Put your best foot forward
According to Sigmund Freud, may he rest in peace, the two most important elements in life are love and work. That covers a lot of territory!
Full-time work comprises 40 hours (or more) of our waking weekly hours. Indeed, a Gallup poll noted that full-time employees are working closer to 47 hours per week. In addition, many of us spend years in school preparing for our chosen vocation. We work for most of our adult lives, forty years or more. It’s an integral part of the adult landscape.
In recent years, work has been challenging. We experienced a major recession in 2008 that resulted in significant job loss, especially among middle-aged workers. This downturn lingered for several years, and only recently, has fully receded, almost 10 years later. Many employees who lost their jobs during the downturn weren’t replaced when the economy picked up. The result—many of us are working harder and longer hours.
The net effect— according to a Gallup poll---63% of workers don’t feel engaged in their job with 24% feeling actively disengaged. These are discouraging statistics, especially since work is such an important part of our daily lives and our wellbeing.
While we are powerless to change the larger economic forces that shape our jobs or the companies we work for, we can focus on how we approach our daily work life. This is in our control.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist teacher, wrote a delightful, short book titled—“Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day”. His provides simple guidance on how to be fully present in the moment and to focus on our appreciation of being alive, aware, and present.
Here are some basic points on how to transform our approach to work:
Start the day with a positive intention.
What are my goals for today? How do I want to be? How do I want to relate to my co-workers? What is really important to me? How we begin the day can establish the trajectory of our experience as the day unfolds.
When I wake in the morning, I spend some time in meditation before I am catapulted into my day. I set my intention—which as a psychologist is to be a source of light for my patients, and as an administrator, to be a source of inspiration for my staff. I repeat my affirmation for the day—“May my every thought, word, and action be filled with kindness and love”.
One close friend, after waking, studies the Bible every morning, which helps her set her intention for the day.
Mr. Hanh recites a short poem when he rises—“Waking up this morning I smile. Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me. I vow to live fully each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion”.
What is your goal for today?
Before you walk into work, take a moment of pause.
Every morning as I close my car door and collect my belongings, I pause, before I start to walk towards my office. I take several long deep breaths and look around me. I look at the sky, the trees in the parking lot, birds, and smell the salt air of the Puget Sound. I am alive! And I am control of how I want to be for the next 8-10 hours while at work.
Connect with others.
It’s easy to find yourself focused on what you have to get done today. I often find myself going over my daily “to do” list before I even get out of bed. But when I do finally arrive at work, I make sure to connect, in some small way, with everyone in my office. While we all are different people, with different personalities, and different jobs, we spend the day in close contact with each other. By nurturing these relationships, we help to co-create a healthier workplace.