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!

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.

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Bringing your retreat home

WHY DO WE RETREAT?  

We retreat to get away from it all and collect our energy that is otherwise spread out in multiple directions for inner growth. All the stress, noise, responsibilities and distractions of everyday life melt away and we are able to get back in touch with who we are and what is important to us. We use the fresh perspective that a new environment provides to reconnect with ourselves and find our flow. Sometimes we learn something new or understand a situation that has been troubling us. Sometimes we meet someone who inspires us. Most often we are simply reset and reinvigorated and return home hoping to keep this fresh perspective alive.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE RETURN HOME?

Read More

Accessing Passion is Tricky Business

Passion has been a buzzword in the field of coaching for a long time, yet very rarely does a client show up at my door brimming with passion, ready to put it into action. A direct question about passion is often met with a blank stare from my clients who struggle to find something, anything that lights them up.

Most of us feel overwhelmed when asked about our passion. We may also feel stuck, trapped or anxious. Our creative brain can literally freeze and shut down due to the complexity of the passion question. It just feels too big to answer. Moreover, most people think there is something wrong with them if they do not know what they are passionate about or what their purpose is.

So how do we turn our creative brain back on and find some possibilities for a passion-filled life? Here are four ways to start:

Read More

Are you a Multipotentialite?

This morning I was having a conversation with my daughter about college classes as some of her older cousins are going off to college in the Fall. She was wondering how many different classes you could take each semester and suggested that you could take classes in your major and your minor. I suggested the idea of taking a class just because you may be interested in the subject and she informed me that this was not allowed…she is eleven.

How does my daughter at age eleven already feel that you have to choose a course of study in college and follow that course into the world of work?

Cultural norms support the idea that we have one purpose; that we are meant to do one important thing here on this earth over and over again until we achieve mastery. This general cultural bias towards specialization leaves out the opportunity for one to experience a broad range of possibilities.

In some of us, it creates anxiety over the consequences of choosing the wrong major, or taking the wrong job, or wanting to switch career paths in midlife. What if you want to study many subjects or have many careers or would like to pursue many interests? 

What if you’re an e-Ticket kind of person who just wants to do it all!! 

Well, you may be a Multipotentialite: A person with many interests and creative pursuits. And for you, there are likely many paths.

Read More

Unstuck

I know I’m stuck when I have no answer for the simple question, what’s going on?  My honest answer would be, not much and everything at the same time…I am exhausted and not getting anything done!  But to be more PC, I give a standard answer about the usual life stuff: work, kid, travel, house, etc.

Does this sound familiar?

Read More