Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Is Your Job Making You a Better Person?

Before becoming a full-time workamper I was focused on being the best corporate employee that I could be. Once I got on the ladder I climbed it as fast as I could. Within a few short years I doubled my income and received some pretty great perks for climbing the rungs.
But that climb came with a price that surpassed what I was earning. The stress that came with it affected my health and my spirit. 
I stepped off the ladder when I became a workamper living in a motorhome. I traded the corporate package benefits for a grand lifestyle, with grand vistas and even grander personalities in the transient world where I lived and worked. 
Now I have a position that pays like a corporate job but allows me the freedom of living on the road. I found it by leveraging all of the talents I have developed from every job I have ever had and even then I still had to put hours of time and effort into training for my new position.
Our jobs are so much more than just a conglomeration of tasks and people-pleasing.
Think about this. If you are a full-time employee you spend over 2,000 hours a year at your job. And, on average, most people work about 40 years before they retire. That's eighty thousand hours!
Putting that kind of time into anything could make you an expert at it. So, yes, you could be the best whatever-you-do in your profession. But are all those hours making you a better person, or just sucking the life out of you?
Maybe it's time to evaluate, and step up your game or make a change. Consider the following.

Are You Learning New Skills?

I know plenty of people who can answer that question with a frustrating "yes" based purely on the amount of learning required to keep up with the ever-changing technologies of our times. But learning new skills beyond these simple necessities offer many benefits.
Expanding your skill set makes you more valuable to your employer. And typically greater value equals greater pay. Take advantage of the opportunities around you. Many employers offer online training courses, or will pitch in to cover the cost of a college course or two. These educational options will naturally be oriented toward making you more effective in your current position. However, think about their benefits to you personally. You can use them to make a move to a better position, or to survive an economic downturn, or even start your own business.
Learning a new skill can also keep you healthier longer. Did you know that keeping your mind active and engaged is a great way to ward off physical and mental diseases and slow the aging process? According to Nancy Merz Nordstrom, author of Learning Later Living Greater, continual learning opens our minds, and helps us to develop our natural abilities. So by learning a new professional skill, you could be inadvertently improving a skill that will enhance your personal life as well.

Are Your Professional Goals Aligned With Your Personal Goals?

I recently completed an online Employee Performance Review that asked whether my position was still aligned with my personal goals. Plenty of things can change in a year and I was impressed that my employer was insightful enough to recognize this and phrase the question in a way to encourages employees to ponder its significance.
First of all, what are your personal goals? Do you want to spend more time with your family, or care for an elder? Want to take some time off to travel, or pursue a hobby? Think about your answers and carefully calculate where you are in those 40 years and 80,000 hours. Is your job helping you reach your goals or getting in the way of them?

Do Your Values Align With Those of Your Employer?

Values are at the core of who you are. They are what you stand for, what you believe in, and what you are willing to fight for. Does your employer share your same core values? Are they actively fleshed out on the workplace on a regular basis?
I have had to leave jobs that I loved because I so adamantly opposed the values that were expressed throughout the workforce. And I have stayed at lesser-paying jobs longer that I should have because the opposite was true. Conflicting core values can be a source of excessive stress and dissatisfaction in your professional life. Don't underestimate the impact that this can have on your personal life.

Who Are Your Colleagues?

Are you surrounded by positive and encouraging co-workers? Or is there a Debbie-Downer around every corner?
Listen to the conversations surrounding you throughout your day. You can only be a better person if you surround yourself with people that also want to be better people. That means being around people that encourage you to try new things and help you through tough learning curves. It means being around people that honor your abilities, and support your professional responsibilities by competently managing their own. It's difficult NOT to be come a better person when you surround yourself with the right kind of people.
So what are you doing with your 80,000+ work hours? Are you satisfied with just a paycheck, or do you want to use that time to become a better person too? The choice is yours, consider your course of action wisely. Then take action!

*This post is recycled from an article posted on Infobarrel.com. To read more of my Infobarrel Articles click here. Photo image credit:www.thebusinesswomanmedia.com

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Mantra: "simply living"

In my last post I spoke about "simply living". It's a phrase that resonates deep within me. However, it's just a couple of words to most people that see it in my writing or on my business card.

The two words melded into a way of life for me in 2002 when my entire life dissolved. Yes, dissolved, liquified into a state of chaos and nothingness simultaneously. Within a few hours I lost my home, my job, my car and everything I owned. It was a horrific experience.

It was also a godsend. The greatest gift ever.

The first night was the hardest. My mind wrestled with the grief of my losses, and then the anger that it happened to me. That little voice in my head spewed out survival options. Then it argued that I didn't have the resources or the strength to put any of those ideas into action. And finally it pointed to the source of all this calamity --- me.

You see I had taken a step back from my faith during the two years prior to this day. Before then I trusted that God would see me through anything, and true to his word, he had. He gave me what I needed. But I wanted the American film version of everything. I wanted more. I always wanted more.

So I stopped relying on him and took matters into my own hands -- or so I thought. I wanted a better job, and I got one. I wanted a bigger better home, and I got one. I wanted more prestige and a wealthier community, and I wanted to be the star of that community. That happened too. And then it all vanished. Where had I gone wrong, and how was I going to get it back?

Flash forward six months and I can tell you that none of it mattered. In those six months I became wealthier than I ever imagined. My life changed the instant I changed my mind from wanting it all back to letting it all go. And that's when "simply living" began.

That American film version had tricked me. And I imagine it's tricked a few of you as well. It's not what it's cracked up to be. It fills us with stress, and anxiety, and worry. It takes away our joy, and our sense of wonder, and even our health if we're not paying attention.

"Simply living" is far better than the American film version. It's about focusing on what is real and true and joyful instead of what is glitz and glamor and good lighting. To me it is a spiritual path, but it doesn't have to be. It can simply mean decluttering your home and calming your stress.

Let me show you what I mean. These are just some of the ways I simply live:
I don't sweat the little things. Did you know that an adult makes about 35,000 decisions in a day? A child makes about 3,000. I choose to be childlike. I limit which decisions I make and how long I will deliberate my options.
I don't squander my energy on semi-important things. A friend of mine once suggested that I think about what will matter when I am 85 years old. From that perspective there are a lot of semi-important things in my life that are easy to let go. 
I avoid fighting for anything that is not really worth it.  Guess what? It really is better to be happy than right!
I say "no" more often. There are lots of ways to say no without using this "n" word. I practice all of them on a regular basis. 
I don't gather much. I don't keep much. And, I get rid of a lot. I started living this when my 2002 life dissolved. I perfected it when I lived in my motorhome. It is truly unbelievable to me how little we all need to live and which possessions we cherish out of those few we really need! It's the message that I was put on this earth to cry out until the day I die.
I live in gratitude. As I said in my dreary day post, one of the best things you can do for yourself and others is to appreciate what you have. Focusing on the positive decreases any negative, I know that for sure!
When I write I am continually lured to this theme of simply living. But each time I touch the subject I'm awed by its complexity. It's simple like the "simple pleasure in life" -- so simple that we often forget to notice. 

I'm here to remind you. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But sotre up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and hwere thieves do not break in and steal. For hwere your treasure is, there your hert will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

All Lives Matter

Now stick with me here. We're going to talk about spiders. Yes, one of my least favorite things on this planet....or so I thought.

I rarely saw spiders in the 20 years I lived in Arizona. And in Colorado most spiders that I came in contact with looked totally harmless. So it was easy to "live and let live". But, that's not the case here in North Carolina.

Not only do the spiders here appear more frightful, they are far more plentiful than any other place I have lived. And, they aren't the only insects here either. There are beetles, and roaches, and inch-long thick, slimy, curly worms that crawl into the apartment at night, birth inch-long skinny, slimy, curly worms during the night. In the morning there's a community of these little guys inching their way around the apartment, only to dry up, die, and curl into Cheeto puff-like shapes all over the floor by noon! (Imagine taking a quick trip to the bathroom in the dark with that going on under your feet!)

Anyway, now that you have a little idea about how active the insect kingdom is here, let's get back to the spiders. 

Truly I am not a big fan. So, when a fairly large, hearty-looking spider settled at eye-level on the entry wall outside the door to my apartment my first thought was to shoo it away. (I try not to kill anything unless it is absolutely destroying my peace of mind or my property.) But I was busy that day and figured it would make it's way down the hall and out to the sunshine as I trekked in and out of the apartment tending to last minute pre-travel errands.

Each time I went in and out of the apartment I saw that spider. I must have taken 10 trips in and out and it NEVER moved. Not one inch! So, logically (at least to me) I concluded that this must be God's way of getting me comfortable with the darn things. It was outside. It wasn't harming me and the fact that it was sitting still was a much better option that trying to track it down with my specially designated "bug-catching cup" on a very busy day. 

I slept well that night. Well, except for the creepy crawly curly worms that is. 

The next morning I walked out of my apartment door and look what I saw.

It had turned into a She. She was busy building a nest all day yesterday. (Ha! God had snuck in a reminder: it's not all about me!)

Arrrrrgggghhh! Now it wasn't just a spider. It was a Momma spider. Now I was in a real predicament. I was a mother looking at another mother. And that little puff ball of a nest was the equivalent of nine months of pregnancy in human time. I couldn't disregard the miracle of birth that I was witnessing.

I knew that leaving my home for three weeks without destroying this nest would mean that those little babies were bound to be born and migrate right into my home to welcome me when I got back. Not exactly the welcome committee I wanted.  (I was appreciating the dead cheeto puff worms more with every passing minute!)

What could I do? I knew that the bug-catching cup couldn't relocate mama spider and her babies without harm, and I couldn't separate momma spider from her babies without feeling great guilt about creating orphans -- regardless of my feeling towards such family types. 

As I contemplated my options she moved her leg over to the center of the nest as if she were reading my thoughts and weighing her own options on how to defend her babies should I strike.

She left me no choice. I decided to live and let live. If I had to come home to an apartment full of spiders so be it. It was better than living with the guilt of destroying the home of the innocent young within.

Flash forward three weeks, and voila! Tiny holes where the baby spiders had crawled out. 

I know some of you have favorite baby animals that can't possibly be as cute as I imagine these baby spiders were.  Just think and compare: baby hippos, baby eagles, baby pugs, how about baby gold fish -- ever see one of them? We sing songs about itsy bitsy spiders, how bad could they be?

I dropped my luggage inside the front door and began to search the apartment. Nothing.... except for the dead, curly cheeto puff worms here and there. Mamma spider had politely birthed her babies and escorted them down the hall, off the patio, and into the woods.

I settled back into the apartment, and after the rain finally stopped today I stepped out on to my patio. Below are the images of what I found --- 2 spectacular fully intact spider webs. 
 I'm still not a big fan, but I'm learning to appreciate them. They are simply living, just like me. They want a family, they want a home, and they want to provided for those they love.  

Those spider webs are traps for flies and all sorts of other insects that would pester me if they didn't stop them there. (I wish they would catch some of those cheeto puff worms!) At any rate,their little insignificant spider lives matter.

A call has gone out across our nation. "All lives matter." Those chanting the phrase may be referring to human lives, but these spiders gave me a starting point. 

Ever meet someone that you disliked? As much as I dislike spiders? In a few short weeks my attitude towards spiders has turned from despise to appreciation. All it took was a little empathy.  Seems like the same could be true for the people we may dislike or misunderstand. They, like me, like the spider, like you, are simply living. 

Look at these stunning spider webs. Look at the intricacies of their design. Can you pull something that beautiful out of your butt? 

Look at how they enhance the sunshine that pours through them. How could anything that makes something so delicate, and so intricate be anything but a blessing in my life.

All lives DO matter. 

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." --Eph 4:2


Monday, October 5, 2015

It's a dreary day here in North Carolina. 

Not as dreary as South Carolina where residents are facing another day of unprecedented flood conditions. Not as dreary as the Bahamas where residents are cleaning up the mess left from Hurricane Joaquin. 

Not as dreary as Oregon where families and friends are mourning senseless losses.

All of that dreariness dampens my spirit. Writing about it floods me with guilt. There's enough sadness in these stories without me bringing attention to them in yet another blog. But I am compelled to write. 

I see the bad news on television, the reporters perfectly dressed and prompted to present the dreariness with poise and professionalism. Their program is dotted with commercial breaks advertising products that will make our skin prettier, our bowels more regular, and our sex lives more active. Later in their program those same reporters will laugh about the entertainment headlines or show us the latest decorating trends to maintain their ratings and lift our moods.

They transition us into another day of living. Yes, bad things are happening. But if they're not happening to you, then it's just another day. Don't worry, be happy.

I doubt that we are unaffected by the dreariness. We may appear not to be, and even reject the idea that we could be with all the great things happening in our own lives. But we are not wired that way. 

We are human beings, capable of compassion and empathy. Depending on your beliefs, you may even call yourself your brother's keeper. How can you look at these stories without feeling the dreariness of these situations?

I bet you do. And, if you're anything like me, a sense of helplessness follows the sadness found in empathizing with these victims. What can I do? My own obligations require my time and attention, and I wouldn't know how to help these people even if I could.

I know of something. How about starting with not forgetting about them? How about recognizing that your day is a little sadder because someone else is hurting. They didn't wake up in the comfort of their own bed. They didn't have the luxury of stumbling into their kitchen and making the coffee they way they like it. They don't have to go to work, but that's not a good thing in their situation.

How about taking a few minutes throughout the day to acknowledge how bad we feel for them, and to pray for them? How about asking God to remind them that He is there with them, even though you can't be? 

How about being grateful for your blessings and asking God to bless those in the dreariness? How about remembering in the big scheme of things that having to deal with traffic, or maybe a job that is not exactly what you want it to be, or your kids fighting with each other as you rush out the door are all things to cherish, not to complain about. 

How about honoring those lost in the dreariness by recognizing all that we have instead of what we don't have?

We may not be able to help those people whose homes have been washed away by the floods, or damaged by the hurricane. And God knows how few of us can even imagine the pain brought on by a senseless massacre. But we can acknowledge our feelings about it, and empathize with those around us affected by the same stories. Deep down each one of us is feeling the dreariness of these situations. Why not use that connecting point as a tunnel into each other's hearts, a place to build a foundation of hope and strength in the community that surrounds us. 

In the wake of these dreary stories the reporters inevitably find evidence of miracles, heroes in the chaos, and confirm the power that compassion has to heal the dreariness. Doesn't it always come? So can't we stay focused on that? Can't we see that for them and ask a high power to let them know that we do? 

It's worth a try, don't you think?

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." -- 2 Cor 2:3-4 

 Image: https://aditty.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/rainy-day-puddles/