Archive for June, 2007

Happiness Gets a Bad Rap….

June 24, 2007

The Globe and Mail published a whole section this weekend devoted to the pursuit of happiness. Leah Mclaren, self-described pessimist, wrote the cover story which investigated the downside of up. Leave it to the pessimists to find a downside to up!@!

 (Photo courtesy of Flickr. See here for more)

Albeit there was a bit of balance – but the article ultimately gave happiness a pretty bad rap.

That made me unhappy.

Here’s the thing (or two or three…I need to rant a bit here).

I think her ‘investigation’ into the world of positive psychology and the concept of ‘happy’ resulted in an oversimplified and candy-coated version of what it means to pursue happiness.

She painted Martin Seligman (the founder and key contributor of/to positive psychology) and others in this field as over-excited self-help junkies……and lumped the concept of happiness into some ideal. She (and many whom she quoted) made it sound as if…..happiness equates with constant cheerfulness; constant wonderful moods…and  inferred that to be happy means putting your head in the sand, ignoring and denying the hurts, pains and perils in this world and in our lives (as in “don’t worry – just be happy”).

ARgggghh. Yuck. Blech. Puke. Puleeeeze!!!!

That version of happiness sounds a little Stepford don’t you think? PollyAnna?

Come on Leah! Dig a little deeper here.

Happiness (and positive psychology) really deserves a little more respect.

Pursuing happiness in one’s life is not about trying to be in constant joy per se. It’s more about creating meaning in our life experiences. The challenge so many of us face is that we miss out on so much because we’re constantly in angst. We’re running, worrying, stressing our days away. The positive psychology movement (in which coaching plays a big part), helps us to navigate our lives better and find/create more meaning and joy where it makes sense. It’s not about superficial joy all the time…it’s about gratification, meaning and actualization. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to be happy. And it’s a coachable. And worth underscoring: It’s not about ALWAYS being happy. It’s about the right BALANCE and PERSPECTIVE.

Traditional pyschology was always about ‘fixing what’s wrong’. Healing those that needed healing. What about the rest of us? What about those who can give more of themselves and experience more in their life…but might need a little help in figuring out how to do that??

Worth repeating: Positive psychology (and coaching) is more about ACTUALIZING than healing. Pursuing happiness has much much more substance than simply pursuing a permanent good mood.  

A good life isn’t about an easy life with no bumps or challenges. But it is about a life well lived. Our lives happen. We can either experience them with a whole lot of stress, angst….or we can find ways to navigate our challenges, stress and bumps in the road……and create life experience with a little (or a lot)  more joy and fulfillment and ease (as in less ‘static’).

Sounds narcisstic? Think again. Happiness (in its more meaningful definition) often leads to more contribution. That’s right. When one feels they are living their ‘good life’ ….i.e. at peace, actualized, satisified with who they are and their life experience – they can give more back.

One of my coaching clients who had come a long way in finding her ‘good life’ said to me upon completion of our work together: “I have so much more to give of myself now….I am happier. Before, I had so little to give.” She found her version of meaning and happiness and immediately translated that into giving back to her family, friends and community. Her less-than-happy (actualized, fullfilled) self had much less to give. Now she had more. And she gave more back.

Hmmm. Perhaps there’s a philanthropic edge to happiness to be explored (Leah? a future article perhaps?).

Happiness takes work and is dynamic: I also think happiness is not a static, forever kind of condition that one receives…..i.e. I’m happy. Fait accomplit. Happiness is dynamic, fluid and takes work. You create your happiness (your state of mind)…..moment by moment.

It’s not about self analysis till paralyis. It’ s about living reflectively and taking responsibility for your thinking, actions…….and life experience.

Being happy is not about being self-centred and superficial. You can and should feel pain when life’s moments call for it. But being a happy, actualized, fulfilfled person — allows you to feel more compassion, empathy for others – and for yourself.

I have to share that I experience my own load of angst, worry, stress, etc. But I also practice heavily what I preach and am the better for it. Moment by moment, day by day….my life journey is about actualizing, experiencing more joy, navigating tough spots more gracefully….and being there for others because I can and want to.

Anyways….I’ve probably ranted enough for now. If you’ve come this far in this post, would LOVE to hear your thoughts, questions, ideas….

I must confess….I was pissed off reading that article but now I feel good, self expressed and happier that I wrote this post.

To a TGIM worklife….to being real….and to being happy!


How linked is passion to work-life success?

June 18, 2007

How linked is passion to work-life success? Well if you ask this year’s recipients in both the 20 under 20 and the 40 under 40 – award programs you’ll likely hear a whole heck of a lot. Passion and success go hand in hand.

Don’t take my word for it. Here are a few quotables to consider: 

Akela Peoples, founder and president of Youth in Motion, the non-profit organization that runs the ’20 under 20′ awards program, said the recipients are all cut from the same cloth. She was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying: “The commonality is that they’ve all latched on to a passion. ….We’re trying to help young people understand that there’s a strong connection between doing work you love and being happy and successful in life. We all know it isn’t just the A students who go on to be successful.”

(Well said Akela! I especially love that last phrase….do I hear a plug for emotional intelligence at work here?!)

Vivek Rao, a heart surgeon and recipient of the 40 under 40 awards program was quoted in the Globe as saying: “No amount of praise, or money, or obligation will get you out of bed in the morning. You’ve got to loe what you do.”

Each of the recipients made tremendous contributions in various ways in different fields. Not only did they enjoy their work but they made a difference. So passion isn’t just about self-fulfilmment. It’s also related to contribution. Making a difference.

Hmmm. Passion, success, contribution….gets ya thinking, huh?

Qs for thought:

  1. What of your gifts, skills, talents are you bringing to work – how does that add to the ‘passion factor’? How about the contribution factor? (hint: not sure you see the connection…..ready my past posts on signature strengths)?
  2. Is it ever to late to find your passion and find ways to bring more of it to work and life? (NO – IT’S NEVER TOO LATE! sorry….not so much as a hint as a HOLLAR:)
  3. What is it to love what you do even if it isn’t necessarily the ‘perfect’ job — and does it have to be perfect for you to be engaged, successful – and make a difference?

 I invite you to read about this year’s winners – there stories are very inspiring. See Top 20 Under 20 and Top 40 Under 40

As always, would love to hear from you….stories, comments, questions. Bring them on!

And have yourself a TGIM week….by creating it!


Is Your Work a Job, Career or Calling?

June 7, 2007

On Tuesday, a CIBC bank teller launched a $600 million class-action lawsuit against her employer. The issue: unpaid overtime.

This has generated news stories in almost every part of newsmaking – frontpage news; career sections, business and life. Everyone is talking about it and lawyers and consultants are saying this is just the tip of the iceberg.

My days of ‘clock-punching’ were mainly when I worked part-time in my teen and early adult years. I worked at McDonalds, Sports Expert – and other places — and used the $ to fund my education. Back then my work was just a “job”. I got paid for the time I put in. Later, when my work was more of a career (vs. just a job) I thought of my time spent as a chance to grow, learn and contribute. I felt good about my work (most times). It was a place for me to self actualize. I routinely worked ‘overtime’ but it didn’t feel like that. It was simply what you did to grow yourself and do the job well.

These days, my work is both a mix of ‘career’ and sometimes feels a bit like of a “calling” too. It’s intrinsically connected to who I am (my core values, strengths, etc.). I feel authentic in my work and passionate about (most of) it. Still, I get paid for my work and in many cases it’s based on an hourly rate. Would my clients expect me to give away my time for free? Not really. That said, I often put in extra hours because sometimes it’s what I need to do. I’m engaged…and care deeply about the quality of my work and my relationships with my clients.

How about You? What does your work mean to you and how to you consider your ‘time spent’ in it? Here are some questions for folks out there reflecting on this issue of ‘unpaid overtime’:

  1. Is your work a job, career or calling?
  2. Where does it fit within the context of your life? Simply a way to earn $ — or is it a path to work-life fulfillment and a means of expressing your gifts/talents in the world?
  3. How important is contribution to you and does your work allow you to honour that value or impede it?
  4. Where are the boundaries in terms of how much ‘overtime’ is okay and how much is not?

 There’s no judgment at all to how you answered these questions. Simply notice that work means different things to different people. I respect that. But when it comes to ‘overtime’ I think your responses to these and other related questions might shed some meaningful light with respect to how you feel about your time at work.

 I’ll leave it at that for now as you as you consider what this means in the context of your TGIM worklife. As always – would love to hear from you.

To a TGIM worklife!


Hey – Bugger off My Lunch! Err…in the News Again

June 4, 2007

What do you do when  a co-worker steals (ahem….I mean: ‘perhaps accidentally takes your lunch’:) from the fridge at work? Rant’n’rave? Send a nasty email? Something else?

Well, see today’s Globe and Mail, Life Section. Profiled today in the “Weekly Look at Work Culture” by Craig Silverman. Craig called me for some comments on how to handle this and other work-related sticky situations. A few of my tips were included in the piece. Check it out: buy a copy or see the online version.

Oh and you’ll enjoy a peek at the blog source that the Globe referenced: see “passiveaggressivenotes

A few more tips that didn’t make it into the edit (the final article):  

  1. Pause before you send that nasty email. An email sent from emotion can stir more trouble than you want. Write if you must – but hold it till you calm down. Re-read and re-write if necessary (or get someone else to advise/help/etc.)
  2. Ask yourself: Is this the best way to handle the situation. What else can I do? What’s the most professional way of communicating?
  3. Am I the best one to send the message? Is there someone else who can have a better impact (e.g. HR; office manager, etc?)
  4. How do I want to show up in this situation? Take the higher road and model respect and professional conduct – or dive right into the food fight?!?

Well ‘nuf said for now….I have to go check my fridge to see if my lunch is still there:)

May your lunch be safe and all yours on this fine TGIMworklife Monday!

P.S. see “In the News” – for other media articles that I’ve been in.