Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale talks about how to put the “pow” in the “how.”
Life is full of boring tasks, isn’t it? At times it seems we can either “whistle or wrestle while we work.” But is that it? Is it simply one’s attitude?
Find the Fun
Let me answer that be telling you about a small company of about 12 employees who decided that wanted to become world-famous for what they did. Now this is an especially lofty goal for any company, but especially a small one, and especially because of their specialty. They are a fish market! Imagine, handling greasy, slimy, smelly, dead fish all day in an ice-cold environment. I can think of fewer jobs I’d rather do less than that one. But this small fish market accomplished their goal: they became world-famous. They didn’t change what they did (which was to sell fish) but they changed how they did what they did!
The Pike Place Market in Seattle took what many would consider to be the worst job in the world and made it into an environment where people wanted to be there and work there.
They started taking the most mundane tasks and making them memorable and fun! They learned to enjoy working with each other by doing little things, such as, when one person would call out an order, everybody else would yell it back to them. They took themselves out from behind the counter where they could have personal interaction with the customers. They started throwing whole fish from the front display to behind the counter to another employee – flying fish can’t help but make you smile. You could not walk by this “fish stand” without being entertained and catching some of the fun….not to mention a fish.
They took what many would consider to be the worst job in the world and made it into an environment where people wanted to be there and work there. Businessmen in the area actually show up early in the morning to this famous fish place, and shovel ice for free, just to be involved in this exhilarating environment. And by the way, not only is the Pike Place Fish Market still having fun throwing fish and making people smile, but they are selling a lot of fish! Success all the way around!
Because every job, both at work and home, has miserable aspects attached to it, it’s key to join with others around these tasks.
Much of this goes back to our research on happiness…scores of studies in the field of positive psychology demonstrate that having good social relationships is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. It has been determined (University of Chicago) that people with five or more close friends (not including family members) are 50% more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” that those with fewer strong relationships. At the same time, those who valued wealth, status, and success over close friends were twice as likely to be “fairly” or “very” unhappy. Everyday, whether in your work or neighborhood associations, show up, share, and lift each other up! None of us were meant to do this alone! The fish market joined together as employees – they created fun for themselves and their customers. It is all about association!
What You Appreciate, Appreciates
When we demonstrate our appreciation for the support we receive from others, it reinforces that behavior and deepens our connection to them. Appreciation is a basic human need, both at home and work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 40% of employees leave their job not because of what salary or workload, but because they don’t feel appreciated. Over 50 years of comprehensive research by social scientists have determined that the most effective way to motivate, connect to, and inspire others is through specific, sincere positive recognition.
So many times it’s the stress of needing to complete a project on time that completely stresses us out and wipes out any passion we have for our job. So when the stress takes over, how do you cope?
Come to Your Senses
There are some days when you don’t even know how you made it through the day, or don’t even remember the ride home, because of frustration and worry. We often live our lives on automatic pilot. Anytime during the day when you want to reduce fear, anxiety, and tension utilize your senses. Notice your hand on the steering wheel; notice the sounds of the radio and the traffic outside; recognize the scent of a banana peel left in the backseat or see if you can detect that new car fragrance strip you put under the car seat last week; recognize the temperature in the car; pay attention to how your stomach feels, or your back and neck. Pay attention to your body for it is sending you signals all the time. Be aware of your thoughts…and don’t believe them (remember about 45,000 of them are negative). If your mind starts to wonder bring it right back to how the steering wheel feels under your hands and fingers. Make it a habit of continually returning to what’s going on in the moment. Such good practice for reducing stress! When we expand our awareness, possibilities are endless.
No Experience is Wasted
Spiritual awareness is also key. While this may not be applicable to all belief systems, the majority of us believe there is more to life than this mortal existence. That every temporal experience can administer to our growth of a deeper nature: the spiritual self. But we choose to give our power away in negative experiences instead of owning it all the way. We give our power away to:
Parents (I have this problem/habit because of them)
Spouse (He or she makes me so mad!)
Traffic (Those stupid drivers!)
Politicians (How much longer do we have to put up with this?)
Food (I wouldn’t have this weight problem if it weren’t for food!)
Instead of blaming start owning: reach up if you believe in a higher power or God. Find meaning in the minutiae of life and be responsible for your own feelings. A mother was trying to break a power-struggle-cycle with her young son. One night she was bathing him in the tub and instead of him following the normal routine of laying his head back under the water spout so his mother could rinse out the shampoo from his hair, he had a melt-down and didn’t want to do it that way. Normally, she would allow this situation to send her into a tizzy; she’d tried to force him into doing it her way, and the spirit between them would be broken. She had this little sign that read, “Reach Up” in her bathroom and she took a deep breath and said, “O.K. Sammy, how do you want to do this tonight.” He rinsed his hair in a new way, they were both happy, hugged each other, and they were on to the next thing. She kept her power by not yelling and getting into a power struggle with her son, and peace was reestablished. This mother took this simply little temporal experience and used it to connect with her son on a deeper, sweeter level by holding onto her power and using that moment to draw closer to her son and keeping a loving spirit between them and in their home.
“Happy For No Reason,” by Marci Shimoff
“Come to Your Senses,” by Stanley Block, M.D.
“Becoming Spiritually Centered,” by James Cox
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.