Bringing Moments of Joy into the Virtual World

Many of our opportunities for moments of joy at work have disappeared while working from home.  The spontaneity that we took for granted talking about a fun weekend around the water cooler or seeking advice from a colleague in the next cube is gone. We are working together, but not quite connected. How can we start to bring a little more joy to our work and gain connectedness in an inherently disconnected world?

  1. Kindness Matters. Without the opportunity for spontaneous conversations, acts of kindness just take a bit more effort.  We know that looking someone in the eye and acknowledging their upbeat attitude is very different than liking their posts on instagram. We get a bigger serotonin boost when someone pays us a complement or acknowledges us in person. Offering more random acts of kindness in the virtual world does take a bit more thought and energy, but it can help to make everyone feel more connected!
  2. Clear Communication, Watch Those Channels. Are you using the correct channel to communicate your feedback?  With so many options at our disposal, it can be tough to decide which is the appropriate channel for your message.  I suggest crafting the message and then thinking about which channel is most appropriate for sending/receiving the feedback.
  3. Surprise and Delight.  At the beginning of the pandemic folks were getting pretty creative to stay connected in the virtual world.  One of my favorite pop-up joy boosters was a little show started by John Krasinski called Some Good News.  Perhaps we can take a piece of this idea and start our meeting with some good personal news.  Or something that you find joyful to share (even those cat videos count). Sharing good news and moments of joy bring us all closer together and encourage us to help one another. 

Having trouble Focusing?

Focus Sessions can help you get back on track


A few months ago I received a call from a former client out of the blue asking what I knew about adult onset ADD.  She wondered if there was such a diagnosis as she was certain she had it.  She described her symptoms as mildly anxious and irritable but moreover she was experiencing a total lack of focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I have been hearing a similar sentiment from clients, peers and friends over the past few months. 
As life in parts of the world is getting back to “normal” many of us seem to have lost our ability to focus.  I had to admit that day (and many days lately) despite the fact that I was alone in my home office, had already gone for a run and had my favorite coffee, I too was having trouble focusing. Then I saw an email from my friend Megan Flatt at the Let’s Collective about a new offering called Focus Sessions. I signed up for the free trial week immediately and blocked out Monday morning on my calendar. 

I showed up early Monday and was not surprised to find 30 other participants eager to finally get some focus back in their lives. The Focus Session began with a centering exercise and a process to clear away the noise and bring us to the task at hand. I actually hadn’t mapped out what I was going to focus on as just getting to the session was a win for me. I decided to do a brain dump of all the niggling details floating around in my head. I wrote BRAIN DUMP down on my post-it and held it up for the group to witness. Then I saw an old friend who sent me a message in the chat box, “I see you!”  Simple and effective, this comment cemented the fact that I was locked in for the next 37 minutes of the first focus sprint.  The first sprint flew by as the contents of my head rolled out onto the paper and I began to organize my list by categories. Time for a break…what? That first sprint was over in what felt like 37 seconds and I went outside for a stretch break in my yard.  I returned for the second sprint and worked through a new program offering that had been in the back of my mind for months.  And then we were wrapping up.  I left my first Focus Session feeling more energized for work than I had in 18 months and could not stop thinking about Why?  

Focus sessions are solving some very real challenges to focusing in the post-pandemic world.  I am going to explain how to use Focus Sessions to combat the two largest challenges we face and reorient our brains so that we can get back to the work we love. 

  1. Focusing Alone is Hard

We are social beings, shaped by our social environments and as much as we here in the West like to think we pursue our own happiness, our common wiring affects our lives and livelihoods daily. The pandemic has taxed us in ways the mental health industry is just beginning to understand and people are still nervous to gather and participate in normal social interactions. Focus Sessions give us a way to safely show up for each other and get things done! That’s right, we are actually serving the collective by showing up on a Focus Session. 

We are seen and held in the group for a period of time and through this structure we feel a sense of Collective Effervescence.How does this work? 

When we show up to a Focus Session, we feel a part of something larger than ourselves. The term, Collective Effervescence began with 19th-century sociologist Émile Durkheim, who used it to explain what happens during religious rituals. Social psychologist Shira Gabriel, who studies collective effervescence in a broader context, describes it as the feeling of connection you get in a group experiencing the same thing like being at a concert, sporting event or political rally.  She explains, “even if you don’t know the other members, you feel like the moment is special, something that transcends the regularness of normal life.” 

Collective Effervescence is a prosocial emotion that attunes us to others.  We feel a part of something larger than ourselves and in turn more secure. The collective experience stimulates the vagus nerve which calms our body, allows our brain to process more information and make connections more broadly. This state is essential for focusing on complex thinking, decision making, creative writing and most higher level processing. Just showing up to a Focus Session helps you feel Collective Effervescence which as an added bonus Shira Gabriel has found, “is strongly predictive of feeling like your life has meaning and having more positive emotions.” 

  1. Our Environments are Filled with Distractions

The pandemic brought new challenges to the work from home lifestyle. Namely, everyone was suddenly home and more needs emerged for a distraction-free environment.  I actually love the window into reality that has become the at home zoom call, with the spontaneous dog/bird/kids disturbances that we have all enjoyed. But kidding aside, these distracted hours have added up to a lot of unproductive work hours over the last 18 months. Each time we are distracted, it can take from 6 – 23  minutes to refocus on our task. 

According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”  Focus Sessions help to alert your family that you are going to stay focused for a period of time. These pre-planned sessions help to orient our brain to focus on the task at hand like mini rituals to combat the chaos of our work from home lifestyle. 

Focus Sessions also help combat the distractions coming from inside our brains. Our brains have been stuck in hyperdrive for anxiety for so long that we are programmed to be looking for threats. The existential threat of COVID was particularly effective at ramping up the primitive part of our brain that responds quickly in order to combat threats. The problem with the ongoing threat of COVID is that our brains do not have time to recover from the flight/fight/freeze state of functioning.  Many more people are suffering from a state of chronic stress which supports that collective wondering that we may be suffering from adult onset ADD.  Focus Sessions help us by setting aside space to be distraction free and enable the flow state of  focus to occur.  We are signaling to our nervous system that we are safe and have a plan for the next 90 minutes. 

I encourage you to experience the magic of these sessions for yourself and feel more connected to your work, your family and your community. You can find more information about Focus Sessions and Sign Up for a FREE 7 Day Trial!

Job Craft your way to a new role!

“Are you a rule follower,” I was asked by an elder friend one day while riding bikes in Newport Beach.  “Sometimes,” I answered, “depending on the rule.”  My friend, who was turning 80 the following month, said she was a life-long rule follower and she was going to start breaking them! She promptly swerved her bike to the left side of the street and continued to ride. It was a simple act, but I remember the joy it brought to her face when she realized that no one was watching her; that no one was stopping her from riding on the wrong side of the street.   She was gleefully free!  

I’m not advocating that we all go out and break laws and rules of safe travel but I am asking you to think about the normative behaviors and unwritten rules that you follow without considering the alternatives and potential opportunities. The pandemic has created a giant disruption in everyday life and work on a global level. It has changed so many cultural and work-life rules that we are all left creating our way forward and will be for a long time to come. 

I see this as a time to craft a new way of working, relating to each other and to ourselves.  

To start you off on your crafting journey, I have outlined a few basic tenets of Job Crafting: a practice that you can use to create a more ideal work situation for yourself and perhaps change the meaning and purpose of your work. Use these tenets to assess and edit different aspects of your work and to design your way forward. You spend hours each day doing it..why not make it the best it can be? 

  • Locus of control.  Part of what my friend was experiencing on her bike that day was the joy of taking control. The pandemic has limited some aspects of what we can control in our environment, but it has also given many of us flexibility that we didn’t think was possible. We have more control over where we work, when we work and how we work.  Ask yourself if the ways you are choosing to work give you the freedom you desire.  
  • What makes you tick. I like to use an inside-out approach to crafting optimal work. This approach recognizes that we already have most of the skills and knowledge we need to create meaningful work. We are all unique individuals who need different things to thrive. Consider these aspects of yourself to drill down on what makes you tick and make decisions about how and where you work: personality, values, strengths, skills and interests.  
  • Task Crafting:  If you have worked for a few years, you will have accumulated many skills. The idea of task crafting is that you choose the skills and tasks that you enjoy using and performing so that you spend more of your time enjoying the work. Task crafting also allows you to expand the boundaries of your role to take on more tasks or change how these tasks are performed. One example from my early career in hotel management was taking on a few night audit shifts at a small bed and breakfast property where I was working at the front desk. I loved math and was interested in accounting. The night audit tasks were easy for me to learn and I ended up earning extra money along with my additional skills. 
  • Networking: True networking is an exchange of ideas and information. You can change the nature or extent of your interactions with other people by having a networking conversation.  You may be thinking about a lateral move within your organization and a networking conversation can give you important insights into the role you desire. A networking conversation can also lead to a role in a new organization as you are speaking in your area of expertise and passion. Try elevating your next conversation by talking about some aspect of your work that you are really excited about!
  • Reframe: You can change how you think about the purpose of certain aspects of your job; or you can reframe the job as a whole. I remember one of the nurses in the hospital where I gave birth to my daughter reframed her role as a newborn nurse to include the role of welcomer. She was a reiki energy practitioner and silently treated all of the newborns she interacted with to soothe their fragile nervous systems. It was a beautiful gesture of healing that she added to the routine tasks of a newborn nurse in order to give her job more purpose and meaning.

Tetris anyone?

I feel as if these last 5 months I have been playing a big game of tetris trying to keep up with a constantly changing landscape due to the pandemic.  With the recent news about some schools beginning the year online, I am jostling my pieces around yet again.  On a hike with a friend yesterday she noted that we are not just dealing with the familiar tetris game shapes, but now are being thrown triangles, circles and the occasional rhombus.  How do we keep arranging our various tetrominos (yes I looked that word up) before we reach overwhelm and it’s game over?   
Here are some tips I have come up with to improve game play. I would love to hear more about your struggles and strategies for this ever-evolving situation!
  • Break it down: Break projects into smaller tasks that you can do at a variety of times throughout the week. Get started on something and get those few tetris blocks in place.
  • Try scenario planning: Have a few ideas rolling at once and always be looking for the third thing. There are some great ideas forming in the grey areas right now.
  • Focus on what you can control: So many things are out of our control that we are walking around in a constant state of anxiety. Human beings are not meant to be on high alert for this long. Practice focusing on the things you can control even if they seems like small things. Getting one block in place can be hugely liberating right now!
  • Look for the opportunities: Here are some I have been finding lately – outdoor haircut parties, office swaps, volunteering, riding my six-year-old neighbor’s big wheel (crazy I still fit), outside yoga, connecting with old friends and new!
  • Feed your brain: You are done with Netflix. Try something new and commit to learning it with a friend or loved one.

Sitting in Limbo 6 tips to get more out of your liminal experience!

liminality (from the Latin word l?men, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete. (Wikipedia)

How many of you have experienced the disorientation of this liminal space over the past 10 weeks of Sheltering in Place (10 weeks..WHOA!)?  We are all stuck in a seemingly endless new normal of social distancing and working from home without clear guidelines for landing in the next phase.  As a result, many of us are feeling a little edgy with the uncertainty and extreme challenges this global pandemic presents. Liminal spaces are a normal part of life as we prepare for changes like going to college, having a baby, moving and job shifts. When these life stages have clear boundaries, it is easier to be in the liminal space.

However, this pandemic is presenting new challenges without good information and set boundaries.  We are collectively “feeling around in the dark” which can create feelings of fear, depression and anxiety. Even during life’s normal transitions, we often miss the real potential of these liminal spaces by freezing or fleeing. If you are willing to listen, sense and sink in to this space, you can become aware of what is unfolding next and begin to direct that process forward. I would like to offer some tips to help you navigate the next few weeks and months and experience the creativity that is bubbling up through this period of liminality. 

  1. Create back-up plans for your back-up plans. Planning is a creative process and will foster new ideas or unearth plans that were prematurely cast aside.
  2. What is now possible? Now that our structures have mostly dissolved, set aside time each week to hang out in the land of possibility…it’s where the good ideas hide! Think about what is now possible that was seemingly impossible before.
  3. Identify some Silver Linings. Focusing on the positive aspects of the situation will put you into a generative state where you feel more compelled to create. Perhaps you have created new rituals and routines, spoken to people who you haven’t reached out to in a long time, dusted off an old instrument..what is coming forth for you?
  4. Simplicity is where I have landed. There is a certain grace that simplicity provides that makes everything okay. Exploring new places in your own neighborhood…pulling out the shave ice machine my daughter received for her birthday 6 years ago…going through old photo albums…howling with my neighbors each night. 
  5. Pay attention to your dreams. Dream experts believe that the withdrawal from our usual busy lives and daily stimuli have pushed our subconscious mind to explore themes from our past. As a result, we are getting at thoughts we may not have explored for years.  Are your dreams more alive? 
  6. Focus on what you can control. Grounding rituals always help to bring us back to the present where we have agency over our thoughts and actions.

I hope that you are all well and you are finding ways to include humor in your daily lives.  Please remember to laugh when you can, as science has proven that laughter and humor can help us stay healthy. May you be gentle with yourselves and loved ones as we all muddle through this together!

Using Prosocial Emotions to Lift Us Up!

We are learning, stretching, growing even if it feels that we are isolating and folding in on ourselves. The global pandemic is creating a new normal in the world that includes social distancing and voluntary isolation. Many of us feel some anxiety and potentially the beginnings of depression as we are uncertain about our future and cut off from our fellow humans. 

To combat these feelings, we can cultivate positive and prosocial emotions. Prosocial emotions provide a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and offer us a way to connect and lift each other up.  These emotions include curiosity, surprise, amusement, gratitude, kindness and awe. Interestingly, these emotional states also spark creativity and lift us out of boredom which may be feeding the depression settling in.  Try some of these action items to boost your mood and lift others up!

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Tips for transitioning to WFH

Proven techniques for working from home

I would love to share some techniques I have been using to coach clients for a successful transition from the office to working at home. I spent the better part of last week helping people who are used to lots of social activity move to social isolation and social distancing and for many of them, it was harder than expected. Let’s all remember to keep our distance so that we remain healthy and safe.

It’s getting more challenging to maintain focus and keep anxiety to a minimum as Covid-19 comes closer to our homes. I compiled 10 tips to ease your transitions and help you all thrive in the new normal at home.

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Everyday Awe

In the wake of some recent tragic deaths I have been doing some soul searching about my place here on this beautiful planet we inhabit. I am also about to turn 50 and realize that I have been blessed to live an abundant life thus far and plan on experiencing and participating in so much more! I am struck by how, during these times of contemplation, we can feel small and understand how precious life really is. I learned recently that this feeling is actually associated with the emotion of Awe and that experiencing Awe can make us feel more connected to one another and the natural world.

Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others.

Dacher Keltner

What exactly is Awe?  It is a complex emotion that gives you a feeling of vastness and connection at the same time.

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How to Own Your Ask

Have you ever asked for something and heard nothing back?  Are you getting tired of asking and hearing nothing but crickets?  It may be because you are not really asking for what you need. On balance, people like to help one another. Helping someone else actually boosts your own happiness. So, if all this helping is good for us, why do we sometimes not receive what we are asking for?

When you are asking and not receiving a response, take a look at the question you asked.  Are you calling out an action?  Are you giving a deadline?  Is your voice authentic?

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For every two parts happiness add one part meaning

If you want to find more fulfillment in your work follow this equation
 
Passion projects aside, the search for fulfilling work does not need to center around your personal happiness. It is important to feel good while in your work environment and for your work to be in alignment with your values, but happiness as a goal for work may be leaving you a bit shortchanged. Here’s why, happiness is found in the present whereas meaning transcends time to include past/present/future.

Meaningfulness is something we invest energy in without expecting a return.

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