Center for Workplace Happiness

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Do Your To-Do's Include You?

Caution: cliché alert!!!

  • You can’t pour from an empty vessel.
  • Almost everything will work if you unplug it for a few minutes – even you.
  • We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

Yes, you’re right – this edition of the newsletter is about self-care. July is Self-Care month and yesterday was International Self-Care Day. And if you’re like nearly everyone else, me included, self-care isn’t at the top of your to-do list each day, and it needs to be, for both of us.

Why? Don’t make me point you back up to those cliches, ok? The reason phrases become repeated so often that they become trite and clichéd is because – drum roll please – they’re true. They resonate, and have resonated for decades, if not hundreds of years. And yet here we are, talking about how we neglect our own self-care.

How can we make our own care a priority? First, give yourself credit for the things you already do for yourself:

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Can You Forgive, and Do You Even Want To?

About 120 years ago a phrase came into being: “get out of the doghouse.” If a couple had a fight and one locked the other out of the house, unless there was a barn on the property, the only shelter was likely to be the family dog’s house. Hence, a bid for forgiveness was characterized as a bid to get out of the doghouse.

Humans have a difficult relationship with the concept of forgiveness. We get irritated by the behaviors of others every day in small ways, and sometimes even suffer hardship, hurt, or loss through the actions of others. Both the small slights and the larger ones spark a level of negative emotion pointed toward the perceived perpetrator. Behavioral scientists agree there are at least two components to forgiveness, emotional and behavioral, and while there’s not a lot of research on them, it’s likely that most acts of forgiveness include a blend of both. Let’s look at two examples where an offense is given, and forgiveness might be...

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Cheer Up the Lonely - Maybe You, Too!

Do you know a lonely person? Especially since the pandemic isolation has ended, you might be surprised to learn that there are more people who say they’re lonely now than before the pandemic.

Just what is loneliness, anyway? Noted researcher Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad has been studying loneliness for over two decades and says it’s “often defined as being based on the discrepancy between our desired level of connection and actual level of connection.” Before the pandemic, levels of social isolation were rising, and post-pandemic that trend has continued. The worst thing is that social isolation is as bad for our physical and mental health as stress, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke, and according to some research, increasing the chance of premature death by 15%.

Today is Cheer Up the Lonely Day, started in Detroit Michigan by Francis Pesek, a man who wanted to brighten the days of shut-ins, those who lived alone, and people in nursing homes....

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Are You Living Up to America's Dream?

In the US, today is the day we celebrate the birth of our nation. It was 247 years ago that the Revolutionary War ended and the Declaration of Independence was signed. The ideals put forth were revolutionary at the time, especially the idea that people should be the architect of their own lives, free to pursue faith, family, and fortune without undue government interference.

Fast-forward a couple of centuries and American life looks very different than it did back then. We’ve moved from subsistence farming and small businesses in small towns to a nation full of mega-businesses, mega-banks, mega-mergers, and a mega-government complex sporting a mega-military and mega-tax collection complex. The pressure to live up to the American dream of success and even excess is high, and sadly, the reality of rising stress and depression is keeping pace. As the world becomes more electronically connected, people are often feeling more disconnected.

This Independence Day, think about your...

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Does Resilience Really Matter?

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Helen Keller, a woman whose life was a portrait of resilience. Even today, 143 years after her birth in a northern Alabama hamlet named after a Chickasaw tribal rainmaker, people share her ideas about happiness and leading a useful, productive life. Schoolchildren learn about how she overcame her disabilities and graduated from Radcliffe College, which is now Harvard University. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, her statue stands in the US Capitol building, and a movie about her young life and the teacher who was able to find a way to reach her, The Miracle Worker, won two Academy Awards.

Illness – probably meningitis – when she was less than two years old left Helen Keller deaf, blind, and without language. Since she couldn’t hear, she didn’t have a way to even know words existed. Since she was blind, she didn’t have a way to grasp the abstract concept of objects and their descriptors. The fact...

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What do Dads and Great Leaders Have in Common?

This week let’s talk about leaders. Sunday is Father’s Day and it’s a good time to look back over your life and reflect on the first leadership style that influenced you. Whether your father was great, good, bad, abysmal, or absent, you learned lessons from him that can serve you now.

There’s an old adage that you may be familiar with: “There are no business problems, only leadership problems.” That’s how important leadership skills are. Businesses rise and fall based on the strength of their leader and that person’s team. Would Apple have been as successful without Steve Jobs? Would Microsoft have been a behemoth without Bill Gates? Would Harpo have become a multi-billion-dollar enterprise without Oprah Winfrey?

Great leaders have some traits in common:

  • Visionary
  • Great communication skills
  • Courage and ability to blaze trails in their industry

Poor leaders have some traits in common, too:

  • Focus more on themselves than the business
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Are You Afraid of Pride?

One word. Five letters. Many meanings. Some angst. Some anger. Some pride. Here are some definitions, according to Oxford Languages:

  • A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
  • A group of lions forming a social unit.
  • Confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalized, on the basis of their shared identity, culture, and experience.

“Pride” is a word with a lot of conflicted history behind it. Pride was first on the list of the seven deadly sins, yet “pride of place” speaks to giving the very best location to a person or object that is revered. Then there’s the sense of national pride, which is celebrated the world over. Pride can be very confusing!

C.S. Lewis, writing in “Mere Christianity,” said: “A proud man is...

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Creatively Creating More Creativity

Quick…what does “creativity” mean to you? If you automatically conjure thoughts of crayons and paste, of sculptures and works by Old Masters, and of pottery wheels and hit songs, you’re right…partially right, anyway.

Oxford Online defines creativity as, “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” That aligns with most peoples’ definition of creativity – more in the direction of art, music, and maybe even interior design and architecture. Creativity is SO much more than that and is a valuable skill that everyone can benefit from developing.

According to the American Psychological Association, writing about ongoing research studies around creativity, most scientists agree that there are two kinds of creativity – little “c” creativity and big “C” creativity. Little “c” creativity is used as an indicator of mental health and relates to...

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Are You Guilty of Taking Mental Shortcuts?

This week let’s talk about some mental shortcuts many people take, and how harmful they can be to relationships of every kind.

  • Republicans think Democrats are soft in the head. Democrats think Republicans have no heart.
  • Minorities think authorities are out to get them. Authorities think minorities are the source of all the problems.
  • Baby Boomers think Millennials are lazy. Millennials think Baby Boomers are greedy and wasteful.

If you’ve watched the news, scrolled through social media, or listened to conversations around you, you’ve probably been exposed to those common mental shortcuts, as well as many others. Our human brains are wired to see the things around us that support what we already believe, strengthening those beliefs and making the shortcuts feel valid.

In addition to being common, the shortcuts cited above are incorrect, unkind, and unloving. When we allow ourselves to rely on the shortcuts our brains want to take, we cut ourselves off from...

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Are You a Use It or Lose It?

Whether there are kids in your home or not, you’re probably thinking about doing something this summer. Because of the rhythm of years in childhood, most of us associate the summer months with vacation time. What are your vacation plans?

Don’t have any? You’re in good company – nearly a third of Americans don’t have travel plans either. Inflation is pricing some of them out of travel, some don’t have anyone to go with them and don’t want to go it alone, and some of them are the same people who lose it every year.

Do you use it or do you lose it? Vacation time, I mean. On average, Americans give back nearly 10 vacation days a year to their employers. I won’t ask a nosy question like how much do you make per year – I’ll just ask you to do the math. Take your daily rate, multiply it by the number of vacation days you didn’t use last year, and think about whether you’d just give that much money away. Because you...

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