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Noodle on This: Laugh at Life

Noodle* on this…

Photo of small white dog with orange flower laugh at life

Even in the most difficult time we can find something to laugh about – like a dog with a flower.

Life is too important to be taken seriously. ~ Oscar Wilde

Synonyms for important include heavy, momentous, crucial, critical and urgent, just to list a few. So, shouldn’t we take life seriously?  It is not something to laugh at. It is profound. But, according to Oscar Wilde, life is important and yet it should not be taken seriously! What was he saying?

This statement is not necessarily a paradox as many scholars would have us believe. Rather, Mr. Wilde suggests the importance of comparison and contrast. You remember compare and contrast exercises from school don’t you?  At some time during your educational life, you wrote a required essay that compared and contrasted two things, such as apples and oranges. It is a basic exercise in developing critical thinking skills, which in turn, help us cope with life and solve problems.

How can we appreciate the seriousness of life, if we cannot appreciate the humor, joy, and beauty of it? Humor, laughter, joy and delight help us cope with the “hard stuff” of life. They help us stay sane in the midst of conflict and chaos. They help us put things in perspective. According to psychologist Gina Bancera, Ph.D,* “humor addresses the same issues as fear, not to dismiss them but to strengthen our ability to confront them and then laugh them away.… Laughter is an act of courage.”

Laugh at Life – An Example

Recently, I had what can best be described as a “life and death” discussion with my dear friend Emily. For hours afterwards, I replayed the discussion in my head and worried about it. Then, as I was getting ready for bed, I turned on some classical music as I do most nights. That night, it was a full orchestral version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, one of my favorite pieces. Rather than being played by a string quartet or a chamber orchestra as is traditional, it was played by the full London Orchestra, including tubas and trumpets. The first thing I noticed about this version was that the tubas were playing the bassline of the piece. I was delighted to hear them oompahing throughout the piece and I laughed as I listened to the music.

The laughter reduced my stress and helped me shift my thoughts to all the times, Emily and I had laughed together, sometimes over the most ridiculous things. I am still sad and I continue to wonder what life will be like without Emily. But the sadness is eased by the lovely, happy memories of the times we spent together.

Basically, I compared and contrasted Emily’s “life and death” news with her joy and laughter. I know now that no matter what happens, she will always live in my heart and when I think of here I will laugh, or at the very least, smile.

So when life is getting you down, don’t wallow in it, do the courageous thing. Laugh at it!

Your Noodle Challenge

Think about a difficult situation that is making your miserable or angry. Find one thing in it that you can laugh about. now, gather your courage and laugh about it!  Share your experience with us in the Comment section below

Riddle Me This…

Question: Why don’t dogs make good dancers?
Answer:  Because they have two left feet.

 

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brain-storm.

Credits

*Baarreca, Gina, “Laughing at the Scary Stuff: Humor and Fear,” Psychology Today, April 1, 2013, retrieved July 21, 2017

Photo credit: zicadbagui.tumblr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Weekly Noodle: August 19, 2015

Man jumping for joy by the ocean represents letting go of the past

Letting go of the past frees us to live in the present… and to experience joy.

Noodle* on This…
People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.
~ J. Michael Straczynski

When we hold on to the past, we have no room for the present or the future. When we hold on the past hurts, we re-live the pain. When we dwell on our past successes, there is no room for growth, adventure or even joy.

Accepting and letting go of our past is hard but essential to our well-being. We are the sum of our live experiences and when we can accept them, let go, we have the energy and ability to move on. The following Buddhist story illustrates the importance of letting go.

Two monks were walking to their monastery when they came to a deep river. A young woman sat weeping on the riverbank because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk refused to help her because members of their order were forbidden to touch women.

But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and she thanked him for his help. Then, she went one way and the monks continued on their journey in the opposite direction. As they walked, the younger monk continuously scolded the older monk for breaking his vows.

Finally, as they approached the monastery, the older monk said to his young companion, “I only carried her across the river. You have carried her all day.”

Letting go means taking responsibility for our lives by showing compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and those who hurt us. We cannot change the past, but we can have the “serenity to accept the things we cannot change.” We can stop reliving the pain of the past and use that energy to move forward with our lives, focusing on things that bring us growth, joy and peace.

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.
~Hermann Hesse

Do you have the strength to let go of the past? Share your experience of letting go with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of The Grief Recovery Kit.

Your Weekly Noodle: July 8, 2015

Noodle* on this…

gray tee shirt with got choice?

Yes, you have a choice! No matter how difficult the situation may be, you always get to choose how you will respond.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor Frankl

No matter where you live, what kind of work you do, your educational level or your financial situation, there is one thing that can never be taken away from you. It is your ability to choose your attitude about the situation you are experiencing. You get to choose how you will respond.

A Lesson on Choice
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist and Holocaust survivor. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau for nearly four years. He never knew, from moment to moment, if he would live to see another day. One day, alone and naked in a small room he became aware of what he later called “the last of human freedoms.” This was the one thing the Nazis could not take away – his power to choose how he would respond. His captors controlled his every movement every day; even so, they could not control his self-awareness. He decided how all the pain and deprivation would affect him. Rather than reacting, rebelling or giving up, Frankl responded to the horrors of life in the camps by relying on what he called his “inner hold” – his beliefs, one of which was being able to cope with the challenges of the moment while looking to the future.

Photo of Viktor E. Frankl, Author, Psychologist, Neurologist, Holocaust Survivor, who wrote about the power of choice in well-being

Viktor E. Frankl

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning (1959), he wrote: “Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes); I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to our work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life… I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think of only such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method, I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment.”

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  ~ Viktor Frankl

No matter what challenges we face in life, we always have the ability to choose how we will respond in any situation. We can choose to respond in a way that supports our well-being, growth and freedom. Or, we can react, allowing ourselves to be influenced by our surroundings, people, and feelings.

Think about a difficult situation you are facing. What choice will you make to improve your well-being in that situation? Share your experience or thoughts with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of The FWCH Store.

Compassion at Work

Compassion at work showing a man comforting a distrees man compassion is part of well-being Many people are confused by or uncomfortable with the concept of compassion in the workplace. With the growing emphasis on metrics, efficiency and productivity, work is becoming more impersonal. Employees think they must leave their emotions and personal problems at home. Even if you successfully “leave your personal problems at the door,” the emotions related to those problems will affect your work. In addition, problems at work occur on an almost daily basis and those problems generate emotions. So, when you are in emotional or physical pain, co-workers may be uncertain about how to respond. Do they ignore the pain or do they show compassion and if so how much and what should they do?

Defining Compassion
Compassion on the job is both proper and powerful. In a series of studies, Professor Jane Dutton and her associates at the University of Michigan found that compassion has a positive impact in the workplace. It affects attitudes, work meaning and behavior. According to Dutton, when people experience compassion at work – whether they show compassion, receive it from a co-worker or simply see it – these compassionate acts increase job satisfaction, reduce stress, and increase employees’ sense of well-being.(1)  If you are still not comfortable with the idea of compassion in the workplace, think of it as kindness or caring, which are synonyms for compassion.Compassion and kindness are part of the upward positive cycle of well-being. Compassion leads to more compassion.

Compassion means different things to different people. For our purpose, we will use the definition in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Unlike empathy, which is the ability to understand another person’s experience or emotions, compassion is broader and more proactive. An act of compassion may be as simple as listening to a co-worker without giving advice, taking a break together or sending an email to cheer up a co-worker. Or, compassion may mean helping a team-mate solve a problem or complete a task. It means giving another person the help they want and are willing to accept. Part of compassion is being will to accept “no” to your offer of help.

We are Hardwired for Compassion
Right, now you are thinking, “People may see me as weak if I show compassion.”  We have centuries of philosophical writings that support this notion. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) wrote, “Sympathy as a good-natured emotion is always blind and weak.” Later, Ayn Rand wrote “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”  We grew up hearing these and similar messages.

Contrary to these ideas, science has proven that we are hardwired for compassion. Recent research in psychology and physiology has discovered that our brains and bodies respond automatically to people in need. But, like other body systems, we must exercise to fully develop our capacity. When we see or feel physical or emotional pain the anterior cingulate cortex in the front areas of your brain is activated along with the amygdala deep inside the brain, which is the fight or flight area of the brain. In addition, the nurturing area of the brain – the periaqueductal gray area in the center of the brain is also triggered. When our brain realized that the body is not threatened, the nurturing area takes over.

The vagus nerve, which is part of the body’s autonomic nervous system, responds to seeing or feeling pain. Showing compassion stimulates this nerve, reducing heart rate, improving digestion, and strengthening the immune system. (2) Finally, the pituitary gland releases oxytocin.  More commonly known as the “love drug” it produces oxytocin, which strengthens social recognition, connectedness and helping behavior. Like other body systems, these compassion components must be trained and exercised regularly if they are to work properly and support our well-being.

Consider this…
In ancient China, Confucius (551 – 479 BC) wrote, Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men. These three are your greatest treasures. Approximately 100 years later and half a world away, the Greek philosopher Plato (427 – 347 BC) said, Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. These two wise men speaking to us from the ancient past summarize the reason and requirements for compassion in the workplace.

Everyone at work is “fighting a hard battle” to do their jobs while maintaining their well-being. You need wisdom, compassion and courage to do this. Identify a co-worker who seems to be “fighting a bard battle” at this time. What can you do to show compassion for that person? Next: Practical Compassion

References

  1. Dutton, J.E., & Workman, K.M. (2012). “Compassion as a Generative Force” Journal of Management Inquiry, 20, 401-406. http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/janedut/Compassion/Journal%20of%20Management%20Inquiry-2011-Dutton-1056492611421077.pdf
  2. Keltner, Dachter, “The Compassionate Species,” The Greater Good Science Center,University of California Berkley, July 31, 2012, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_compassionate_species

Meet Michael D. Curtin: Photographer Extraordinaire

Mary, Michael, and Drew on the Mississippi River

I never personally met Michael Curtin, photographer extraordinaire. But I feel like I know him through our wonderful mutual friends Mary and Drew and through his amazing photography, which you can see at www.strikingimagery.com.

What I know about Michael is that he lived in Michigan, loved the Detroit Lions ; worked in information technology; and was interested in solar eclipses, which is how he met Mary and Drew. They met on a solar eclipse/sightseeing tour to Egypt. Mary shared some of Michael’s photos of Egypt with me. Over the years, Mary and Drew have kept me posted on their adventures with Michael. He loved to travel, even if there was no solar eclipse, and he took extraordinary photos.

Bent by Michael D. Curtin (Egypt)

Bent by Michael D. Curtin (Egypt)

Last week, Michael passed away after a nearly 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. From Mary and Drew, I know that he left this life on his own terms traveling to places like Australia and Ireland as well as deciding when to end his chemotherapy. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and those of us who love his photography.

Please take a few moments to browse his website and take a look at his beautiful work.

February 19, 2015

Your Weekly Noodle: December 31, 2014

Noodle* on this…Tile wall with message
Thank you, Life, for all my experiences this year. I am so grateful for all I have seen, done and learned. ~ Louise Hay
Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~ Hal Borland
Every day life presents us with new experiences, new challenges and learning opportunities. My friend Ernest  is a social worker and is fond of saying, “There is no such thing as a bad experience if you learn from it.” What experience did you have in 2014, either bad or good and what did you learn from it that you can carry into 2015 as wisdom?
Three weesk ago, I learned that trying to move a refrigerator just two inches by myself is not a wise idea. I’m still paying the price for that experience and you can be sure I will never so that again.
Share a lesson learned or wisdom you earned in 2014 with us in the Comment section
below.
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.
Image courtesy of Auntie P.

Your Weekly Noodle: December 17, 2014

Man using the word growth to improve his work

What steps will you take to grow on the job?

Noodle* on this…

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.  ~ Benjamin Franklin

At work, personal growth is essential to your well-being and growth requires learning. Identify something about your work, your team, or you organization that you want to learn this week. What steps will you take to learn it? 

Share you learning experience in the Comments field below.

Read more about learning at work.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of Arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apply Your Values – “Walk the Talk”

Your well0being at work is more than just your job tritle or  list of titles. It is about how you live your values.

Note: This is the last of three articles the role your values play in your well-being at work. To refresh your memory, click on the links below:

  1. Your Values
  2. Identify Your Values 

Values are meaningless if you do not apply them in your daily life. Not only do your “actions speak louder than words,” when it comes to values; you also add unnecessary stress to your work day if you do not act according to your values. Enhancing your well-being requires that you “walk the talk”, that you find specific ways you can apply your values every day. Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis, MN identified and defined four values that guide its operations – dignity, integrity, service, compassion.  These values are not just “marketing” tools, the organization developed lists of example “high anchor” and “low anchor” behaviors to help employees apply the principles to their work. In fact, as part of the annual performance review process, employees are evaluated on how well they apply the Fairview values in their daily work and managers identify areas for improvement necessary. For example:

  • Value: Compassion
  • Definition: We recognize and respond to the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of all the people we serve. We create a caring environment, conducive to healing, growth and well-being for all.
  • Low Anchor Behavior: Fails to consider the wishes, feelings, needs, limitations or circumstances of others.
  • High Anchor Behavior: Is receptive to the needs of others

Apply Your Values to Your Well-being

  1. For each of your top three values, list the aspect(s) you’re your well-being the value best supports. You may want to review the exercise in Identify your Values.
  2. Then, list two or three ways you can apply each value in your work. Think in context of high anchor behaviors.
  3. Select one or two values to work on using the High Anchor Behaviors and add daily or weekly reminders to your calendar or electronic device to work on your values.

Consider this… 

Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.” ~ Paul Wellstone

Are you walking the talk – living your values at work?

Meet Krishna M. Jackson, Fellow Writer and Navy Veteran

Krishna M. Jackson (Photo “shamelessly borrowed” from www.talkaboutveterans.com)

Krishna retired from the Navy in 2013, after 20 years of service as a Mass Communication Specialist. However, do not think that fancy title meant she had an easy ride. In Talk About Veterans: Life as a Veteran From A to Z, she writes: “In 1998 I went through SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) School and deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as a videographer where I experienced some of the most incredible and disturbing events of my life.” (I cannot imagine doing SERE School or going into a war zone! My idea of “roughing it” is a hotel with no room service. Krishna gets big points for character and courage.)

I had the privilege of meeting Krishna today (May 14, 2014), and I was impressed by her courage and strength, determination and commitment. And, after reading her blog, I can tell you that she is an excellent writer – touching, insightful and amusing.  She candidly documents her journey from military to civilian life in her blogs, allowing us to get a glimpse of what it is like both in and out of uniform. In her May 7,2014 post, What’s in a Name? Talk About Veterans, she addresses the differences in a powerful and compassionate way:

“…I better write about things I am experiencing that many veterans can relate to and will help civilians understand us because we aren’t as different as we’re painted to be by the media and others. Almost everyone has experienced some level of suffering in their lives and the response to these hardships, whether in war or at home, is similar.”

Please take a few moments to read her May 7th post, as well as all her other posts. You will be moved, entertains and enlightened.

Krishna, thank you for your service and for sharing your experiences and insights with us.  I’m looking forward to reading your book.

Happy Writing,

Diane C. ;o)
Your Humble Scribe

 

Are we talking about the same thing?

 

A young man was walking along the street in New York City. He was carrying a cello. He stopped a woman and asked: “How do I get to Carneige Hall?” The woman answered: “Practice, practice, practice.” OK, it is a very old joke. But like many old jokes, it reflects real life. The young man was looking for instructions, but what he got was advice.

It happens to everyone at one time or another. Even soul mates, good buddies, and best friends forever, have times when they think they are talking about the same thing but find themselves confused or unable to reach an agreement.

Each person with whom we come in contact has their own unique perspective on the world. That perspective or point of view is filtered by that person’s life experiences. Even identical twins look at the world from different perspectives. Finding out what other people really think about a situation is essential for effective communication, including planning and problem solving.

Organizational development consultants talk about the need for “shared assumptions” in a workgroup and process improvement facilitators refer to” operational definition.” Regardless of what various professions may call it, effective communication is about have a common ground, a shared understanding of what is being discussed.

History Lesson: 1999 – NASA’s Mars Polar Orbiter
What happens when people involved in a relationship, a work project or some other event do not have a shared understanding about what is being worked on or discussed? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found out the hard way:

In September, 1999, NASA’s Mars Polar Orbiter burned up on impact with the thin Martian atmosphere because two navigation teams and their computers had confused English and metric units. At a cost of $125 million and after flying more than 415 million miles over nine months, the spacecraft was about to enter its first orbit around the planet when it accidentally flew too low toward Mars.

Lockheed Martin engineers in Colorado, who built the spacecraft, sent the orbiter’s final course and velocity to Pasadena, CA using the English measure of pounds per second of force. However, the spacecraft’s navigation team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Control in California used the metric term newtons, or grams per second of force, to send final course and velocity commands to the spacecraft.

After the orbiter’s destruction, it was discovered that the correct units of measure were not specifically stated in any of the contracts, blueprints, other project planning documents or meeting minutes.

Practical Application
How do we apply the lesson of NASA’s lack of shared assumptions? When involved in a discussion that seems to be going nowhere or where tempers are flaring, remember the wisdom of Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe, “Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.” So, stop and ask the following questions

  • Do we all have the same assumptions about the situation?
  • Do the words or concepts we are using have the same meaning for each person involved?
  • How can we clarify meaning and assumptions to create common ground for discussion or problem resolution?

When working together to establish common ground, remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Even the “facts” of a situation depend on each person’s knowledge and experience. When asking questions, ask about facts, the how and why of the situation, the person’s opinion of the situation and ask open ended questions rather that yes/no questions. Don’t let your relationships “burn up” due the lack of common ground.

 References
Perlman, D., “Simple Error Doomed Mars Polar Orbiter,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 1999. http://articles.sfgate.com/1999-10-01/news/17701903_1_mars-polar-lander-martian-atmosphere-mars-pathfinder