How Is Your Work Day?
“Every day is a good day. Some just are better than others.” The man in the elevator didn’t look like he believed his own words. He was talking to his peer, clearly about work. I missed the details. Still, that one sentence left me thinking: Is that true? Is every day a good day? Or are some days just okay. Are some days actually “bad” ? For sure, not all days are equal in energizing us for the next day or the next project. But the thresholds of “good, okay, bad” may look different for different people. Not to mention that peer and cultural pressures, personality types, and life situations, will all contribute to how we answer the question. Still, I wonder…
Do we have control over our “day ratings” at work? Do we give our day its rating based on the reaction, approval or disapproval that we get from others, or do we have our own definition? Do we say “it’s good” when we really mean “it’s bad”? Do we feel that we can affect which way the day will go?
When I was a patient in the ICU last year, my really bad day was when I lost my spirit. My body was too broken and I had no more energy left inside…my exhaustion was greater than the will for life. But it was in that moment of “giving up” — of accepting that I had no control over what was going to happen — that magic in fact happened. I stopped fighting and started observing, and saw a whole team of doctors and nurses working to save my life, felt the presence of my family and friends not giving up on me even when I did. Somewhere in between drifting in and out, a thought crossed my mind that the newly installed coils in my brain were made by one of our client companies, not to mention all the other medical equipment and drugs that were keeping me alive… made possible because hundreds of people in life sciences companies put years to developing them. By the time my very broken brain got through observing, there was so much love floating in the ICU, that my lost spirit had nowhere to hide. It had to start its comeback. Slowly. A week later, I had a good day: I stood up for the first time, and reached for the nurse before falling down: Success on both counts. Super good day.
So what’s the correlation to work days? The really bad day at work is when we, individually and within our teams, lose the spirit. When we exhaust ourselves trying to control things that aren’t within our control…Or when we work harder, longer, with less care of ourselves, to prove that we are “worthy”; or maybe for fear of losing our job, or to impress the new boss. We lose our integrity and with that our spirit, when we don’t speak the truth. The undercurrents of work cultures can take us by surprise…and things will happen that aren’t what we expected, plans will change, projects will fail. It’s how we respond that defines the ultimate “day rating”. We gain control of our response when we stop trying to control the behaviors of other people and look inside ourselves.
Pause daily. Long enough to see, to hear and to feel what’s really going on — call it meditation if you wish — or just be quiet and observe, really see, really hear, really feel first within and then around. Do it in the meeting when you feel stress piling up. Sometimes the smallest shift in perspective, changes the entire day rating: That person that never has anything “good” to say — what’s their worry? The executive that just threw a temper tandrum: was that really about us; or the fact that she didn’t like the “news” we had to report — and she behaved badly? Is the failed project a chance to learn or a reason to hide?
The nurturing of the spirit at work, is about taking care of ourselves, reaching out for support during challenging times when our own spirit is running low. Remember that you can’t fake spirit — when it’s lost, we feel it, others see it. And work results show it. When it’s present, it’s equally powerful — capable of transforming whole companies, and a necessity for innovation.
Wishing you a “super good day” : stand up and don’t fall down. But if you do, reach out.
November 9, 2017