The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2019 winners of the award at this link andwatch a video from the winners here.
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You walk into your staff break room at lunch time and you run into a group of colleagues in deep conversation about what’s wrong with your workplace.
Until now, you were in good spirits. But after five minutes of listening to this conversation you’re not feeling as good about your workplace. In fact, you’re super-focused on what your peers are talking about. After lunch, as your mind continues to dwell on the negatives, you make a point to share your thoughts with others throughout the day.
This micro skill challenges us to wake up to the fact that life is short, and each day is one we’ll never get back. If you spend your day fuming about something, you’ve lost any joy for that day forever. But, when we change our perspective from expecting things will be hard or bad to looking for opportunities to enjoy life, we can improve our outlook and the way we experience and interact with the world.
While many can relate to the lunch break example, some may not be aware that if left unchecked, automatic negative programming can cause us to expect things will be hard, wrong or not as we want in life. It’s a defence mechanism whose purpose is to protect us from being surprised; we just expect to be disappointed. We expect that when we go to an event no one will be interested in us; we’ll never get a promotion; we’re always too busy to enjoy the day; our work is hard; and it’s difficult to keep up with work demands.
Without paying attention to our thinking, we end up making what’s going wrong our primary focus and are often disappointed, which negatively impacts our mood. Expecting things will go wrong shortens our frustration tolerance, causing us to be short with and even rude to others who frustrate us. It may be something as simple as someone walking slowly in front of you. You can’t pass them, think you’re in a rush, and your frustration increases as you feel trapped behind them. What if you slowed down too, took a deep breath, relaxed and looked at the view around you instead?
Now if this were your last day on Earth, would a person walking slowly in front of you really matter? I’d want to figure out how to enjoy my last day to its fullest, present my best self to others, and feel connected to my loved ones. Each of us would have our own version of what we’d want to focus on. But I’m pretty sure it would not be someone walking slowly in front of us or office politics. These would not likely be a priority, or really matter.
Only you can determine if you can relate to the concept that many people focus on what can disappoint them rather than on what really matters and what might bring them satisfaction or joy. Many don’t live each day to its fullest. They just survive it, missing much of life because they’re on autopilot or focused on the negative.
The autopilot mindset creates more opportunity to be tuned in to what we find disappointing or frustrating than prioritizing what really matters most. We can decide where we want to focus. Treating each day as special begins with a desire to shift energy and focus from disappointment to what really matters: health, family, community, relationships.
Taking charge of each day begins with waking up:
What’s most important to you? – We’ll all be faced with our last day, although we may not be able to reflect or even know it’s our last day. Sadly, many people when faced with their last few days have regrets, and wish they’d done things differently, put their focus elsewhere, or made some things much more important. What’s most important to you, and why?
Take the 72-hour challenge – For the next 72 hours, challenge yourself to change your internal language from any suggestion you expect your day to be – too much, too hard, too difficult, too little time, too many demands, too much stress – to focusing on what’s most important. Replace this language by focusing on how privileged and lucky you are to have the opportunities you have in your life. If you slip, don’t judge; catch yourself and change your language. Focus each day on what really matters most to you, as if it were your last day.
Notice your mood – Pay attention to how you feel each day by changing your focus from expecting disappointment to what really matters. You may be surprised how much you can change in 72 hours. Focusing on what matters increases the opportunity to live each day to its fullest.
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada, and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.
You can find other stories like these at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.