A few years ago I attended a speed mentoring session with executives from a big bank. One executive sat at each table and covered a different relevant topic. Four to five guests sat across from them, keenly listening, taking notes and asking questions. They covered topics like dealing with stress, negotiation, conflict resolution, networking and leadership.
At first glance, I noticed each executive wore a suit and had a warm and serious way of being. Most had prepared notes, and a mini-talk they had planned beforehand. But as we delved deeper into each topic, I began to notice a trend. There was much more talking about self-development, positive thinking, healing and self-esteem than I anticipated.
What most people think of as fluffy and woo-hoo, these executives were talking about openly as if these topics were normal and matter of fact to address in an office environment.
One executive shared that they never went to university, had no degree and had to network their way in. One executive shared about the challenges of being a single mom and working her way up the corporate ladder when there was very little acceptance of women in leadership. Each person was open and humble about their personal journey and talked very little about conventional ‘work’. It wasn’t about what they had accomplished; it was more about what they had overcome that got them where they are now.
Another pattern I noticed was their willingness to be different, to stand out and to do what it takes to get from point A to point B. For an entire three hours, I heard not one complaint or excuse from any of them. It was a surprising and refreshing experience to know that a seemingly conservative environment could be full of so many down to earth people.
Below are 6 ways to make work feel like an investment and not just an obligation. For the lucky ones who have work that already feels like an investment, these are 6 ways to help work feel more like home.
- Morning Ritual
The best way to ensure our day gets off to a great start is to have a great morning. If we hit snooze, roll out of bed late, grab a coffee and danish on the way in, have no time to prepare for the morning meeting and have a report due by lunch, we feel powerless, exhausted and rushed – and the day is just getting started.However challenging at first, waking up an hour or two early, exercising, eating a nutritious breakfast, meditating and getting to work early so we can prepare for our morning meeting and get working on our report due by lunch, simply feels better. Doing this may mean that we go to bed earlier, turn our smart phones to silent at night and make more noise in the morning, but feeling more powerful is definitely worth the initial challenge. I promise, having a happier, healthier partner or parent will smooth over any trouble we cause for our grouchy morning housemates.
- Creating a Safe Space
These days, when we hear the words ‘safe space’ at work, most of us think of diversity and inclusion initiatives. But there is much more we can do to soothe our nervous systems independently as well. We have 5 senses that can be tended to on a daily basis. Uplifting messages, paintings and beautiful screen savers will soothe our eyes. Calming essential oils and fresh flowers/plants can soothe our nose. Ginger lemon tea can soothe our mouths while still boosting circulation. Kind words and soft classical music can soothe our ears. And soft, comfortable fabrics can soothe our skin. Making a list of what soothes you and how to bring them into your space, might take some creative thinking and is essential to well-being.
- Mid-Day Walk &Talk
Human beings are social creatures. We need each other to feel safe, we need each other to build, to grow, to laugh and to share. If we have a friend at work or one who works nearby, going for a mid-day walk and talk is a great way to relax and add some happiness and connection to our work experience. This can also help us remember that while work is important, it is not everything.
If our friends are busy or we are in the process of making some, it is also great to go for a walk by ourselves. Circulation, fresh air and a mental break are always necessary.
- Honest Communication
By honest communication, I don’t mean name calling or telling people what you ‘really’ think of them. What I mean by honest is, have you shared your strengths? Where you would like more support? Where you see yourself in 3 years? If a group of people, an organization, or a company have no idea who you really are inside, what you dream about and what excites you, there is no way they can help you build.
This can be challenging and sometimes our truth is not met with support, but every now and then a person or an environment will surprise us and these moments are totally worth being vulnerable for.
- Connecting to Vision
In any environment we find ourselves, it is important to step back and look at what is happening objectively. What skills and strengths are we building that will be of benefit to our vision for our life? What stepping stones are we currently standing on? And what stepping stones are available in this environment? Building in this dimension is definitely a winding road. There are lots of zigs and zags but every one of them can help us if we let them.
- After-work Reflection
Whether we journal or just talk to ourselves, it is a great way to end a working day by asking, what did I learn? What did I accomplish? What would I add? What would I take away? What am I grateful for? And what am I looking forward to?
If we lived till 100, working at least 8 hours a day, we are spending the equivalent of 25-30 years of our total life working. When we step this far back to take a look at the bigger picture, the concept of work/life balance doesn’t really make sense. Work is 30% of our real life. That 30% should feel good. It should be fulfilling. And most importantly, it should feel like ours. In the end, it is not 30% of our life that we just give away to someone else or to a company. That 30% is just as much our responsibility as brushing our teeth and preparing our food. And if we don’t do what it takes to make that 30% full of meaning, quality and truth, then it is 30% of our life that we have neglected.
It’s Cool To BE Happy