Why a Garden is Your Self-Care Champion

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Photo by Veronica Reverse on Unsplash

The previous owner of my home — “the gardener” as I call her — clearly possessed a passion for the art of the plant. At every phase of the growing season, there are at least two specimens in bloom. The choreography begins early in spring with rows of fuchsia-hued bleeding hearts and extends into the fall with numerous Rose of Sharon trees and sedum plants. I suspect that some of the plantings are quite old (the house was built in 1948), yet many seem to be recent additions. When we first stood in its muddy, quiet wake 4 years ago, something told us that there was a beautiful story about to unfold and it did not disappoint us.

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One of the first springtime arrivals.

If you’ve personally spent time in a garden, you may know of its power to calm you. You may have also noticed that it doesn’t take long for something peculiar to happen. As you dig — or sit or simply admire the blooms — your mind begins to shift and your muscles begin to relax.

With self care emerging as the antidote to our congested lives, horticulture arrives as a super-hero to save us.

At The Verge, author Lewis Gorden shares the burgeoning field of video games attempting to capture the magic of gardening. Personally, I’m not surprised. When it comes to resetting our minds, no place on earth beats the vibe of a tranquil green space. But, not all of us have a garden handy. As luck would have it, you can now visit them virtually. One lovely option, Rosa’s Garden allows you to immerse yourself in the calming sights and sounds of a garden.

“Rosa’s Garden is a calm and poetic flower game about gardening with roses. Dig little holes in the ground, find seeds, plant them and watch how slowly a rose grows. ” – charlottemadelon.com

In a world where we are bombarded with memes and messages, finding a place of refuge to turn down the volume and slow things down is vital. Nature, of course, is a healer which can affect mind, body and soul. Why and how this happens has been the focus of research for years. The essence of this dynamic seems to rest with how our brains process stimuli. This phenomenon was addressed by one of the founders of psychology William James. As discussed in this Atlantic article, James felt that there were two kinds of attention: directed and involuntary. Direct attention required us to focus (even reading this post requites this)  — involuntary attention is passive. The stimuli can be absorbed with little minimal effort.

The multi-layered experience of a garden, is one that is simply absorbed.

So, plant a flower or two in your own dirt or find a local garden near you. Grab someone to take along to share the experience. Be sure to sit for a time, to ensure that you notice the birds and the breeze.

Or simply download Rosa’s Garden.

The choice is yours.

More on the psychology of gardening here:

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics — it is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

What You Need to Know About Yourself to Help You With Change

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The wind of change, whatever it is, blows most freely through an open mind. — Katharine Whitehorn

I’ve been told more than once that I’m not an ideal role model concerning change. (To be candid the characterization is absolutely correct.) I tend to balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t ever come to pass. Then adjusting my course will not be necessary. Honestly, this can be a problem.

As you may have read in this post, I’ve been known struggle with even the smallest of changes, muddling along until the “new normal” finally appears. Until that moment, I feel somewhat annoyed and completely out of sync. For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to delay a change until I can carefully consider every aspect of the situation. Unfortunately, holding time at bay isn’t always an option.

All things aside, I firmly acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. Yet, knowing ourselves is likely the very first place to look when building these muscles. We all have a leading predisposition when faced with change, which likely represents our collected experiences and given temperament. Of course, this will influence our orientation and initial reaction to change, as well.

This is where things get tricky. (If you manage others, reflect on what this may mean for your team.) We need understand and accept our own tendencies and recognize how this may affect our response.

As a professional who advocates for needed change — here are a few of the predispositions which I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and a measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled need to gather information is the leading response for this group — as examining the issue from all angles often helps them move forward. Unfortunately, a leading by-product is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I pine at the start.)
  • Supporters or Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not be the primary driver of that change, yet are happy to see the possibilities and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors that negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept some kind of change. (I would add there is a mild level of complacency operating here). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change eventually is perceived as negative.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After drafting these, I searched for other frameworks that capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

Your Network Isn’t Working For You. Here’s What to Do About It.

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Recently, I’ve been writing (and revising) my work life manifesto — which attempts to distill my thoughts and guiding principles concerning how I approach work life. (More on this later.) One key principle, which survives every cut — addresses the notion that the people that surround and support us. Whether these individuals share our physical work environment or are connected virtually, doesn’t matter. It is the contribution to work life progress that is the criterion.

The Ugly Side of Networks
We’ve all heard the advice that we require a broad network. That we should build one — and faithfully utilize one. However, what if you realize that you indeed have a network, but it is not helping you move forward? (At least not in the manner that would be meaningful to your work or work life, in this very moment.) What if that network is not supplying what you need to stay strong, to stay focused and motivated?

The difference likely lies in the notion of a network vs. a community.

You see a network isn’t a community. It’s a Rolodex.

You may need to re-visit that network, tear it down and rebuild a community in which you might thrive.

There are elements that might alert you to a need for some quick changes. More specifically — that you need to bring elements of community to your network.
Here are a just few:

  • You aren’t discussing ideas — at least not in a way that matters. Remember that your community should provide resources to help you actually digest your ideas and sort out how they can develop. If that this is missing, make no mistake, you are losing.
  • Interactions are less than reciprocal. Social media makes connecting very, very easy — but there is a downside. Connections do not equal forward progress. If you’ve discovered that most of your network is happy to use your time and support, but haven’t really returned in kind, it’s time for an audit. (Beware of Remora fish.)
  • You no longer believe in them. If you have “lost that loving feeling” and no longer want to share someone’s message (you detect insincerity or purely self-serving goals), consider a replacement. If you are longer invested in their “brand”, lose them. You’ll likely not trust their opinions.
  • They no longer believe in you. This is the real deal-breaker. It is imperative that you surround yourself with those that feel you have something to offer. (Please don’t confuse this with honest critiques). If you sense this is a core issue, shuffle them out of your line-up.

Anything else to add? How have you built a strong community to support your work life?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

 

Want To Be More Creative? Here’s a Plan That Really Works

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Photo by tanialee gonzalez on Unsplash

“It is my belief, you see, that thinking is a double phenomenon like breathing.” – Asimov

If you have watched the classic television series House, you’ll find that every medical mystery is solved in the most unusual of moments. Without fail, House’s uncanny ability to problem solve kicks in while he sits in the hospital cafeteria, is mid-sentence while talking to a team member or when he doesn’t outwardly appear to be focusing on the problem on deck.

It is very intriguing to watch.

But, we shouldn’t be surprised as to why this happens.

You see, our brains function in curious ways.

Your Brain Revealed
In the classic essay The Eureka Phenomena  (1971), Issac Asimov explores why these moments of inspiration occur when we least expect them. Asimov’s theory is quite simple, posing the notion that thought includes both voluntary and involuntary components. Moreover, opportunities for both types of thought must be present to become highly effective. Essentially, we can be thinking about one thing on the surface, yet ruminating on another topic below — the involuntary part of the equation.

The Eureka Phenomena sheds an interesting light on how we might become more effective in the workplace. As we all have experienced, if you are focusing too long and too intently on one topic or issue, you can be unsuccessful. Asimov would say that involuntary thought was not allowed to flourish and that contributed to the failure.

He recollects that when he was in the midst of a problem he could not solve, he shifted his focus and “shuffled” off to the movies. This action ultimately, allowed him to work through his challenge. He also tells the story of Archimedes — and how a visit to the public baths helped him to discover the concept of volume.

Of course, you may find that taking a walk or baking does the trick, but the process is of no less importance. You must give your brain the “down time” it needs to succeed.

Office Life and Involuntary Thought
There are millions of individuals who have the responsibility to process information concerning people, places and things for a living. Many attempt to accomplish this in an office environment. Of course, working in a traditional office does have merit. There are opportunities for collaboration and serendipity — yet obstacles to productivity abound. As discussed by Jason Fried in his classic Ted Talk, many aspects of office life (such as interruptions), can prove to be huge offenders, curtailing deep, meaningful thought.

During the course of a typical office work day, an individual may complete a multitude of activities and appear outwardly productive. However their brain power may not be maximized, as there are few opportunities to rest, reflect and digest information.

The Eureka Phenomena Applied
You must remember that while thought doesn’t require physical output, your brain is still hard at work. So, while you may not perceive that you are fatigued, your brain may actually be exhausted. As studies have shown, allowing the brain time to rest is critical. In this way, the brain finds the fuel it needs, so that energy can be funneled to the involuntary mechanisms that promote deeper thought. If we can learn anything from Asimov — it is that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective. It must be respected and nurtured.

Be mindful to offer your mind a bit of rest and identify those activities which help your brain relax and build them into your day.

Ultimately — don’t feel guilty if you feel the need to “shuffle off” to the movies. Your brain will thank you.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Need a Gift for Someone at Work? We’ve Got a Few Classic Ideas

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It is nearly the season of indecision, in a year of tumultuous adjustments. You may be wondering — would an office gift be inappropriate this year? Well, we’ve tossed this around and here is what we came up with: If your heart is in, do it.

Celebrating the people in your work life that matter is never wrong. In fact, we can’t help but wonder if a thoughtful gift has more meaning than ever before.

How often have you thought of someone you would like to thank, yet you never mustered the motivation to follow through and find the right gift? This may be the right time to finally offer that heartfelt thank you, in a year where we’ve really needed to depend on each other for guidance and support.

We’ve been thinking about all of this decided to go a bit retro. We’ve settled on a few classic ideas which are not only nifty gifts, but are likely to be used or enjoyed, during the coming year.

Here we go.

The Multi-Use Tote
I don’t know about you, but most of us appreciate a practical holiday gift. I personally received this great gift from Maptote a couple of years ago — and I’ve used it frequently (currently sidelined of course, it is holding ribbons in my pantry). Maptote offers clever, destination-based tote bags for a variety of cities and states (they have other items as well). This option is not only a worthy contender, it has some retro flare to boot.

Market_Manhattan_WebPhoto: Maptote

The Coffee Table Book.
I received Ocean Worlds, by Jacque Cousteau as a holiday gift from my first employer. (All 160 of us received the same book, sitting wrapped on our desks and this became a highly anticipated tradition.) The books I received during my tenure there, still sit on my coffee table offering hours of enjoyment. One suggestion is below — but there are so many fascinating options at various price points. (Click on the photo for more information.)*

Flowers (and Flower Subscriptions)
In this part of the US, winter are long and lacking in sunshine. The idea of a bouquet of flowers — couldn’t be more appealing, as waiting until early spring to see another bloom is just too long. A subscription service takes this to the next level. (In Britain they call these Letterbox Flowers.) Find my favorite London-based florist Highgate Flowers and subscription options here.) You can explore US options at any of these florists: Farmgirl Flowers, Bloomsy Box & The Bouq.

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The Classic Notebook.
Ah… the notebook! Somehow when a notebook presents itself, it calls out to our creative side. Offering one as a thoughtful gift, shares the promise of new ideas and future observations. (Da Vinci couldn’t have been wrong, so we are following his lead.) The variety of choices are endless. We’ve chosen a couple of options below.

Rhodia Lined Notebook* – 5.5 x 8.5 – Fountain-pen friendly. Rhodia offers some colorful options as well. (Click on the photo for more information.)*

Find colorful options from Etsy by clicking here.

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The Not So Classic Pen.
Sooner or later you have to ditch the keyboard and actually write by hand. These Rifle Paper Co. roller ball pens are a stylish alternative and made our list! Find them here & here.

RollerBallPenPhoto: Rifle Paper Co.

The Tornado Vintage Blacksmith Roosevelt Pen is a also stylish, retro choice. (Click on the photo for more information.)*

Happy Holidays!

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

*LiveWorkThinkPlaycom is an affiliate of both Amazon & Awin — Etsy’s linking partner. That means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we receive a small commission. We only recommend products that we believe bring value to our readers.

Defining Your Story

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We all have a story. Yet, the bits and pieces may feel somewhat random. (Rest assured they are not.) Discovering the arc of your story demands reflection. This exercise requires time to obsess over the threads — to then weave them together. To reflect on the fabric that has been created.

You’ll need to be open to feel a bit uncomfortable. To see observe the warp. To digest what you see.

Are there narratives written that do not reflect who you intend to be? What characters are sorely missing from our story? What villains have we failed to eject?

Ready? Start here with the “I am from” exercise from Mary Phifer’s Writing to Change the World.

Exploring your unique story is worthwhile.

This can be reveal hidden sources of support and the gaps that must be filled.

Because finding meaning — and then being able to move forward — is everything.

Read more about it and try the “I am from” exercise:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Change is a Muscle

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Change is a muscle that we forget how to flex. As a result, it weakens. At some point, we pass an invisible marker and have little tolerance for any kind of change. We lose that child-like sense of curiosity. We stop exploring.

We say that habits are good (and they are), so build a habit of change. As with any other muscle start slowly, then build your capabilities. Begin somewhere. Anywhere. Avoid becoming wedged between your habits — and the inability to envision something new.

Today, I changed my Sirius radio presets. (Which have never been changed). I happily discovered a couple of genres of music. I’ve also added a couple of new outlets to my morning reading routine. (There is nothing like a new writer with a fresh perspective.) To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I was missing.

Even small changes can feel like a burst of energy.

I challenge you to change one element in your routine today. Challenge your team to do the same. Embracing change is a foundational skill that breeds resilience.

See what comes up.

Change is a muscle.

Flex it.

Read more about it here:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Big Idea: Define Your Unique Work Life Philosophy

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Serving as a coach offers me an opportunity to experience the excitement of a promotion — or an inspired organizational evolution — more often than those in other roles. However, even when clients approach new and positive challenges, anxiety often emerges as a by-product.

Interestingly, this can be healthy. On some level, these thoughts serve as a rehearsal for future events — and realistic assessments of workplace scenarios are a key component in building resilience. This becomes unhealthy, when a racing mind (at 2:00 am) only offers grief and foggy mornings.

Chances are you are actually working out quite a few vital issues about how you’d like to manage yourself. So — capture and utilize the information in a way that offers you guidance down the line. When mulling over these past experiences and future situations, attempt to elevate your thoughts to another level.

Group your thoughts so that they bring clarity.

Notice patterns that tell you something about your unique philosophy of work. (You can also try imagining how you would behave in extreme situations, to flesh out your philosphy.) This process might offer you guidance as you move forward and serve as a base for future decisions.

To facilitate the process, offer yourself a couple categories to group your thoughts. Ask yourself why the experience or conversation was remarkable. Think of what it represents — and why it is meaningful going forward. Couple this with the challenge that lies ahead. For example, how you will approach a new team or challenge.

Try these categories:

  1. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent the philosophy of how the work should be completed.
  2. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent your philosophy of how people and teams should be treated.

See where this leads you. Add categories as you see fit.

Sleepless night don’t need to be a total waste when foundational work gets done.

Simply offer your racing thoughts a bit of structure.

Please note: I’m sharing more during the holiday season — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

 

Cheers to Embracing Potential

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In order to evolve — we need believe that we can learn.  That we remain a work in progress.

That who we are (and might become) is neither fixed nor predetermined.

This belief is embodied in the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, who explores a construct named a “growth mindset”. Simply put, a growth mindset is the belief that we can evolve — and continue to improve — through hard work and determination. (The opposite of course, is a “fixed mindset”.) A growth mindset helps us to expand our horizons and consider taking the risks needed to move forward.

None of us embodies a pure “growth mindset”, as we all find ourselves in situations where the costs may be intolerable. As Dweck explains:

One reason why is we all have our own fixed-mindset triggers. When we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others, we can easily fall into insecurity or defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth.

All in all, we must commit to the value of learning.

A realization that our minds are not stagnant, but are ready to blossom (again).

So, leave the lights on.

Our potential is unknown.

Tomorrow is another day.

Cheers to that.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Granting the Freedom to Create

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Most organizations would like to innovate or disrupt. However, it is the culture that needs to be re-aligned, not the employees.

If you unleash competent individuals on a new task, you must offer more than a timeline to foster creativity. Few people will take a risk (and waste your time and theirs) if they aren’t first offered the freedom to explore that proverbial limb.

Instead, they will likely transfer what has worked successfully for other tasks to your project. If real change is desired — offer a reprieve from the fear of risk and/or possible failure. Be upfront. Communicate that the risks have been acknowledged.

Lend them the freedom to create.

If you truly want to see something new, take of the handcuffs and offer permission to explore.

When you say “Give it your best shot.” — mean it.

Read more about it:

Please note: I’m sharing more frequently — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.