in the basics of using the computer. I’m talking basics here; using it to make an email, learning how to access the internet, find employment opportunities, make a resume, apply for work with that resume. We did more as well, but I like to instruct with practicality in mind, so as most were unemployed, why not learn the basics of the digital world and at the same time, showing them how competing for employment these days requires computer skills? Anyhow, there I was yesterday, seated with one of the participants from that class, doing a follow up appointment.

Typically, I plan on giving someone feedback on what I observed over those two weeks, encourage them and point out moments of success and accomplishment. However, I threw all that out the window yesterday when this one woman came in and we sat down in my office. She was 15 minutes late, and said she had almost decided not to come in for the scheduled meeting. Two developments on the day before our meeting occurred; she was contacted by her Doctor who said she must meet immediately with her to share results of some medical tests and her 13 year old daughter was committed to a hospital for a few days after telling her own Doctor that she was thinking about killing herself.

Suddenly, giving feedback on computer skills and talking about using these new skills to job search seemed entirely inappropriate. Of greater importance in that moment was listening, supporting and responding to her disclosure, her fears of what her Doctor knows and must share in person immediately and her own daughter’s thoughts of ending her life. At a time like this, the focus on receiving, comprehending and processing these two major life events supersedes any encouragement to get out and get a job.

Besides, if you believe that she’d be able to effectively job search at the present moment, I’d venture you’re views are based in ideology and not practical reality. Do I think governments always get this? No. I suspect when they look at stats, they focus solely on how many people start a program, how many finish and how long it takes someone to find employment after taking a program to determine its effectiveness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story; not by a long shot.

“Will I get in trouble for not looking for a job though?” she asked. So I took an hourglass from my desk and flipped it over, letting the blue sand fall. “You only have so much energy. Right now, your focus and energy is on receiving your own diagnosis and whatever implications that holds. As a caring mom who has a daughter in crisis, the two of you have a lot to work through, you’re probably blaming yourself and you’re scared. You just got two extremely upsetting events on the same day. Forget the job search for now; you won’t be in trouble.” She looked at that blue sand accumulating in the bottom half and said seeing how the top was emptying was how she felt.

Near the end of our meeting, she told me how glad she was that she’d decided to come because she’d considered staying at home. There she was, expressing gratitude to me for making her feel better. It’s pretty humbling to hear someone in the midst of heightened anxiety and trauma be so genuinely kind and thoughtful. When she left she hugged me; we hugged each other. Somewhere in that simple act, some of her fear melted into me, and some compassion for her suffering flowed from me to her.

Do you really believe she should be focusing 100% on looking for work? Do you really think I – anyone for that matter – who counsels and supports people looking for work should pressure her into making a job search her first priority? And where I now wonder does any government making funding decisions and program cut decisions factor in this kind of experience?

I tell you this, were I that woman, receiving these two pieces of information, I’d sure be grateful to meet with a compassionate, understanding and patient person. Yesterday I was fortunate to be that guy, but this is not about me. I believe there are people with equally, even better responses everywhere, having similar experiences daily.

Something as simple as removing an expectation of finding work and assuring them they won’t have their benefits suspended, can do far more good in the long run by building a trusting, human connection. For who is equipped to deal with either of these situations let alone two on the same day?

So yes, put aside the job search; there are times when it’s not priority #1.

And your thoughts?