Happier, Definitely Happier

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So whatever happened to that Happiness Project?  I’m still committed to my happiness commandments but I fell off the blogging about it wagon.  Focusing on energy for January, marriage for February, work for March and family for April definitely pulled me out of the funk of 2013.  I feel like my old self again!  I am so happy about the results, but the elevated mood, increased energy, better days at work and at home have had a negative impact on my blogging.  Having to stick to a monthly focus made the blog feel like a project instead of an opportunity to just share.  So I’m ditching the official project part and keeping the happiness part.

A quick list of happiness triggers for me lately:

God answering prayers and showing me positive signs, good friends, my Bible Study group, watching my son play lacrosse, a weekend where I felt like I excelled at my role as daughter, wife and mother, expressing my creative side at work, a sunny vacation, my mom’s pancreas biopsy yielding great news, BodyPump classes, gardening and planting flowers, long days, springtime, accidentally leaving my suitcase at home for a 3 day weekend and not freaking out, learning new things about my industry, home-made ice cream, Game of Thrones, helping others, meditation and walks around the block.

Daily Prompt: No footholds here

ImageI had an a-ha moment tonight. I think it is one I’ve had before, but it landed fresh on me today.  I realize that I am not comfortable with anger, whether or giving or receiving, it is an emotion I prefer to maintain a distance from.  Anger breeds more anger which ends up being a slow drip of toxic resentment. I resent that someone made me angry or was angry at me.  This emotion is not allowed, doesn’t everyone know that?  Sometimes I kid myself and think that if I just vent and talk it out, the anger will go away, but that just feeds my self-righteousness and resentment. 

I have definitely lost relationships over this.  I’m a grudge holder.  In the past, I’ve just worked on not getting angry, but anger is not the problem, it is my weird belief system about anger that is the problem.  I wonder what would happen if I focused on forgiveness instead of suppression? 

Daily Prompt

 

New in Town | Daily Post

ImageI just moved to a new city and I’m keenly aware of the need to make new friends. This is my second move in 8 years for my current company and I have the benefit of what worked/didn’t work in our last city to build upon.

The biggest lesson I learned was to make sure and have lots of friends outside of my job. In our last teeny tiny city, my co-workers became the cornerstone of our social network. They were amazing, wonderful people for the most part. I’m still dear friends with a few and Facebook friends with many, but there are many problems with the friends@work thing.

Problem #1: Non-stop talking shop during social gatherings. Painful for spouses and not the best stress reliever.

Problem #2: Gossip. What happens after work becomes fodder for discussion at work.  With everyone.

Problem #3: Awkwardness as you/they move up/down the ladder or move around the organization.

Problem #4: Crazy awkwardness when people get fired or are performing poorly.

Problem #5: Double crazy awkwardness if those mentioned in Problem #4 suspect/believe that you had anything to do with their situation.

Of course there are good things about work friends, too.  My favorite benefit is when I’m having a work-related crisis, they can come up to speed on my issue and offer advice or empathy quickly because they get it.  The short-hand of someone who knows they lay of the land is a huge help when the going gets tough.

Outside of work, here are my recommendations based on my experiences the past 6 months:

  1. Join a church. Some of our favorite people and deepest relationships in our last city were friends from our Bible Study small group. Knowing we could find a church and connect in this way was one of the things that gave us confidence to move again. We have landed in a small group and are enjoying getting to know this new set of brothers and sisters in Christ. They are wonderful people.
  2. Say Yes. We have been fortunate to have received several invitations and I/we have consciously leaned in and said Yes to the following:
    1. Bunko
    2. Zumba
    3. A neighborhood Christmas party
    4. Attending the annual homeowners association (HOA) meeting
    5. Volunteering to serve on the HOA board (my husband thought I was CRAZY!)
    6. Hosting the quarterly HOA board meeting
    7. Going to a brand new neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party based on an email blast to the HOA
    8. Attending all of my son’s lacrosse games
    9. Going to a new acquaintances restaurant
    10. Coming Soon (Hot Yoga!)
  3. Throw a party. We were inspired by the new neighbors who moved in Christmas weekend and then managed to host a New Year’s party just a few days later. They motivated us to put our last few unpacked boxes in the garage and start entertaining. We have hosted a small new acquaintance dinner party in February and then a larger party with about 20 neighbors for St. Patty’s. We also had a pot-luck with our new small group. We are looking forward to summer barbecues and keeping the festivities going.
  4. Rekindle old friendships. One of the biggest blessings of moving here has been the opportunity to reconnect with a childhood friend who just happened to move to this same metropolitan area 6 months ahead of me. (thank you Facebook!) She is everything you would want in a dear friend and I can’t believe we haven’t been hanging out the past 40 years.
  5. Don’t forget about your old friends. With Skype, texting, Facebook and hands free cellular built into the steering wheel of my car, it is easier to stay connected with my geographically challenged friends than ever. As much as I look forward to the new friends God puts in my path, I treasure the oldies but goodies, too. Occasionally when I feel lonely and wonder why I’m not beating new friend requests off with a stick, I think about the people I hold near and dear and the mutual respect and love we share. I must be doing something right to have these amazing people in my life.

As part of my Happiness Project I will devote the entire month of June to the quest for new friends.  So I have two months to devise a game plan. One resource I hope will generate multiple new ideas is my next audio book.  Looks like a fun listen!

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Daily Post | Why Can’t We Be Friends

en-Listed | Daily Post

ImageI think my fascination with lists started as a teenager when my parents would leave me home alone for a few hours and would write a list of (super easy) chores to complete before they returned.  Once I had conquered the list, I was free to talk on the phone, watch TV, raid the refrigerator.  As long as each item was done, no questions asked.  My love affair with lists continues to this day. Lists complete me.

Here is my Top 10 list of tips for getting things done:

  1. Make a list of the task at hand and the sub-tasks that go with it. This will help you find manageable chunks of smaller tasks and will also highlight where you may have dependencies on other people.  Get busy asking those people for what you need ASAP. Give them plenty of notice and ask nicely. Your emergency isn’t their emergency. Yada yada yada.
  2. Put yourself in jail. “I can’t leave this office until I create that pivot table.”  “I can’t lay down on this bed until I fold the clean laundry.”  “I can’t have a glass of wine until I hit my 10,000 steps on my Fitibit.”
  3. Do a mind map. Sometimes trying to write an orderly list is a barrier to getting started. You may need a less structured way to brain dump and find a path forward. If you haven’t done a mind map before, check this out. A great tool!
  4. Set a timer. Shut out all distractions and set a timer for 10 minutes. You are only allowed to work on the 1 project for that 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, decide whether or not to do another 10 minutes. You’d be surprised what you can get done in a short sprint. I’ve written this list (so far) in about 10 minutes!
  5. Get down and give me 20. Write down 20 things that will help you achieve your goal. Don’t give it too much thought just keep writing until you have 20 ideas. Getting to 20 is often a struggle. You will have to think outside the box to complete the list. Warning! Be on the lookout for breakthrough ideas.
  6. Imagine if. Tell yourself a story of how the world will look when this project/task is done to perfection. When I don’t know where to start or don’t have all the details I just close my eyes and imagine that future place when this seemingly impossible project or problem is finished and I’m accepting an award for my outstanding achievement. Who is there? What are they doing? What has changed?  What am I wearing? Writing myself a few paragraphs on what that imaginary place looks, tastes and smells like is both motivating and productive. Once I’ve glimpsed a better place, I have to get there!Image-Eat-a-frog
  7. Do the most unpleasant task first. It may be that this 1 painful thing is prohibiting you from getting started, so just get that 1 thing out of the way.
  8. Reward yourself. Sometimes hard work is its own reward and sometimes you need a fro-yo or a mani/pedi. Right-size your reward with the task and make them both happen.
  9. Outsource it. Is this really yours to do? Can you trust someone else to do it? Can you hire a service to do it?  Many people (guilty!) bury themselves in tasks because they can’t give up control. Maybe your husband can be trusted with your fine washables. Maybe someone else on the team would be willing to arrange that meeting. Maybe your son is old enough to write out his own birthday invitations. Maybe you can bring lunch for a month and hire a professional painter versus spending two weekends on a DIY project.
  10. Don’t do it. Will this matter in a year? What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Could this possible be a nice-to-have? Will this jeopardize another priority? Sometimes we are reluctant to start a task because we don’t see the value in doing it. Not doing it is always an option. Like the song says “Let it go.”

Daily Post | Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Who’s a Good Boy? | Daily Prompt

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Daily Prompt:  Make Me Smile

There are many things that make me smile.  Overall, I am a smiler!   Being greeted by these two faces when I walk in the door always lifts my mood.  I like to take my coat off, set my purse down and immediately lay down on the living room rug and let them kiss my face.  Sometimes I “fake” fight them off.  It is a great ritual and a fun transition from my work life to my home life.  My family isn’t bad either, but they don’t literally jump for joy when they see me.

 

 

 

Get to Work

successMore tips for success at the workplace.

This is part 2 of the behaviors I tracked for my month-long focus on work for my Happiness Project.

  1. Make a note of it. A senior executive once said to me, “You always do what you say you will do.” A big part of that is my inner rules follower and personal commitment to keep my word, but good intentions don’t always equate to remembering to do things. My secret to following through is simple, keep a small notebook with me and write things down. I am generous with my pages and don’t try to squeeze too much on each sheet. I use checkboxes to highlight items that require my action. It is amazingly effective and a top tip I tell new folks as they enter the workforce.  I’ve had many come back to me years later and say Thank You. I recently attempted to go all digital and lose the paper and pen. It didn’t work. I forgot things, I felt like I was slipping. Studies show that the act of physically writing imprints more information on your brain. If I really need something from my paper notebook in my digital files, I just take a picture of the page.  Problem solved.
  2. Build relationships. People matter. I take the time to get to know people, to serve them and not care if I get served in return.  I strive to be a good collaborator and to openly praise people and remind them of their strengths. The result has always been that people enjoy working with me. This has been key to my success.  But I have to work at it. Sometimes I may feel like avoiding an introductory meeting or a networking event, but I know these are good for me and feed my soul. So I go. aloveCase in point:  Recently a new employee set up a one on one meeting with me and we had a few hiccups in scheduling. I told her where I would be (in a remote office) and her back-to-back meet everyone on the project in one week schedule caused her to not be able to find me. We ended up starting late and talking on the phone versus talking in person. I was frustrated, but I took a deep breath and opened my heart and mind to this woman. I gave her my best wisdom on being successful at our company. Starting with not over-scheduling herself and guarding her calendar (and her time) like the precious non-renewable resource that it is. She shared that God was moving in her life bringing her to our city, this company, this project. I went out on a limb and asked her if she had found a local church. She had only been in town 2 weeks so she hadn’t. She attended my church that weekend and followed up with me that she loved it. We’ve bumped into each other several times and have formed a loving bond. This past week, we happened to be at a networking event with about 12 other ladies and as we all went around the table to introduce ourselves and share our experiences of women helping women, she praised me in front of everyone for being so kind to her in that initial meeting.  She said my advice had saved her life and that I was key to her success and sanity at work so far. She even shared that I had invited her to church! My heart sang. We don’t do good works for the praise, we never know when we will reap what we sow, but having this amazing woman speak from her heart about how I had made a difference in her life gave me encouragement to keep investing in people. I have now established a regular mentoring relationship with her and have a sister in Christ for life.
  3. Anticipate the next move. Using an overly simplified example, sometimes the answer to the question “Do you have the time?” is just plain “Yes.”  But those occasions are rare and more than likely will frustrate the asker. If you want to truly demonstrate that you add strategic value, you answer the first question and anticipate the next one, or prevent the next one.  “Yes, the time is 12:30. Here let me show you how you can find the time out for yourself going forward.” Or, “that is interesting that you are asking me the time, is there a fundamental issue that is keeping you from knowing the time that I can help you solve?”  Teach people to fish. Understand the problem behind the question. Save people steps. time_to_be_happyAnother concept I weave into this theme is to respond versus react. Using the same goofy time example, I could easily have an inner-dialogue along the lines of “why is he/she asking ME for the time? I’m not their time keeper, it isn’t my job to tell them the time. They could figure that out themselves, they are just lazy. They don’t value me to waste my time with stupid, tactical questions like this.” It is important to shut down that inner-critic and breathe. A more constructive dialogue would be: “I’m feeling a little annoyed they asked me this stupid question.  Let me put myself in their shoes and not over-react. They must be very out-of-sorts to ask me this. They must think I’m a safe person to ask. I’m going to leverage this opportunity to build our relationship and be helpful.”
  4. Master your business.  Study something new every day. keep-calm-and-study-on-poster_768x1147No matter what your business you can always know more about it. What do your competitors do? What are the industry best practices? Everyone is using that new buzzword.  I wonder what it really means? Use the internet to continue your education. Take a few minutes each day and research something online, you will be amazed what you can find. I do this to find cool Powerpoint slides all the time!
  5. Add to the resume. Keeping your resume updated is like exercising every day, easier said than done. Turning your many work achievements into the right bullet points to capture your audience is a daunting task. aaares One thing I’ve started doing is regularly reading job descriptions and grabbing key phrases. I store these on my computer and refer to them as my marching orders for getting my job done. Why yes, I am “comfortable in a fast-moving environment with rapid, incremental deliveries and direct customer feedback” and I excel at “driving cross-team partnerships to deliver impactful end-to-end scenarios.”  Knowing these are the qualities companies are looking for helps me squeeze more out of each work moment and improve my skills. I’m not just participating in another meeting, I’m driving cross-team partnerships! I’m not gearing up for yet another round of external complaints, I’m building on my ability to process and manage direct customer feedback. It’s all about perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy_and_successful@Work (part 1)

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This month as part of my Happiness Project, I’m focusing on improving my work life.

I have outlined 10 behaviors for workplace domination.  I am holding myself accountable by tracking specific actions against each of these in a daily journal. After 1 week, I already feel like I am upping my corporate game. As work is serious business, I’m going to go deep on each area and split this across 2 posts.

Here are my first 5 strategies for success at work:

1. Mentally and physically prepare. Who is kidding who here? I don’t bolt out of bed and dance around my bedroom in the morning overcome by the excitement of going to my corporate job each day. I have a high stress position and I’d rather be on a beach in the Bahamas or playing tennis in Palm Springs than going into the cubicle battlefield.  (and I totally get that vacations cost money)armor

Not to mention, some/many of the people I work with are not exactly in the running for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality.  I have to put on the full armor of God every day to be victorious in my workplace and be an ambassador for the Lord. I’ve developed a new morning routine that consists of 5 minutes of meditation, prayer, simple stretches and then listening to the Bible or an inspirational message on my drive into work. Also, I’m taking my vitamins and eating right. I can’t expect amazing output without amazing input. Garbage in, garbage out.

2. Dress for success. In the modern workplace, business casual has sunken to new lows. It is easy to fall into a trap of dressing for comfort instead of dressing like the future CEO.claire

I have a closet full of beautiful business clothes but have fallen into a rut of jeans, long wrap-around sweaters that could double as bathrobes and comfortable mom shoes. Just like I want to tell people who wear pajama pants to the grocery store I need to also tell myself, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”

I am officially stepping it up with dresses, jackets, beautiful blouses, slacks and skirts. Important people look important. To add to my pulled together look I’m flat ironing my new fierce hairdo versus letting it run wild and curly. I’m also spending an extra few minutes improving my make-up techniques (Pinterest is great for age-appropriate tips and tricks).  Claire Underwood is not my character role model, but she is my new style icon. Note to self:  buy some bigger specs, go even blonder as summer approaches, lose 20 pounds.

3. At the beginning of each week, write down 3-5 strategic goalsThe most successful person I know does this.  prio

It is easy to have your schedule slip away from you with meetings, hallway randomizations and emails.  My theory is that I am not being paid to answer emails, I’m being paid to deliver business value.

I set goals that move my business forward each week and track progress against them daily. This helps me prioritize and connect dots while I’m in meetings or answering those pesky emails. I am not saying don’t answer them, I’m saying learn how to answer the right ones first.  Anything that furthers my strategic goals should be top of mind and top of the priority list.

4. Embrace my inner executive.  This is my version of fake it until you make it. It is important to show up as a confident, knowledgeable person with a clear and insightful point of view.  Again, the company is paying for my expertise and capability. I may not know everything, but I can show up daily as a valuable contributor who is learning and growing.  Some of the ways I demonstrate these qualities include:  speaking up in meetings, asking strategic questions, not being afraid to disagree or offer an opposing argument and showing that I have a bold and strategic vision for our work.  Boardroom

My workplace mantra: “I am in tune with what is going on in the industry and the marketplace. I have valuable experience that I share willingly and warmly.  I am in a senior role and I have not only earned a seat at the table, I own the table.” 

5. Manage up and out.  My boss and my skip-level boss are nowhere near me 99% of the time.  Yet these two people decide my fate at the company. They need to be my biggest fans and I am the only one who can equip them with the data (results) that compel them to join and stay in my fan club.

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To create raving fans, I need to know and understand what my bosses and other key stakeholders value and expect out of my role and then find ways to blow their expectations out of the water.

If you are not getting to where you think you should be in your career, maybe it is because you are focusing too much energy on clearing the bar and not enough on inventing a new one.  Meeting expectations is never enough.  I need to demonstrate how my contributions and results are better than my leaders could have done themselves.  I know as a boss, how wonderful it is to have an employee bring me a piece of work that is much better than I could have done and that requires no re-work.  I talk up and reward those who I can trust to deliver these types of results.

Once I’ve exceeded the target, I look for opportunities to market these accomplishments with my leadership and make it simple for them to market them on my behalf.  I have yet to meet a boss who doesn’t want to share amazing results up the food chain.  It makes them look good.  It is easy to focus on activity versus achievement, always prioritize that which drives a specific and exceptional outcome versus that which just takes up time.