My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Calling and an Elevator Operator

An important element to our work life is connecting with the Calling aspect of our work life. Often Calling is misunderstood as being only for spiritual related careers as a person is Called to be a minister or missionary. I view Calling as that which makes our work meaningful. The areas of our work that brings the inner satisfaction as we look back upon a workday knowing we made a difference. A website that I enjoy reading and listening to the podcasts concerning the topic of life/work calling is .
The website presents stories and articles about the importance of our work. We spend a significant portion of our lives doing this thing called work. From the stories on the website I have found a deeper appreciation in how to look at my work settings from a Callings angle. It helps in exploring new ways to create meaning in the workplace.

I want to share one of the stories presented on the website by Howard Butt Jr. about an elevator operator, Bruce Renfroe, in New York City. The links to the highcalling video and a more in-depth Guideposts article about the man can be found below after the reflection.

Mr. Renfroe was a cleaner in the Metro system and enjoyed his work but after a stroke he could not return to his work. He was then transferred to be an elevator operator. He shared how he found the job very boring and noticed people in the elevator never spoke. This made me think of my years of living in Chicago. Elevators were always a place where everyone just faced forward with stoic faces and never made a sound. Mr. Renfroe wondered if he could make a difference to these robotic group of emotionless people. He started off by making a joke one day and noticed a passenger laughed. He then put up a poster, and brought in a houseplant. Then he added a small radio playing jazz music and had his Bible on a small table. Those changes in the atmosphere of the elevator started the people talking and enjoying the short ride down to the metro train stop. Some mornings a rider would ask him to read a Bible verse to inspire their workday. Other days a jazz song would be requested. At that point he realized he was enjoying his job again. What started out as ways to perk up his riders’ day was a boost to bringing meaning to what started as a boring job for him. This story touched me as I remember some of the Chicago buildings that would have an elevator operator. It always made the ride better to have a cheerful worker in the elevator. It also shows how Calling can be added into any job.

The story made me think of my work and what aspects of it relate to calling. Where am I making a difference in the world and lives around me? The answer to that question is where we move beyond the mundane of everyday work and move higher up into the calling of our work. In the living more than OK life, work is an area where we need to see how we can spiral up to abundant life even in our job, not just marking time until Friday. I am amazed how the Guideposts article ends about Mr. Renfroe. “Some people say, ‘Thank God it’s Friday because they can’t wait to start their weekend.’ Bruce said, ‘Me? I say Thank God for Monday because that’s the day I go back to work.’”

Reflection: In what ways can you add a sense of calling into your work world? What would our work places be like if we had Mr. Renfroe’s attitude about Monday mornings? article copied from Guideposts


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Conquering Stress With Flow

After finishing a term paper for my Social Psychology course in my PhD program I reflected over one article I had read about showing the importance of leisure activities. The article looked at how our leisure activities can act as a stress reliever in our lives. The researchers mentioned in the article how participants shared their activities moved them into a flow state of mind. As I have mentioned in the past, Flow is based on the research and observations of Dr. Mihalyi Csikszentmihali. It is that state of mind and emotion where the person is totally absorbed in an activity they enjoy and have a high skill level to match the activity. There is a sense of timelessness and ownership in doing the activity. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research came from observing people involved in sports activities and the arts. So he was observing people doing their leisure activities and hobbies. He found that nine primary elements made up flow: having clear goals, immediate feedback, skills met the challenge at hand, focus of action and awareness, ability to overcome distractions, lack of worry, lack of self-consciousness, a sense of timelessness, and activity becomes intrinsically enjoyable.

From looking at the elements of flow described it is clear how Flow activities can aid in stress reduction. By being absorbed is something you enjoy doing, there is less worry, the mind is more focused and there in more internal joy in your life, These elements of Flow can counter act against stress. With stress having such negative effects in our health and overall life experience it is helpful to know by building time into our lives to do special activities we enjoy can help relieve stress.

Flow acts as a change agent that helps move the internal state of our mind and emotions to being more calm and joy filled. As stated at the beginning, flow is based on the observational research work of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi. He spent time observing rock climbers, chess players, dancers and other such activities for many years. Then with a questioning mind thought why did they spend so much personal time in those activities? He found they had a deep sense of enjoyment in the activities. There was also a skill enhancing aspect they held to internally. If you think about it the dancer wants to improve her skills and learn new dances. The rock climber wants to climb new areas. And artists wants to continue to improve in their paining style. He created the term flow to stand for the sense of optimal experience the participants felt inside with their absorption and enjoyment into the activity.

The article I mentioned that especially caught my mind is based on a research study to consider how leisure activities can counter stress and build resilience in individuals. Their participants were a varied group of adults from Canada. They made use of focus groups and grouped the people in related categories. The topics of the groups revolved around discussing stress in their lives and then discussing what did they do in their leisure that helped relieve the stress thus making them more resilient to stress. Some of the activities mentioned by the participants were doing puzzles, exercise, playing musical instruments, knitting, dancing and reading. My favorite is in the list is reading. Some of the resulting effects in the participants were feeling a sense of balance, renewed, and recharged. For many, the activities allowed them to put the stressors of life in perspective by taking their minds off the stress and being absorbed in the activities they found enjoyable. This sounds very much like the effects of flow in a person’s life. Many of the activities mentioned were activities that required a level of skill enhancement and they were activities the people deeply enjoyed. This is an important aspect to flow activities so that people do not tire of them as there is always room to grow in the activity with new understanding and new skill. What the researchers were describing was very similar to Dr. Csikszentmihaliyi’s observations of people who were involved with flow activates. This shows that flow has a positive effect in relation to stress.

From reflecting over the preceding literature on flow there can be seen positive connections to how flow can help people overcome stress by doing activities they enjoy. The mentioned connections between flow and increased inner motivation can aid in the strengthening of the building blocks of resilience which help conquer stress. The important question do we take the time to involve ourselves in such activities?

Reflection – What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Do these activities help in lowering stress in your life?

Iwasaki, Y., Mactavish, J., Mackay, K. (2005). Building on strengths and resilience: Leisure as a stress survival strategy. British Journal of Guidance & Counseling, 33. 81-100. Doi: 10.1080/03069880412331335894.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and The Mind

Last week I was looking at the power of music for positive effects in our lives. So I thought I would zero in on a song this week. It is another song by Amy Grant off her How Mercy Looks From Here – CD. I want to focus in on the importance of the initial lines of the song. The words relate so well with self-fulfilling prophecy from our self-talk; that defeats us keeping us away from an abundant life. Self-fulfilling prophecy is when we allow our thoughts from our self-talk take over and the results are what we have been feeding our mind. For example let’s say a person is dreading a meeting at work on Monday. He keeps repeating to himself that something terrible is going to happen. Low and behold at the meeting things do not go well for him and afterwards he states, “I knew something bad was going to happen today”. That is self-fulfilling prophecy in action.

Click on the title of the song to listen to Amy Grant sing the song and focus in on the beginning lyrics.

"Not Giving Up" Amy Grant

If you think you're gonna fail Well, you're probably gonna fail
So tell me, what was all the dreaming for? And if you think you're gonna lose
Well, you're probably gonna lose So what's the point in trying anymore?

What you're looking for, you'll find It happens every time

I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you, Not giving up on you

When your fragile heart is breaking And your confidence is shaken
I can tell you that we've all been there before The first step is hard to take
But it's a choice you gotta make When life is waiting through that open door

I wish that you could see The way you look to me

I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you, Not giving up on you

Oh, not so long ago, You pulled me through

So I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
Even if the rain comes down And your sky is falling
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You can say you've had enough But I won't stop calling,
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you
You know we can work this out If we just keep talking
I'm not giving up, Not giving up on you , Not giving up on you

Cause is you think you have a chance, Then you really have a chance
I hope you know that I believe in you

The opening lines of the song discuss the mental choices of negativity that many choose to repeat in their self-talk – “I’m gonna fail or I’m gonna lose”. If the mind is filled with that type of mindset a negative result will occur. I have seen it time and time again in the lives of students and clients. The descriptor words we feed our minds do have an impact. The question at the beginning of the song can be heard from people who allow negative self-talk to control their minds. So what's the point in trying anymore? So people give up and choose to just exist with OK living and spiral down in to further negativity. Their confidence continues to weaken as the see negative results in their lives totally unaware that it all goes back to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the negatives they are feeding their minds with.

That is why it is so important to take time to think through what we are saying to ourselves. The self-talk we feed our minds with have a direct correlation to the outflow of our choices and actions. That is what is important about the line “But it's a choice you gotta make When life is waiting through that open door.” We need to make choices about what we want in and of our lives each day and in the future. We can only spiral up to abundant, living more than OK, living by having a positive mindset that comes from feeding our minds with positive self-talk. Making the use of positive self-affirmations, positive quotes, scriptural promises are what can create the mindset that can give us powerful wise choices that improve our lives for the better. Dr. William Glasser in his book Choice Theory states, “When you learn that you are almost always free to make better choices, the concept that you choose your misery can lead to optimism. This new awareness is a major redefinition of your personal freedom.” (Page 77)

What the song is getting at relates to the Dr. Glasser quote in that through our choices we can change the self-fulfilling prophecy. We do not have to continually fail or lose all the time. We all will fail at times as that is one way we learn. But changing the mindset to that there is a chance for success moves us towards having more opportunities to have more success in our overall life.

Of course a larger point in the song is that it also helps to have those around us who build us up by never giving up on us. There is a sense of reciprocity in the phrase “Oh, not so long ago, You pulled me through”. As others help us we need in turn to help others not to give up. Why I stressed the beginning lines is, yes, it is good to have others believe in us. But bottom line, you can have a group of people who believe in you, but if you do not believe in yourself nothing will change. We each need to be in charge of making right choices to make positive changes.

Reflection: What kind of mindset is guiding your choices – positive or negative? Do you have a friend or friends in your life that do not give up on you? Where does God fit into the picture of not giving up?