I may have mentioned once or twice that I don't like decisions. It's one thing to tell myself, "Oh, just decide already and stop being such a perfectionist!" It's another to actually deal with what might be holding me back.
I like this article
about career decisions. It's not always as simple as wanting more money or needing to help people and then finding the job that matches. Sometimes there are real emotional and mental issues that complicate decisions.Relationship stuff
Even if I know plenty of other people who have made similar arrangements work for their families, I worry that my
kids are going to be the ones starting up a meth lab when I'm gone. Or I might remember a disparaging comment someone made about working moms and think they won't love me anymore if I choose differently than they would. Or I might go after a career path that doesn't suit me simply because of the impressive "ooh" sound people make when they hear what I do for a living. Sometimes I forget that I have to consider what's best for me as well as my family, you know, since I'm part of the family, too. It isn't always about everyone else.
These might sound silly, but once I identify what I'm worried about, it's easier to think clearly about the possible consequences of my decision rather than letting my worries linger in the corners of my mind.Fear stuff
I worry all the time that I'll launch into my next career move and then find that I hate it. Yup, that's good old regret anticipation eating me up inside.
When I quit working to take care of my kids, I thought I would be fulfilled through them because they would listen to my wisdom with rapt attention. It took me a few years to realize my kids were just going to be people and that it wasn't their job to fulfill me. So I lowered my expectations, which is the opposite of what I usually like to do (Reach for the stars! Save the world!).
I don't want the same thing to happen again. If sky-high ideals didn't work for my kids, they probably won't work for my job, either. I worry that I'm setting myself up for disappointment, since it isn't my career's obligation to meet my every need.Raging against mediocrity
I don't rage because I'm spoiled and can't figure out how to sacrifice. Believe me, I know a thing or two about delayed gratification. But I expect a lot from myself. And so if I'm doing something ordinary, I feel like I could be doing more or doing better. I don't want to just be solving someone else's first world problems! The truth of it, though, is that even greatness requires taking baby steps, talking to crazy people, and filling out tedious paperwork. It comes back to expectations. Even boring, easy, or kiss-up busywork is part of life. Expect it.Unhealthy thought patterns
. If I can't do this now, I'll never be able to. I don't know why everyone else seems to have their lives together. What is it about me that makes me unsuccessful?
None of these thoughts is very helpful. Changing thought patterns is hard because of how fast thoughts can travel and how elusive that makes them. It might take a serious time investment in myself to make it happen, but if my thoughts are holding me back, it's definitely worthwhile to change them.Distorted view of the consequences
. I've held on to more than one job I hated for longer than I should have. But you know what? The world wouldn't have ended if I quit. And if I (gasp!) make a bad career choice, I'm not stuck there forever. I can leave. I could even turn the job I hate into an opportunity to find a job I like more! Jobs are not forever, not these days. So it's important for me to remind myself that the fate of the free world doesn't rest on my decision. I can change my mind. I can learn something from my mistakes. Decisions don't have to last forever.
Anybody here remember how Winnie the Pooh used to solve problems? He'd sit around and say, "Think think...think think..."
I don't know how well that worked for him, but some days, I wonder. No matter how many times I tell my brain to come up with a new idea, it refuses to obey.
It could be because I haven't gotten any sleep the night before. It could be because I'm preoccupied with what's going on with the kids. It could be because after working so hard without a break, I'm burned out. Or it could be because it's Friday (hypothetically speaking, of course).
Some days, it seems like you've got nothing left in you to get your work done. Maybe you feel physically exhausted or emotionally bankrupt. Maybe your brain is fried or your spirit feels wrung out. Yet you've got a deadline or a boss breathing down your neck, and you have to get something done.
Some people meditate. Others go for a walk. Some do some kind of craft to keep their hands busy and their minds free. Others eats lots of chocolate!
What do you do when you have to work, but you feel like there's no work left in you?
Having it all means having the same work and family choices that men do. It doesn't mean having everything you want--no one has that.
Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Do what you feel in your heart to be right. You'll be criticized anyway.
You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.”
Elizabeth Grace Saunders
In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In
conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do
what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be
truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
This post was inspired by this quote
"Here is the crux: Why lean into a system that is fundamentally broken? By pushing ourselves to succeed within this patriarchal world that has been created without our participation, aren't we upholding its pillars of inequality? Truth is, many feel as if we should rush in and bring the whole place down instead -- rebuild it from the ground up as something more equitable, more collaborative, less hierarchical and more "win-win" oriented. Perhaps some of us are more interested in creating businesses with more "feminine" attributes like caring for the planet, our nations' health and well-being and educating our nations' youth. Perhaps we see less value in amassing extreme power and wealth, and more in leaving our world in a better place than where we found it
."Many of us don't want to be part of a broken system. Though women have many huge strides, it's still largely a man's world. It isn't that women are failing, can't hack it, or make different "choices". One of our biggest problems is that our employment system is built on a male ideal. Women are a part of it, but they often blame themselves for failing at their ambitions when they don't achieve them. People look at pay disparity or women's poverty and offer any number of reasons why women aren't doing as well as men. Some of them might even be true. But when our business model is male-centric, some women are bound to fail. Not because they aren't as talented or ambitious or capable or smart or committed, but because many of them have different values (and many men don't fit the male-centric model, either). I don't think this means that people who don't fit in should change their values or their personality in order to match the social structure. I think it means the social structure needs to change.It's easy to say that from my computer while thousands of women struggle to put food on the table, I know. Many of them have to conform just to survive.But what if we did things differently? What if our social structure wasn't built around men, but around people?Things would be different. I think they're already changing. Some forward-thinking people are making important changes that the rest of us need to listen to.
If we are committed to innovation, to profit, to change, to doing the right thing, we'll do all we can to include as many people as possible.If you want to create your own structure that incorporates your own values, how would you do it? Here are some ideas I thought of, but please feel free to add your own.
How do you think we can create a better world at work?
- start your own company
- create partnerships with non-profit organizations
- organize charitable giving events
- ask for the schedule you need
- form a committee within your company to discuss ways to recruit and retain non-traditional employees
- create non-monetary rewards for performance
- create more collaborative projects
- think of alternatives to the traditional career ladder
- create time for employees to be involved in the community
- invite leaders of causes you care about to speak in your organization
My husband is a gamer. Me, not so much. I did my share of Load Runner and Space Invaders growing up (it was the eighties, after all), but since I have a pathological fear of wasting time, games never really caught on with me.
I heard an interview with Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken
, and decided I had to buy the book.
Rather than a mind-numbing wasteland, games actually do some good things. It isn't games that are the problem, McGonigal says. It's reality.
She's not saying that we should all run out and pretend we're aliens, but that our social structures like work and school are actually counterproductive to learning and innovation.
Gamers are notoriously optimistic, even in the face of multiple failures. They will face seemingly impossible obstacles while their characters die over and over again. Why? Because they always have another chance to succeed. Despite their loner reputations, gamers are actually quite social because they need to be in order to achieve their goals. They need each others' skills in order to defeat the armies of bad guys. No one can do it alone.
Contrast this with school, where an academic failure appears on a student's record permanently, or a work environment, where a big enough failure to meet expectations means no more job for the employee.
A game-based school called Quest to Learn
recently opened in New York City. Every day gives students a chance to learn. They might discover a secret code hidden in a library book, gain "master" status by learning a new skill, level up by completing tasks, fight a boss monster requiring them to use all the knowledge they've gained, or teach virtual characters how to do certain tasks.
I once interviewed a game developer for a magazine article. One thing he loved about his job was that he got to play at work. You could easily argue that that's the nature of his work, but I think that just about any field could make work like play. There are already games and apps available that motivate people to run or to do housework by allowing them to accumulate points or with avatars that can be customized to look like the user.
A couple of years ago, I read Finding Your Own North Star
by Martha Beck. I only remember one thing from the entire book. People who had found their calling in life described their work as "play".
How do you think work could change to become more like a game?
I can't remember a time when I didn't love to read.
When it comes to work and family balance issues, I don't make an exception. I read about problems in the workplace. I read about political fixes for family problems. I read inspirational business books, even though I don't think I ever took a business class in my life. I read success stories. I read parenting books (though they don't always seem to apply to my kids). I read articles and magazines and haunt the library. I spend way too much time on Facebook chasing down links to articles in business magazines or parenting sites or helpful blogs.
Of course, they all promise more than they deliver. To be fair, this might be because I'd much rather read about a subject than actually work on exercises or work on real-life principles. But if there's a book that tells me how to make a million or be a leader or find my destiny or any other lofty concept, I get hooked.
It's easier for me to learn from someone else than to go through the painful, hard-knock school of learning. It doesn't always work. Real-life lessons have the most sticking power.
But even if I don't retain every tip, I love a good story. One reason is because
stories inspire me. I think every human with a pulse knows the rags-to-riches
story of J.K. Rowling, for instance. We hear about the Susan Boyles of the world
and we think, yes, that could be me. I just have to keep trying. I just have to
ignore the people who tell me it's impossible.
The stories help us remember, more than the most successful formula could ever do. It's one thing to talk about how if you're successful enough, people will ignore the factors that they'd usually use to discriminate you. It's quite another to show the truth of this ideal with a photo of Jackie Robinson or Marissa Mayer.
So I'm going to keep reading, but maybe I won't devour the easy-sell but
forgettable "Ten Easy Tips" articles in the future as much as I read the
stories of the men and women who can serve as role models, the ones whose faces whisper to me that just maybe, my dream is possible.
Do you read to find inspiration or solutions? What are some of your favorite books?
I've been reading a few posts (like this one) lately about balancing work and life, where many of the authors have a list of things they wish they had done differently. Some wish they had finished their education before starting their families. Some wish they had gone into a more lucrative field.
I've got my own list of regrets. I suppose we all have hindsight that gives us a better perspective on the mistakes we made when we were younger. The problem is that many of us make important decisions about what we're going to do with the rest of our lives when we don't have any clue about what the real world is like. And so, with our starry-eyed outlook on life, we make our decisions. Many of us choose a field of study, get married, and have babies before we have any clue how much our mortgage payments will be or how many hours we'll have to spend at the office.
Here's a short list of mine:
- Don't take a job to pad your resume or to fill the time until something else comes along. Sometimes you have to do grunt work, it's true, but try to find something that challenges you and matches your interests.
- Don't assume that money doesn't matter. While it's true that there are more important things, poverty is not a virtue in and of itself, and you don't get any medals for starving.
- Don't sacrifice everything you want for the sake of your family. Your family deserves for you to be happy so you can treat them well. Balance sacrifice with your own needs because you can't draw water from an empty well.
- Don't assume that a degree is job insurance. It isn't. Get some kind of skill and experience and keep yourself as marketable as possible, even if you're not working.
- Be true to yourself and don't make guilt- or fear-based decisions.
And my biggest tip of all: Don't dwell on your regrets. The present will become the past, too, so don't add to your regrets by being stuck on what you could have done.
Today's guest post comes from my awesome sister, Melanie Watson, who lives in Perth, Ontario, Canada. Besides taking care of her family, she also takes care of elderly people as a (soon-to-be) nurse. She might not think she's extraordinary, but I admire her lots.
I'm just a typical mom. I have 2 kids, an 11 year old boy and a 6 year old girl. I work and so does my husband. We own a house, we have a dog and a couple of cats. Our biggest issues are having too much month at the end of the money and trying to keep up on housework. All in alll, pretty average.
But there is one thing I would like to talk about. You see, I work in a nursing home. If your mom/dad, grandmother/grandfather needs help, I'm the one doing the helping. I feed people, dress them, change their "diapers" when they're in a mess. When they have no cognitive ability left and are confused and lost, I'm the one who is calming them and showing them where to go. When they are dying, I'm holding their hand.
And this has given me some perspective on life, especially on growing old and dying. Death is not to be feared. It is peaceful. Having seen more than one person die, I firmly believe that (with the possible exception of people who have had traumatic accidents) people make the choice to die. They do not go until they have decided it is time and they are ready. For some people, they want their whole family to be there, others will wait until they're alone. I mention this because I see many family members feeling guilty that they weren't there. Often, the children will sit with their mom/dad while they're dying, step out to get food and the parent will pass while they're gone. For those who are in this situation, I wish I could take that guilt from them because I know that guilt is the last thing the parent wants them to feel.
I think that most people, when they die, would like to tell their families not to mourn: don't grieve my loss; remember the times we had together. I know I will be missed and I wish I could take that pain away. Celebrate my life, don't focus on my death.
Everyone must die sometime, what matters is what they did with their lives while they were here. Love and family are the most important things in life. Never forget this. This is the message that I believe people whose lives are ending would like to get across to their loved ones. I have been on the other side of this experience. In the last year I have lost several family members that I have been close to, and I can say that no matter how much you know they wouldn't want you to be sad, grieving will happen anyway. You've lost this person, and can't see him/her anymore. Holiday are particularly bad as you most notice that they're not there. It is hard, but it gets better. As time goes by, you miss them less, don't notice as often that they aren't there. You get used to them being gone. For those who have recently lost someone, I think that the best thing you can do for yourself is to allow yourself the chance to grieve.
For those who have parents or grandparents who are older, and who have relatives in nursing homes, I have one message that I wish everyone could live by: visit with them! Spend time with your loved ones. More than anything, that is what they want. Even if they can't talk to you or don't know who you are, find time to fit them into your lives. Your mom may not know who you are anymore, but will love spending time with you. Speaking from experience, people with Alzheimer's give the best hugs! If your dad is paralyzed and can't tell you he loves you, I guarantee you he feels it just the same. He loves hearing about your life, no matter how trivial your stories may be. And they all LOVE children. Bring your kids or your grandkids. Give them a chance to get to know this person who has been so important to you. Tell stories of what this person was like when he or she was younger.
I know life is busy. Believe me, I know. Sometimes you don't have time or live too far away. Your loved one understands and doesn't hold it against you. He or she is undoubtedly proud of you and is probably telling stories about you to whoever will listen. But trust me, if you can find a way to visit, even if it's only once a year, the rewards will be huge. Because that's the one thing you can'lt get back after this person is gone. Time and memories. They're so important!
I hope you find my words helpful and maybe even comforting. But most of all, I hope I have convinced you to go visit your loved ones before it's too late.
I'm kind of a goal junkie. This doesn't mean, of course, that I always achieve everything I set out to do. In fact, I usually have so many ideas and projects that I'd need superhero powers to accomplish them all.I'm not going to lecture myself or you about the typical goal-setting principles. You've probably heard the SMART acronym before. But since the end of the year was kind of a downer for me (I do NOT deal well with people hurting other people), and I don't want to become obsessed with negative things, I've realized the same is true for goals.For me, goals don't work so well when I frame them negatively. If I'm trying to quit a bad behavior, well, it's like the pink elephant principle. If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, pretty soon you can't think about anything else. If I'm trying to cut back on sweets, well, that's nice but soon I start thinking about my favorite sugary treats. If I say I don't want to spend so much time on Facebook, just the thought of not checking in with my lovely online friends for twelve hours sends me screaming back to the computer.I do much better when I think about my goals positively. I'll get such pretty strong muscles if I work out, for example. Telling people on the internet why they're
wrong doesn't seem nearly so attractive when I'm focused on my own goals. I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when that novel is done much more than the feeling of time wasted when I've spent four hours on Facebook. Essentially, it's about increasing positive behavior more than obsessing about the negative stuff. Thoughts are powerful, and whether your goals are personal or professional, I bet you'll succeed more when you focus on what you want than what you want to eliminate.
Honestly, I don't even feel like writing this. Recent events make it difficult to even think, let alone care. I don't deal well with tragedy, nor do I deal well with people handing out hatred, whether that's through their words or their actions.One of the things that tragedy (or even near-tragedy) does to my brain is that it forces me to re-evaluate my priorities. Does it matter if my kids are five minutes late to school? Not so much. Are the ways I spend my time worthwhile when you consider that life and death can be so unpredictable?I'm trying to work on being positive. Because for every horrible act, there are probably a thousand kind ones. For every person who destroys, there are so many more heroes who make life better for other people.Humanity lives at the extremes and in the mundane. There is the evil, there is the good, and there is the ordinary mixture of both. The bad stuff has to make the news, but sometimes the good things do, too. Evil seems incomprehensible to most of us, especially at its most extreme, but goodness? That's something we get. Most of us have some kind of yearning inside to make things better, to lift instead of tear down. So instead of dwelling on evil in order to try to understand it, why not dwell on goodness in order to make it part of ourselves?Sometimes you have to figure out what's wrong in order to fix it. Sometimes you have to determine where you need to change before you can create the good the world needs. Sometimes acts of kindness are complex, and sometimes they're simple.That's all I've got. Try as I might, I haven't been able not to make these things personal. In the words of Aesop: "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." Never. Kindness matters. Making the world a better place is important, even if that improvement only helps one person.So yes, for me the news has become personal. But I hope that the end result of the grieving for people I don't know, of watching others be hurt by cruel words, of people using others to get what they want, is that all of us, no matter how or where, can find the goodness within ourselves that's been there all along.
And share it.