Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to reality?

I like to think of myself as a genuinely positive person. I also love sleeping late.

These two facts came in conflict for me this morning, as I know from Facebook they did for most of my friends and colleagues. Whether coming off a 3-day weekend (as I am) or a 10-day school break, this morning was the first day back to “reality” for many of us.

Thinking about this morning, two things came to mind: first, my whole life is my “reality,” not just those hours spent in my office – and not just those hours spent at home with my family. And second, I can choose how I approach my life, choosing my attitude – positive, exasperated, frustrated – rather than letting it choose me.

If I’m to have a fulfilled life, I must be fully present, fully engaged, and fully positive (not Pollyanna-ish, but approach life with a positive attitude) about all components of my life. On the recommendation of a friend and colleague, I recently read Fish by Lundin, Paul, and Christensen. The book is a parable, based on the Seattle Fish Market. I did find it a little hokey at times, but I liked the core message of placing responsibility on each individual for creating the environment he wants to work in.

Fish identifies four core concepts for creating a positive work environment:

  • Choose your attitude
  • Play
  • Make their day
  • Be present

Each of these could be their own blog post, exploring how these concepts play out in our own individual work environments – or how they could! – but right now I just want to look at the first and last, choosing your attitude and being present.

Choose your attitude. See two Facebook postings from late Sunday night:

  • Ugh...I have not worked a 5 day week in over a month. I am not ready for tomorrow :-( Maybe the storm predicting for this Friday will bring another blizzard!
  • Instead of looking at it like crap I gotta go back to work I'm going to try to look at it like I'm glad I have a job and glad I have a job where I get time off on holidays (well most) and get to spend that time with two awesome kids.

I am guessing one of these two people was able to get going this morning much easier!

In Fish, one of the characters challenges this concept:

‘“Suppose I’m driving my car and some idiot cuts me off in traffic. That causes me to get upset and I may honk or even make a gesture, if you know what I mean. What’s with the choice thing? I didn’t do it; it was done to me. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Let me ask you something, Steve. If you were in a tough part of town, would you have used that gesture?”

Steve smiled. “No way! You can get hurt doing that.”

“So you can choose your response in a tough part of town, but you have no choice in the suburbs?”’

We often think we have no choices – or limit what we see as our choices – because our situation is influenced by the actions of others. But what we control is our behavior, our attitude, our responses. Do you give a gesture to Monday morning or do you come in with a positive attitude?

Be present. This concept shows up in basically every life or management coaching guide I’ve ever seen. Be present tells us to focus on where you are right now and who you’re with right now. How many times have you been frustrated by a conversation where the other person jumps in with an answer before you’ve even finished the question? How about being on a call where the other person takes just a little too long to answer, or seems so distracted you just know their attention is divided.

Twice last month I got called out for not being as present as possible. This was a hard pill to swallow, because I’ve focused on being present for many years and seen the great response I get from everyone. I started to feel defensive (everyone checks email during conference calls! Of course I’m paying attention to my kids, I’m just also checking my facebook!) but what good was that actually going to do? I realize I had put “being present” onto autopilot a little too much. I spent the weekend really, fully engaging with the people around me – friends, kids, family, all got my full attention when I was with them. It meant less multitasking, and I was probably slower at responding to emails than usual, but I also got to watch my daughter’s eyes light up when she figured out how to get a puzzle piece into the right spot. Now, back at work, I am going to be conscious of being present, focusing fully on the person I’m speaking with or the project I’m working on.

Was it hard to wake up at 6 am this morning? Yes, it was tempting to roll over and go back to sleep. But I decided that this week will be the beginning of a refreshed focus on being positive and being present. And so far, so good!

1 comment:

  1. yeah! glad you liked the book. now you have to read the other 3 in the series!