Power Mingling and Networking

On the second year anniversary of the Lessons for Life television show, I thought I would share this 10-minute clip of my interview with Karen Litzinger, a career consultant and speaker on networking and etiquette.  She provides very useful information in this clip. Send me an email and let me know what you think.

 

How to Pursue the Pursuit of Happiness

So, you want to be happy? Who doesn’t?  You’re probably thinking of reading some of those self-help books on the topic.  But chances are you are going to end up frustrated because the search for happiness is usually presented in the wrong way. You’ll end up looking for the wrong thing.

The problem comes partly from our language and the way we speak about happiness, as if it is a thing that can be obtained or achieved.  “Happiness,” so our culture teaches us, is a state of being.  It is a strong emotional state,  something akin to “joy” or “exaltation.”  It should be grabbed and held onto.

But deep inside you know that goal isn’t really feasible – we can’t feel extended periods of joy any more than we can stay in any extreme emotional state for very long.  And “achieving” happiness isn’t the same as crossing a finish line or finally buying that “just for me” sports car.

Instead, we should recognize that pursuing happiness is really about the types of activities we add to our lives.  We should be striving for the kind of life that keeps us enthusiastic and excited to take on each day, despite some of the inevitable bad moments and accidents.

So, what can we do to have more of that kind of happiness in our lives?  The answer: shift our emphasis from the word “happy” to the word “pursuit.”  Concentrate on the activities we add to our life.  If we add more moments where we are fully engaged in satisfying and rewarding activities, that work for us on an inner, self-referential level, we will be well on our way to having a happy life.

And what types of activities might do this? Which activities help us feel fully engaged in meaningful, rewarding ways?  Fortunately, modern day psychology does have some suggestions.

Develop the Habit of Self-Improvement Projects
A lot of good feelings about you and who you are becoming can come from taking on a short-term self-improvement project.  Watching our self make small gains and finally achieving a personal goal can be rewarding specifically on an inner, private level.

There are certainly many things to consider when choosing a self-improvement goal and developing the daily or weekly measurements that might provide those moments of small success.  But just engaging in a self-improvement project can be psychologically rewarding.  Particularly if the objective is not something we are doing for external feedback and rewards.  Importantly, progress on a self-improvement goal will help us feel good about ourselves for an extended period of days, if not all of them.

Examples might include a modest weight loss or fitness goal, gradually reading that book you’ve always wanted to read, or starting and finishing a series of classes in a new craft or hobby.  Self-improvement ideas abound, but keeping the goals manageable, medium in size, and easily measurable are important factors to consider.

Exercise Your Strengths
A different but similar sense of accomplishment and pride can come from doing things that others find hard.  This doesn’t mean focusing on earning a prize or defeating an opponent.  Instead, it can refer to simply experiencing a certain kind of joy when you exercise your unique talents and strengths.  We are all good at some things. Perhaps some of these things have funneled us in to our current job.  But independent of any external rewards, such as pay or promotions, there is a certain internal reward from engaging in what we do well.

Purposefully adding activities to our lives that allow us to activate our strengths is a great way to pursue happiness.  Outside of our controlled work environment we might discover we can volunteer our bookkeeping talent at our local church or coach a youth soccer program and experience the joys of teaching.  We can landscape a community park or use our voice to read for the blind.   Doing what we do well is always intrinsically rewarding, and doing so in the service of others is a potential ‘double whammy’ in the pursuit of happiness.

Go for the “Flow”
A third kind of activity we can add to our lives is one designed to get us into “flow.”  Several years back psychologists starting studying that wonderful place our mind goes to when we are fully engaged in a task; that loss of time and worries when our minds are “locked in” by the activity.  We usually know we were “in the zone” only after we come out of it.  “Flow” can happen at work obviously, but what about purposefully adding it to our lives as a “pursuit of happiness” activity?

To get to flow most easily the mind should be fully engaged in the task.  This happens in everyday life when we are activating our curiosity or encouraging our creativity.  Allowing ourselves to be creative or curious may feel like a luxury in today’s busy, fast-paced world, but paradoxically finding exactly that kind of time will be far more “productive” toward achieving a life of happiness and contentment than completing yet another thing on our to-do list.  Simply ask yourself this:  don’t you know someone who regularly engages in creative or curiosity-fulfilling activities and seems to have a particularly interesting and happy life?

Join in a Community of Volunteers
Finally, perhaps the easiest activity we can add to our lives is volunteering in a relaxed and social atmosphere with others.  It is true many service clubs have experienced a severe decline in enrollments over the past decade or two.  This may be due to how easy it is with today’s technology to spend time alone, entertaining ourselves or working nonstop.  But the lives of our grandparents were filled with socializing, bonding and enjoying each others’ company. It was a regular occurrence and part of the pursuit of a life well spent.  Every one of us knows how fun it is to chat with friends.  Why not make some new ones  and help out your community at the same time?

The pursuit of happiness should be more about the pursuit, the activities that we choose to engage in and how they make us feel in the long term, than about a fleeting emotional state.  Developing small but regular self-improvement projects, exercising our strengths, trying to get in to “flow” and volunteering with others are just some suggestions.   After all, a life well spent is a happy life.

Healing a Broken Relationship at Work

Healing a Broken Relationship at Work

By Erick Lauber, Ph.D.

Maybe you have a broken leg at work.

I don’t mean the physical kind; the type where you see a doctor and try to stay off of it for a while. That kind will heal in a few weeks all by itself.  I mean the broken relationship kind; the type that’s much harder to heal, keeps you awake at night and can end up making you unproductive for years if it isn’t fixed.

But a broken relationship at work is a lot like a broken leg. It can make you avoid certain places or take a different route in and out of your office.  It can dominate your conversations with friends and make your spouse wish you would just shut up about it.  Broken work relationships make you less productive and tempt you to overdue the “pain medication,” despite how dangerous you know that is.

Unfortunately, the risks of not treating your broken relationship are also like having a broken leg. It can become an ever-increasing problem or infection.  It might change how you act in the future, making you a bit gun-shy and eager to avoid another broken leg.  The broken relationship might even wear you out emotionally and physically, so much so that you just want to escape and maybe accept any offer to change jobs – even for less pay!

You might think that it makes sense to go back and examine how your leg or relationship became so broken. Thoughts like “What did I do so wrong?” and “How could this happen to me?” might float through your headBut how it broke isn’t nearly as important as how you respond. How you try to heal it. Healing a Broken Relationship

So, what can you do about your broken relationship at work?  Is there a way to avoid being one of those martyrs who in some weird way seems to enjoy having a broken relationship?  Fortunately, there is. But, like a broken leg, it will take some uncomfortable work.

1. Choose to Heal

The first thing that must be done is to approach the situation correctly. You have to make a choice: is this thing going to heal and get better, or, is it going to be a pain forever?  This choice is completely under your control and it really matters which option you choose.

For example, martyrs won’t listen to any advice, even from professionals. They don’t believe the relationship will get any better so they won’t try anything.  They stick to complaining as their only “therapy.”

But healers work toward a solution.  They try things, they ask for advice. They refuse to accept that the future has to look like the present. They believe.

2.  Avoid “Compensatory” Behaviors  or Work-arounds

For example, those who don’t believe a relationship will get any better start to work around it.  In medicine such activities are called “compensatory behaviors” because the patient is “compensating” for the deficient limb or process.  This can be a problem; first, because it puts extra strain on the other parts of someone’s life.  Long term problems can develop in those relationships that have to bear the extra weight.  Second, compensating behaviors don’t allow the original broken relationship to fully heal. They simply hide it.

3.  Use Crutches and Other Aids Temporarily

On the other hand, doctors do prescribe crutches and other aids when damage initially occurs.  It is not unreasonable to keep weight off a relationship for a bit while the anger subsides.  But importantly, doctors prescribe crutches so you can still function normally – not so you can avoid putting any and all weight on the foot.  In real life, we still have to function even with a broken relationship.  The proper temporary aids, like having a third co-worker present, or alerting a boss to keep things operating smoothly, is allowable – but only temporarily, and only in extreme situations.

Other temporary aids might include compliments and extra “Thank Yous”. Think of these as adding ointments or icy-hot to a broken leg. They don’t really heal it from the inside, but they do ease the pain and make it more bearable while the real work of healing is being done.

4.  Put It Up At Night

Everyone knows that a medical doctor will recommend putting a broken leg up at night. This helps it heal and can be thought of as “draining the blood out of it.”  The same thing applies to broken relationships – you need to drain the blood out of them occasionally.  Many a close friend and spouse have wished a loved one would put a broken relationship out of mind.  Stop picking at the wound.  If you wish, think of it as allowing your subconscious to work on the problem while your conscious self gets some time off. Either way, put it up at night. It will actually heal better if you don’t obsess and worry it constantly.

5.  Exercise It As Soon As You Can

Eventually, every broken relationship, like a broken leg, demands exercise and real use. This is the part that most people are afraid of. What if it hurts? What if it doesn’t feel exactly like it did before it was broken?

One piece of advice is to go slow and gentle at first, listening for when you might be pushing too hard and then easing up a little.  But every doctor knows waiting too long is a much more common mistake than jumping in too early.  Avoiding pain is a built-in characteristic of all humans.  But there’s a reason going “outside our comfort zone” is such a common expression in management and business.  The difference between success and failure is sometimes just the difference between those who succumb to our natural human tendencies and those who climb above them.

6.  The Most Important Ingredient: Trust

Did you know that a healed broken bone is often stronger than the original bone?  It’s true!  The biological processes that stitch bone back together produce stronger bones than the originals.  Is that possible with your broken relationship?  Actually, it is.

Consider: in our life, accidents happen; miscommunications, misinterpretations.  Sometimes people will misbehave around us for reasons we could not possibly fathom because we are truly not inside their heads,  so bumped and bruised relationships are inevitable.

But fundamentally, people are to some degree a little bit scared and insecure. They are worried other people won’t like them or will somehow “be out to get them.”  They are also very, very worried that they can’t predict what other people will do. Somehow bad things will come their way, unexpectedly.

The best human relationships eliminate these two fears.  A good friend is fundamentally (a) someone you know will not purposefully do things that damage you and (b) will act in ways that you can predict.  We call this “trust” in our normal, social lives.

Our relationships at work require the same thing.   We need to do things to communicate to people that they can trust us – that we won’t “act out” and purposefully hurt them, even when we feel bumped or bruised. We also need to demonstrate that our actions are understandable and normal. They can be predicted – even when we might have a “right” to act out.  These two things help people trust us. And a healed relationship is one where there is trust.

Healing a broken relationship at work is perhaps harder than healing a broken leg, but it can be done.  In most places we don’t have the benefit of a doctor to diagnose and prescribe treatment, but we can do these six things to help heal the relationship ourselves.  The bad news is that all broken relationships will require us to go outside our comfort zone and “put some weight”  on the relationship, perhaps while we are still afraid – even when we know it might be painful.  But in the end, a healed relationship, perhaps one so healed it is even stronger than before, is better than a broken relationship.