One great thing about being human is that you can think about what you’re doing and realize you have some options. You don’t have to keep doing things out of habit or just because “that’s the way it’s done.” You can, at any moment, make choices that are weirdly fantastic. Amazingly, when you start to make choices that feel just plain better, a little inner sparkler goes off. And other people sense this sparkler. They really do. Even somebody who is having a really terrible day can sense it. It’s another strange and beautiful thing about being a person. The following list is meant to inspire you to notice a few of the teeny changes you can make that can turn your day– and possibly the day of a co-worker, maybe even the whole office– around. And… All of these things are Easy, Free, and Instantly Doable.
Ask Chocolate Doughnut Guy His Name
Maybe his name is Bob. Bob from Billing? Sounds possible. But the last time you asked him his name, you were too busy wondering if he sort of looked like this guy you dated in college to remember to repeat his name three times. So it went in one ear and out the other. Because there is often a nice looking chocolate doughnut sitting on a napkin at his desk, you have been referring to him as “Chocolate Doughnut Guy” in your head. But you can’t exactly call him Chocolate Doughnut Guy to his face. Plus, it’s one thing to ask somebody their name when you’ve known them a few weeks, but another thing entirely when years have passed. Of course, it’s pretty clear that CDG doesn’t know your name, either. You are both trapped in a cycle of mutual ignoring each other, which is a tad stressful– not hugely stressful, but stressful enough… a low-level stress moment, if you will. The problem with low-level stress moments (LLSMs) is that they tend to pile up, creating a sizable stress heap. The stress heap is no joke, and this is one reason you should ask Chocolate Doughnut Guy his name today. Ask him his name, and end this particular LLSM forever. Easy, Free, Instantly Doable….EFID!
Say Thank You Even When People Are Just Doing What They’re Supposed to be Doing
Sure, the dude who waxes the floor is doing his job. And yes, he gets paid for waxing the floor. But it’s also true that every time the floor wax guy comes around, you notice that you’re really glad to see the way those floors shine right up. It just gives the whole place a nicer look. Same exact deal with the gal who does all the copying, binding, and distribution of presentation documents. Every time she rolls her little cart off the elevator and over to your desk, you are so grateful. It’s just nice that she makes this final phase of document prep so easy and stress-free. However, you never tell waxer guy or document gal how grateful you feel because they are just doing their jobs, after all. But here’s the thing: everyone likes to feel that their job is valued and noticed. It’s just nice. It feels nice. And you’re in a position to bring all that nice feeling to life. So, next time you get a little thumbs up feeling when somebody is doing their job, let them know you see them… Offer a thanks and friendly smile. It will be nice for you, nice for the them, and, because the sparkler is contagious, nice for the whole office. Easy, Free, Instantly Doable. EFID
Notice When You’re in a Bad Mood
The thing about bad moods is that they are often sort of undercover. When in a bad mood, what we might notice is that things aren’t going well. We won’t necessarily notice that we’re stewing under our own little cloud, but we will notice that everybody else seems like a total jerk. Bad moods are sneaky that way. For this reason, we can pause and do a little internal inventory. Ask yourself three questions: 1) Does everyone seem to be a jerk today? 2) Are things generally not going well? And, finally, 3) Is it possible I’m in a bad mood? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we can then just quietly acknowledge to ourselves, “It’s possible I’m in a bad mood.” Amazingly, this tiny acknowledgment can be really difficult. It really can. But if we can just run with it, just breathe ourselves into bad mood acknowledgment, it’s like a little internal magic happens, and we are changed for the better. One change is that we are a lot less likely to blame someone else for all our bad mood-ness. The whole inner scene of quietly blaming other people for our own bad mood ends. This way, when your mad little cloud clears up, the day is free and open: no messes to clean up, no people who are mad at us now, no residue. EFID
Give Yourself an Inner Break
Sometimes, you just need a break. Yes, you messed up. Yes, that work thing that was due is now late, and yes, it is important, and, okay, if you hadn’t had one too many beers last night you might have gotten the thing done…. But the fact is that the only thing you can do now is move forward. It doesn’t actually do all that much good to give yourself a hard time, even if it seems like that is exactly what your boss would like you to do. This is what is meant by “giving yourself an inner break.” Just be nice to yourself. See the mistake you are currently experiencing as something you can learn from. Let it motivate you to reflect on how you can do things differently next time, but don’t tell yourself you’re an irresponsible jerk. Just try to be honest with yourself, forgive yourself, and get on the job of doing what you can, right now, to correct your mistake.
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Notice that Giving Yourself an Inner Break is Actually More Motivating Than Saying Mean Things to Yourself
Some people imagine that if we all gave ourselves inner breaks, we’d get lazier and worse. The idea is that people need to feel guilty and bad about themselves in order to get the job done. So you need to say mean things to people, including yourself, to motivate them. But studies show that people aren’t actually motivated by mean words. They actually tend to do much better with encouragement and friendliness. So, next time you catch yourself saying mean things to yourself, just notice that and then give yourself a little encouraging wink….. Reflect, learn, and then get on the job of moving forward. Give yourself an inner break, in other words. EFID
Encourage Yourself and Someone Else to Do Something Nice, Healthy, or Otherwise Good
Many of us have a list of good things we want to do– for our health, for our neighbors, for that cool organization that helps kids around the world learn to read– but often, we’re too busy to take the first step toward making that good thing actually happen. It’s not as if we don’t actually want to do the good things on our list. It’s just that there isn’t a whole bunch of extra time floating around…so even though we have the list, and we’ve had it for a while, the list just sits there, slumped in the back of a sad little neglected drawer in our heads. Of course, every time we peek into that drawer and see that list, it makes us feel vaguely worse about ourselves, creating another classic low-stress moment. The great news is that one friendly nudge can work wonders. Sometimes, that’s all it takes– just one friendly nudge that gets us rolling toward the good things we’ve been dreaming about.
Laugh at Something That Wouldn’t Be That Funny if You Weren’t Laughing
It’s not exactly funny that your powerpoint presentation– the latest version you saved from your email that includes 3 hours of precious updates– seems to have floated toward some distant star somewhere in cyberspace right before your big meeting… It really isn’t all that funny. But it is in fact happening: at the worst possible moment, you are dealing with some kind of black hole weirdness in cyberspace. The statistical likelihood of such an event makes this event entirely baffling and painfully, utterly weird. But again: here you are. So the question is, what are you going to do with your own sense of total panic and disbelief? One obvious option is to freak out in the worst possible way. Just spiral into a really dark play on crazy.. But there is another option. Let’s call it “the cosmic option,” This option allows us to pan out and really see that in a way, this timing is amazingly unlikely, eerily bad, and, therefore sort of funny. You can see yourself, your situation, the whole thing through a big, expansive, cosmic lens, and chuckle to yourself. And yes, this will help you: help you cool down, help you move forward, help you make the best decisions given the circumstances. EFID
Share Your Cosmically Bad Moment with a Co-Worker
The powerpoint lost to some black hole in cyberspace incident was brutal. It really was. And what may have made it all worse is that you felt you had to carry that experience all by yourself. But this is what you can reconsider. Possibly, that moment of pain can be transformed into a moment of human connection, because you can rest assured that all of your co-workers have had their cosmically bad moments, as well. They’ve been there. If you share your cosmically bad experience, the message others get is that it’s okay to be a real human being, and this helps people. When we stop and take the time to see each other, share with each other, encourage each other, console each other, this is a good and nice thing. Workplaces that allow for this kind of human sharing are far less stressful, far more flexible, and far better able to respond to the many challenges of work life. So, notice the people around you. Talk to them. Share with them. Take actions that make your job a job you love. EFID