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Filtering by Category: Happiness

Are you using work as an excuse to avoid your life?

Ana Polanco

If Adele were here while I was writing this blog her next comment after the title would be Hello…

Okay, seriously. So how do you know if you are using work to avoid your life?

There is not one specific list for everyone, but there are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Are you living the fullest version of your life right now?
  • Does your life feel well rounded, whole and fulfilling?
  • If you divided your life into a pie, what percentage would be work?

If any of these questions, are making you even slightly uncomfortable or causing you to pause or rationalize the answer, then you might be using work as an excuse to avoid your life. The reality is that a majority of us spend more time at work than in any other activity. Changes in American work and community life have radically impacted and heightened the ability for people to focus in on work and avoid all the other areas that make them happy and give them life.

Over time we develop a series of reasons to avoid engaging others. Some of the most popular reasons I have given and have heard from others about working too much are:

  • We’re on a project and have to put in long hours
  • My company is reorganizing
  • I want to make a good impression
  • I’m new

And then one year and ten pounds later, you’re still pulling 60 hours a week and haven’t seen or done something you love in months. Oops – that was me remembering. The truth is that work can be the ultimate husband. Think about it. Work is always available for you and needs you. Work constantly asks you to solve problems and you get paid for it. What!!

The problem is work is less like a husband and more like that happy hour deal you can’t quit. Talk about other ways of avoiding your life.

Early in my career I had a boss tell me “everyone is replaceable.” For a while I was concerned he was referring to me, but really he was referring to the work. The work is endless and so everyone is replaceable because the work demands it. No matter how much you LOVE your job, don’t neglect your life, your health and those things that inspire you. It is no one else’s job to take care of your personal life other than you. So make today count in every way possible and do things you love because you truly love them and not because someone expects you to do them.   

So how exactly do we kick the work habit and start prioritizing ourselves?

Set Work Boundaries

As you know work will always be ready and waiting. So the most important thing you can do is set boundaries. This is especially important in the first 90 days of a new job.  This is where you decide what aspects of the workplace culture you plan to take on. Any norms and behaviors you set during this time will define how your coworkers engage with you. Example: If you set a fixed schedule and boundaries around that schedule, your coworkers will learn that these are your boundaries and normally follow suit.

 Don’t Stay Late Unless You Absolutely Have to

While all bosses have their own quirks, your boss doesn’t necessarily equate length of time you stay at work with loyalty, commitment or drive. If you need to work after closing time, make it the exception and not the rule even during times of reorganizations and mergers. As someone who has supervised many people in different situations and roles, I was only ever concerned with the product outcome. The only instance in which time matters is if you are unable to manage your time and it affects other team members. I was always most impressed by staff who completed things in less time and who had a healthy work life balance. Those team members opted for good over perfect. They tended to be the most well rounded staff.

Strengthen your Creativity & Learning Skills

Creativity comes from – not work! Life is what brings creativity to the workplace. Some of the best campaigning ideas that I have had, have come from billboards that I saw on road trips and curious conversations with friends in other sectors. Live your life so you can bring immense creativity and flexibility to the workplace. Creativity and flexible thinking are some of the greatest assets employees can bring to the workforce. Find a hobby or a creative outlet that inspires you to new ways of thinking and solving problems.

Ask yourself the key question

Ask yourself, if you weren’t at work, where would you like to be right now? The truth is that if we weren’t at work we would be doing something that inspires us and even peaks our curiosity. Maybe you would be spending time with family, taking a road trip, getting healthy, taking a class, fulfilling a passion or hobby, volunteering, realizing your personal life goals… The list is endless.

Whatever you do, don’t be a drone. Live your life, before it’s too late. Don’t be the person that looks back and regrets all the time you spent alone in your cubicle. That miracle or great idea you’re waiting for isn’t going to show up with your dinner delivery at work.

Your turn: What are your best excuses for avoiding your life? How did you break the cycle?

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Are You Focusing On The Relationship Or Just Your Needs?

Librada Estrada

We were married at Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas. 

We were married at Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas. 

In the fall I will have known my partner for 24 years.  This year we will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Before we began dating we had been friends for four years. Then we dated for another four before we made it official. There are moments when I look at him and am surprised that we have been together for this long.

On one hand, it seems like just yesterday we were being introduced. On another it’s like I have never walked with anyone else.

Expectations of Childhood Dreams

It’s a surprise to me particularly because my parents divorced when I was eight years old. Because of the experience I used to think I wouldn’t marry. The examples I saw involved two individuals being selfish, ugly and I painted marriage as a power struggle with one person always coming out on top.

The other couples I did observe were cloaked in secrecy, at least that is how it seemed to me, because no one ever discussed what was going well or the challenges. When there was trouble brewing I was kept in the dark since I was one of the younger ones in the family. So I did not learn how couples resolved problems.

Instead, I had unrealistic expectations of love and thought that there was such a thing as the perfect marriage because what I learned about relationships was based on TV or books. I also believed that arguments could be resolved in short periods of time.

My Truth

After almost 16 years of marriage what I have learned is that each of us has good days and bad. Neither of us is perfect and we make lots of mistakes. Communication is ongoing work for the both of us and emotions get the better of one or the other at different instances. Sometimes we go to bed mad at each other.

We have had great moments, stressful moments and there have been instances where I was ready to call it quits and I imagine that he also felt the same way.

I also know that my partner is my best friend. He is the first person that I want to call when something good or bad happens.

Our Relationship

I have recognized that although we are both individuals, we have to work together in honor of our relationship. We are focusing on what we want to create in our marriage and the life that we desire. It's more than just combining separate needs.

It sounds trite but when I am asked what makes us work or stay in love with each other, I share that there is no magic pill. In my opinion falling in love is easy. Staying together is the hard part.

What We Are Creating Together

I am grateful for my significant other. There are several things that I have learned from being with him for so many years. 

  • Be willing to change for the sake of the relationship. Recognize that you are now a team. Yes, it is important to have your individual goals and dreams. It is also important to remember you said yes to create a life with another person. That means it’s not just about you or that other person. You have to grow in service of each other. It’s about what you are creating together—the relationship.
  • There is no 50-50 in love and your roles will change. At different times each of you will pick up the slack, either in the relationship, home life, love life, emotions, etc. It’s a constant give and take. When you start tracking it, you are asking for trouble.
  • Remember why you fell in love with your partner. Besides the physical, you were attracted to your partner for different reasons. In my husband’s case, I fell in love with his confidence, generosity, and quiet strength, as well as his intelligence. Although how he embodies those elements has changed some, these are qualities that are still core to him. Truth be told, at moments that I have been the most upset or I am trying to get over being mad with him I remind myself of what I find appealing about him. When I bring to the forefront the good things, these outweigh the crap that’s mudding the waters.  Remind yourself of what attracted you to this person in the first place.
  • Identify your shared values. Different stages in our lives have pushed us to come together and identify what is important-changing jobs, what we want in a home, the number of children we will have, how we will raise them, our spiritual life, my business, etc. We have discovered the values that are key for us. These will guide you when you are unsure.
  • Be yourself. Yes, it is good to consider doing things a different way, but do not change who you are at core to please someone else.
  • Accept that you can only change yourself. Many instances I wanted or demanded that my partner be the one to change. In truth, I can only change myself. How can you expect your partner to change if you are not wiling to do it?
  • Remember the good moments and the bad. Sure we have lots of great memories as a family. These are the ones that help us get through the bad times. However, it’s the tough moments that remind me that our marriage is worth fighting for and that make our relationship stronger. You sometimes have to experience the ugly moments together to identify what is really important to the both of you.
  • Learn to share the TV remote or to tolerate each other’s TV shows. Said another way, take interest in some of things that your partner likes. Before dating him, I did not know the first thing about Star Trek. Because of my husband, at one point I knew more about Deep Space Nine than him. In return, I introduced him to the finer points of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Your Turn: What has helped you to have a positive long-term relationship?

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What are the implications of your requests?

Librada Estrada

CautionHave you ever had this happen to you—you fantasize about asking for something (raise, promotion, going on a date, etc.) and when you get it you realize that you are receiving more than you expected? Before asking for what I want, I build a fantasy about what it will be like to get it. As an employee, I would dream about a flexible schedule, new office space, more income, how I would supervise staff, or how I would design a program. Before children I pictured myself volunteering, chaperoning and baking. I would become giddy with the possibilities of what might be. Unfortunately, fantasy and reality do not always align.

Something that I learned the hard way is that getting what you want is not always what it is cracked up to be and that sometimes there are unexpected consequences. For instance, when I became a supervisor for the first time I imagined that my team and I would work like a well-oiled machine and that it would be smooth sailing. HAH! My ideas did not take into consideration personalities, deadlines, or group dynamics. I had a huge learning curve on team building and individual preferences.

Or, when we had our first child, in my mind I skipped the first 5 years and only ran scenarios that would involve school, play dates and coordinating birthdays. I considered what I would control and I did not realize the impact she, and eventually her brother, would have on my life as an individual, as a parent and on my career on a daily basis.

Often we focus so much on getting what we want that we don’t consider what might actually happen, besides the obvious. Or, we don’t proceed with caution. We are quick to move forward, concentrate on the positives and we don’t pause to examine the potential risks.

Many people want a promotion. They desire a higher income bracket, a title change, more responsibilities, and/or the opportunity to supervise (more) individuals. When they get it they are excited for all of these reasons and more.

However, earning a promotion is more than just these obvious things. It involves a shift in attitude, producing more and increasing your emotional intelligence. It may require you to project yourself as a leader and to push yourself to develop professionally. You will have to invest in yourself.

Depending on the promotion, your former peers and friends may end up reporting to you, shifting the power dynamic in the relationship. This may include losing some friends while gaining new ones. Your peer group changes and that may require you starting off as the new kid on the block and spending time and energy building bridges.

What this also does is give you access to information once shielded from you. Ignorance is bliss and often being privy to behind closed-door conversations may result in you becoming more jaded about the organization, its willingness to change or the impact that you can have.

Your quality of life may be impacted. You may find yourself modifying your schedule to deliver a product or meet a deadline and have less free time for loved ones. Or, you may not have a chance to enjoy the additional vacation days you are entitled to because of work travel, etc. A promotion may result in you being more stressed and taking it out on friends and family.

As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. As you consider your next promotion, raise, life change, personal relationship, etc. it’s important to recognize what you are asking for will involve more than you expect. Understanding this will help you better negotiate your request, set more realistic expectations, prioritize items, or identify concessions you are willing to make. When you do get it you will be better prepared to deal with the unexpected and can spend more time on enjoying the experience.

The next time you get ready to make a request or negotiate, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Ask questions—Don't be afraid to talk to others or to ask the questions that you have. Don't assume that others will give you the information you need.
  2. Be clear on what you want and be flexible on how it can be met—Know what it is that you really want and be open to how the organization, supervisor, or other can provide it to you. If you are rigid about how it is achieved you will limit your likelihood of success. I have had more success when I have stayed focus on the outcome that I desire and not worried about the process.
  3. Make time to identify the long-term implications of what you desire—To better negotiate, think past the short-term gratification to determine what is it that you may expect and what else do you need to ask for. Picture yourself in a week’s time, three months into the future, a year or further down the line. Ask yourself how will you be different.
  4. Build on your past experiences—How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I would have known X or if I had only thought about Y. These are nuggets of information. Think about your successes and failures. My experience differed slightly each time I was promoted because I did things a little different in each position. What do you want to build on? What do you want to make sure you don’t lose sight of? What is important for you to negotiate?
  5. Stretch outside of your comfort zone—Yes, you may not have signed up for all that you are receiving and be open to how the opportunity may help you grow in other areas of your life.
  6. Prepare to receive—Consider what is it that you need to do to get ready to receive what you want. What attitudes or beliefs do you need to shift? What skills will you have to be ready to develop or learn? What boundaries do you have to put in place personally or professionally?

Your turn: In the comment section below, share an unexpected consequence of getting what you wanted and how you dealt with it.

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Why Be Happy?

Librada Estrada

laughter-happyFBWe’re really excited about International Happiness Day since we're at the midpoint of our own happiness challenge. Ana and I have been tweeting about happiness at #100STQDAYS. When we first brainstormed the idea, I wasn't sure what to expect or what I would tweet about. Realizing that we were over thinking we agreed that each of us would define happiness for herself. That was the best thing we could have done.

During the first half of the challenge I realized that I took happiness for granted and I still do. The difference now is that I course correct much sooner than before. Despite the fact that I have fallen behind on tweeting daily, I have been able to identify a moment that brings me joy every day. I kept thinking that I would feel better, smile more and get some endorphins running through my brain and… I am actually experiencing more of these things. What I didn't expect is that I am recognizing the benefits beyond just increasing positivity in my own life.  It's reminding me of some leadership lessons that have been pushed to the back of my mind.

It helps when you are mindful. Have you ever gone through an entire day thinking that nothing was right or did not go well? I have. Since I started the happiness challenge, I have found that making the time to reflect on the day and look for joy, I am able to identify a nugget or two that helps me realize I HAVE had happy moments that I am not always present to. Once I realize it, I feel grateful for these moments. And the more I am grateful, the happier I feel. It’s that simple. The more happiness you generate the more bliss you feel – it’s addictive! This has caused me to pause and consider what else might I need to be more mindful of and how do I show up. As a leader, what do you need to be paying attention to that you are currently ignoring?

Happiness is contagious. If you focus on everything that did not go well, you find evidence to support that idea and you sound and act negative. People stay away. Similarly, when you have positive interactions with colleagues, they are more likely to collaborate with you or help you and vice versa. This makes for a more pleasant work environment, which potentially leads to happier and more productive staff. How do others see you? What kind of environment do you create at home or work?

Each of us has a different idea of happiness and expresses it differently. If you look at what Ana and I have been posting, it is very individual. That is the beauty of this project. It is giving us a chance to get to know each other more and highlights that although we are working on the same thing, our experience is different and just right for each of us. You don’t have to feel happy at the same time as everyone else, have the same definition or express it the same way. It’s a great reminder that we need to be respectful of individual preferences and consider alternatives. How open are you to different perspectives or ways of doing things?

Si tú quieres, you can choose to be happy. I now wake up with happiness on the brain. I try to stay positive and look for the joy in small things. Happiness is habit forming. If I haven’t found something by evening time, I make it a point to bring in some laughter, relief, or pleasure. What do you choose to focus on about yourself, your team, or your boss?

Experiencing joy is a journey. We have come to believe that certain emotions are good and others are bad. The reality is that emotions are data points. They inform us of what we like or don’t like and what to embrace or reject. Being happy is great and it’s not the only way to be. I still have plenty of moments when I am impatient, frustrated or angry. Being able to more quickly recognize when I am not feeling upbeat helps me identify the root cause sooner rather than later and determine what I want to do about it. Sometimes we have to experience the flip side, sadness or grief, to appreciate it even more. What do you avoid because you fear the discomfort?

Si tú quieres, here are some tips to become more aware of happiness:

  • Take a picture or record the event in some form.
  • Be present in the moment.
  • Reflect on your day and identify one thing that made you happy each day-in a journal, calendar, diary or picture.
  • Connect with a person that makes you happy.
  • Try something new or a different version of what you already enjoy.
  • Focus on YOUR definition of happiness and what feels right for you and forget what others think.
  • Contribute to someone’s happiness-give them a boost, smile, a simple thank you.
  • Start small—hold yourself accountable to do/experience/identify one thing daily that brings you joy.

Your turn: For International Happiness Day, the world is focusing on music. What does happiness sound like to you? Tell us on Twitter at #HappySoundsLike

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Six Ways Passion Fuels Your Dream

Librada Estrada

PicMonkey CollagePassion, according to Websters Dictionary, is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Lately I have been reading articles that discuss it. Some emphasize that you should follow your passion in order to be happier and find more satisfaction at work. Others stress that you must first focus on making a living and then honor your passion. What do you think? Ana and I have written about visioning and taking action to make your dreams a reality. However, where does passion fit in?

Over the last few months I have reflected on my choices to date and the focus of my work. I have had an amazing journey because I have been able to honor my passions in different ways. From a very early age I knew that I wanted to impact the health of others. As a young child, and witnessing extreme poverty during family trips to Mexico, I had decided that I wanted to help people and that I could do that best with a career in medicine.

Once in college the reality of how long it might actually take, the cost, and differences between population versus individual based health care set in. Suddenly, my interest to help others began to get clearer and I realized that while the idea of serving people through medicine was good, it wasn’t actually my cup of tea. It no longer was as appealing as I originally had believed and my enthusiasm changed.

So, I decided to put aside my dream of medicine. Still not satisfied with what I knew as my options at the time, but knowing that I wanted to be an agent of change, I searched for different opportunities. While working for a few years after graduating from college, I volunteered at different organizations and I fell upon public health. As I learned more about it I realized that I had discovered another way to tap into my passions. It combined behavior change, psychology, health, and population based impact—all of which were areas I was excited about and were components I wanted in my profession! I was ecstatic to be able to combine so many elements that were important to me.

Eventually I graduated with a Masters in Public Health and worked in the field for almost 15 years. I had the opportunity to work on various topics at different organizations. At core, all of them related to workforce and leadership development. Without realizing it, my passion had morphed from focusing on health and access to care, to enabling individuals to make choices for positive health outcomes and, eventually, to building systems and infrastructure.

Now, I focus on helping women embrace their unique leadership style and kick self-doubt to the curb so they can have more fulfilling lives through my coaching practice. I transitioned from working at a non-profit organization to having my own consulting practice. Although I don’t like the administrative side of having my own business, I love working with my clients and witnessing their growth!

Regardless of which camp you fall into, work first/passion second or vice versa, having passion in your life helps you enjoy life more and contributes to you being more enthusiastic about what you want to achieve in spite of things not being perfect or easy. Here is what I have come to appreciate about passion and my visions.

  1. Passions are dynamic—I went from wanting to cure people to preventing adverse health outcomes to leadership development. And, I was excited about each while working on these areas. Similar to dreams, as you move through different life stages and have successes, your passions will change based on your experiences, knowledge, family, commitments, culture, values, etc.
  2. Find your why—For me, at the heart of all of this, is that I want to help and empower people. Being aware of why you are excited and passionate about something will motivate you to take action. Watch the Simon Sinek video on this topic.
  3. Use them to refuel—I was fortunate that I was honoring my passion through my work and yet, there were times when this wasn’t enough. I had to find different ways to feel joy and be motivated. Be flexible about how your passions fit into your life and honor them in some way. Don’t deny your passions! This is especially important when you are not able to be enthusiastic about things and need to recalibrate or need a shot in the arm to get moving.
  4. We have more than one passion—Each of us has multiple interests. In addition to my family and friends, I love card making, photography, cooking, and facilitation. You cannot always focus on each one or all at the same time. When you aren’t being fueled by one, tap into another.
  5. They are unique to you—I get excited discussing leadership development and coaching. This might not even be on your radar—who cares! Like your visions, it’s about what gives you deeper meaning and about what you love. It isn’t about achieving approval. What do you enjoy?
  6. They align with your vision—Following your passions doesn’t make life perfect or easy. You still have to do the work, face your fears, and be willing to risk. Action is the cornerstone of achieving what you want in life. Working on what you are passionate about helps you know that you are heading in the right direction and moving toward your purpose.

Your turn: How does passion show up in your life?

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