Tag Archives: Happiness

Oh, those Desk Toys

What sits on the edge of your desk, past the papers, files and pens involved in your daily tasks?  I hope something that makes you smile, we need a bit of whimsy in our flurry of emails, meetings, tasks and goals.

desk toys

When my boys were small my mom was a director level employee of a large hospital, an important job for sure.  And mom was highly capable of presenting a professional demeanor.  But she was confident enough to be able to show hints of her lighter side too.  While on a visit to our house she was introduced to the cartoon of The Tick (not the live action movie which came later) and was charmed by his chin which was as large as both his ego and his bumbling wrongheadedness.  I can still hear her hoots of laughter at his antics and oblivion as Arthur, his sidekick, unravels the messes The Tick makes.


Shortly after her visit where the boys were pleased to share their cartoon with grandma, one or another fast food restaurant came out with Tick toys in their kids’ meals.  The boys were on a mission to collect each one, for grandma.  These toys were presented to grandma on our next visit to her house and sat proudly at the front of her desk for years, until her retirement when they moved to her desk at home.


Of course, living in another state at the time, I never saw her have clients in her office but I know that she certainly did.  Some, those with shaky confidence no doubt, may have poked a little fun at the purportedly childish display which I have no doubt that mom swept aside in her graceful way and replaced with an understanding of the place which whimsy should hold for all of us, despite age or position.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Paid Time Off – Holidays – Independence

Good morning on this day before the National 4th of July Holiday in the U.S.

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia


The holiday which celebrates independence as a country – and as I heard said at a meeting yesterday, the best sort of no pressure holiday; all about food, fun, friends and family.  Some of the young fellows in my neighborhood have already been practicing their fireworks lighting skills, just in case they got rusty since last year.


For my U.S. readers, I hope that this day brings you a little paid independence from your work place – maybe some lazy time to fill with outdoor eating, friendly gatherings, parades, fireworks and maybe a bit of beer.  (And since it falls on a Thursday this year, perhaps even a nice long, leisurely weekend.)


For my readers elsewhere in the world, I hope that you too have some point in the year when you can enjoy a day of independence from the work day toil, a day out of the ordinary mundane working tasks to enjoy with those that you choose to pass pleasant time.


The warm weather and sunshine that we Americans expect as a natural part of this holiday increases the ebullience.  We should all be quite pleased that fashions have changed during the history of this country because I don’t imagine that the many layers of jackets, cravats, wigs, hose, etc. were particularly comfortable in steamy weather.


Independence is a wonderful gift – dreamed of fervently by children doing adult bidding everywhere.  In the midst of the revelry, I hope that you each get a moment to smile about this freedom.


I hope that all have a Happy and Safe 4th, I’ll see you here again on Friday the 5th.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Our Brains on Summer


Everyone who knows me is going to cry foul – so do as I say here and not as I have done in the past and get out of the office to take in some sunshine and fresh breezes as many days as you can.


Why?  Because your brain will thank you.


Why?  Because vitamin D directly from the sun is the best kind.


Why?  Because we should all channel our inner child periodically and watch the clouds scuttle across the sky.


Why?  Because people watching is an interesting pastime.


To fulfill all of these whys, and just for funsies – leave your phone and your pad and all other electronic devices in the car or the office.  Partake in the sounds of nature along with the sights.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Crafting a Beautiful Day to Recharge Yourself

Positive psychology is an important field of study, for as Dr. Martin Seligman has said, “the skills to relieve misery are different than the skills needed to be ‘happy’”.  Plenty of people have wiring that makes it difficult to cope with life.  The rest of us just need a little help to reinforce our good habits, knowledge and understanding to allow for a fulfilling life.


I woke up the other morning to a discussion by the local radio hosts about eating habits – they read a quotation from some guru that talked about savoring just three bites of a loved food and then walking away for 15 minutes to satisfy a craving.  The hosts had much derision on this point, but they had lopped off the most important word as the discussion ensued – savor.


Savoring is very much different than eating and a far cry from gobbling.  Let’s get away from the food focus and apply this thought to our work day.  We are hard wired to give great weight to threats based on our ancestral survival needs – so we can skim over the pleasant, fulfilling things and linger over the dolorous ones.


Tell your brain that your survival needs rest more powerfully on savoring the moments when you get an ‘atta boy/girl’ of any kind and less on dwelling in the land of the gotta do’s.  What did you do right?  What are the good behaviors that you want to repeat?  Learn from the mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up or forget the successes.


Check out this website to learn more about your own happiness status – Authentic Happiness – and learn some clues on how to build on your current state.


One thought presented is to craft a beautiful day for yourself every now and again as a means to reinforce your happiness.  Build in activities that play to your strengths, say curiosity or fitness or gardening or animals.  Taking time to deliberately work on your happiness is beneficial to all around you, and to you.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve been talking for months about doing something like this, but not taking action.  We should make a pact to compare beautiful days by the end of the summer.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Sunshine & Energy, There is Joy to be Found

It is a gray day today, after a gray day, after a rainy day and I am dragging just a bit.  The dandelions (which I broke down and attacked large swaths of with spray) haven’t had the energy to open their yellow faces for half of this week.  I know how they feel, who doesn’t start to lag when the sun is hidden for too long?


We aren’t flowers, but still we will start to wilt without some sun – we are wired to have at least a touch of seasonal affective disorder I suppose.  Even those who get shut up into artificial environments for many hours five or more days per week.  We get energy from the sun, just like solar panels – we need to turn our faces to the sun for just a bit to recharge.  (I’m not talking tanning, here.)


I always work harder to pump cheerfulness into my greetings and interactions on days like this, despite the initial energy drain, in hopes to get a return on my investment through a smile and upbeat response from my counterpart – especially once I entered management because personal energy has great effect on job performance.  Indeed our performance in general.


Joyful events seem so very much more so on sunny days and conversely terrible events seem very much more incongruent on sunny days.  (Think of that perfect fall day on 9/11/2001.)  But sometimes personal tragedy is ever so slightly lessened by the appearance of the sun.

Empress of Elucidation


My mom was having her last adventure, learning to let go of this life as the natural world was shuttering up for its winter dormancy so we had gray days and shades of beige to match our family’s experiences.  Our sunshine, light and bundle of energy was sputtering out.  But determined to make it one more adventure, forced by her body’s inability to overcome its infirmities her mind continued in its quest to savor curiosity.


My siblings and I took turns with the caretaking duties, which mostly involved the same wonderful philosophical discussions that had characterized our adult relationships with this remarkable woman.  Interspersed with learning how to flush a port and other nursing duties.  Mom and I were discussing this very topic, the affect that the sun has on our abilities to cope when I lightheartedly mentioned that perhaps she could make her final journey on a sunny day.  (We have a vein of dark humor running deep in our family.)  She allowed that this would be a worthy goal, neither of us knowing how far into the future this sunny day might be.  But knowing it would not be the 4 more years she had hoped for when we last talked to the doctor about the lack of alternative therapies.


It wasn’t but a few days later, maybe a week that the house was waking from a peaceful night to a sunny Friday morning in early December.  The caregiver gave mom a sponge bath and I whispered that we would just get her cleaned up and dressed in fresh pajamas and she whispered back ‘ok’.  She had mostly stopped talking by then, this woman who still had so much to say.


The overnight caregiver left, my sister was off tending to her young ones (life intrudes regardless of the momentousness of occasions), the hospice nurse was due any minute and my brother would be flying back for his shift in a day or two.  I was quietly reading the paper and offhandedly let mom know the day, the date and that the sun was shining.


She accepted the message and left behind this world and her fragile body just as the nurse and my sister arrived.


Now years have passed from that morning and I don’t relate this story to make anyone sad, though I miss her acutely.  I see this as a story now of the energy and potential for new adventure that the sun can bring as it shares its light and warmth with us.  We just have to be open to the possibility and make a point to gather some energy from the sun when it shines.  Having a sunny outlook is a choice.


[Author’s note: About an hour after I wrote this, the sun burned away the clouds, and I went out to enjoy the light.  I like to think mom had a hand in that.]


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Change the Angle, Create Mental Space

I’ve been having some great new experiences lately, but somehow that hasn’t prevented me from being a bit on the cranky side.  I don’t like being cranky and I certainly don’t ever intentionally share it when I am.  So I’m consciously working through my cranky to get out the other side.


This morning as it rains, fingers crossed for my friends who are still bailing out from the round last week, I decided to look at things a different way instead of questioning why I’m crabby.  (By the way, whoever forgot to turn off their request for rain when we were in drought last year can turn it off now.)  Sometimes it is better to accept a thing that is, but to adjust to give it less of a priority.


So I’m inching around, looking for a sunnier view of things and while I am at it I remembered a conversation that I had with an employee a few years ago.  She had to send an email out to resolve an issue and she asked me to read it first because it had the potential to be sensitive.  I suggested that she reframe her whole premise in a more positive light and rearrange her facts to reduce the emphasis on a couple of problematic ones.  She told me that she felt that was dishonest.  While admiring her straightforwardness, I was a bit taken aback at her use of such a strong word in a conversation with a boss.  (I know bosses who would have considered her insubordinate, I disagree.)


Perhaps my suggestions smacked of being disingenuous. (Check out the differences in meanings if you are at all unsure.) I told her as much – but followed up by asking her intent.  Was she determined to be straightforward and walk into a sensitivity bramble, or did she want to resolve the original issue?  My suggestion would achieve the latter more easily than hers.


One person’s weeds are another’s wild flowers – except for dandelions, even for the folks that like them on their salads.  (You really shouldn’t eat the ones growing in yards.)  Principles are highly necessary, but shouldn’t always be held in a short view.  Sometimes we should walk around the principle and even take a few steps back to see it from different angles and distances.  I too am a straightforward person, but I can couch my communications in a manner that will best convey my intent without compromising my straightforward tendencies.


In this world where we seem to honor confrontation over many more worthy traits, wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if we took that walk around our ire (principle) and thought about what we intend to gain before we act on it?  I promise I will closely monitor if my cranky is the driving motivator for my actions and words in the days to come until it loosens its hold on me.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Superlatives Sound, Well Just Super

Excellence, Best in Class, World Class, phantasmagorical – wait phantasmagorical?  And bippity, boppity boo to you too.  Superlatives were invented so that we could have a means to express sheer utter overwhelming wonderful feelings like new love or hard won success.  Our heart pounding, breathy JOY that we absolutely must share with the whole world right now or burst.  But then they became a marketing tool and teenage girls everywhere just loved every blasted cute little thing.


Tell us what you really think about the use of superlatives, Beth.  Super-duper, I will.


I cherish every moment of unadulterated joy that I have ever felt and fervently hope both that I will experience many more and that each reader of this blog has a long list of their own immensely joyful moments.  (Superlatives cover that deep, dark end of the emotional spectrum too – but let’s keep this discussion on the high end today.)


But just like antibiotic resistant bacteria, we are running out of meaningful words to describe our true emotional peaks because we emptied out many of the existing words with overuse and misuse.  The meaning of excellence has begun to ring hollow when too many claim it without backing it up with real actions.  And as for Best in Class and World Class – what do these phrases really mean?


Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was a fabulous (superlative) song as Julie Andrews presented it in Mary Poppins, but if we attempt to feel that way all of the time, we become numb to the pleasure.  We twirled and whirled around the living room to that song until we were dizzy and giggly, but please don’t mar these special memories by telling me your new product is even better than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


Call attention to your idea, your product, your system by telling me real, solid words that define the usefulness.  Work harder to evoke a sustainable, achievable, reasonable explanation of what it can do for me.  Don’t co-opt these beautiful superlatives.


Sometimes I think ideas are just in the air, I started this blog post, had to set it aside for a call and happened across this interesting article – Never as Bad as it Looks and Never as Good Either.  It doesn’t talk about superlatives, but I think the writer’s point enhances mine.  Why is this moment a peak or a valley?


But, Beth, haven’t you advocated fake it until you make it in past posts?  Yes, I have so I’ll further define it.  What is the best high point of your life?  If it was superlative then you can use the memory of that moment for a fake it until you make it moment where you need to be more positive than you currently feel.  If you are not a superlative person – say your high point is particularly pleasant – then that is the memory to use to fake it until you make it.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Spring Fever for Grown Ups

Who didn’t work hard to convince a teacher or two to hold class outside, or if the school structure allowed, open the windows to let in that fresh air back in the day?  We assumed that the teacher had burned through this urge for space and freshness and newly growing things as he or she passed into adulthood.  Now we know that assumption was wrong.  Spring is quite distracting to all living things, and adults are far from immune despite our knowledge of responsibility and obligation.


The world around us is waking back up and turning a lovely pale green, why would I want to look at spreadsheets and answer customer calls?  And that smell of spring – moist earth and plants waking up to sprout new shoots.  Pish-posh to the afternoon meeting prep.


All of these modern buildings with the windows that give us a view, but don’t open to let our other senses share in the joy of spring, the balminess of the breezes, carrying the scent, and the warmth of the sun on upturned faces.  Subject to conditioned and re-conditioned air that hasn’t been exposed to the elements, only man-made filters – I want to use my Wi-Fi sitting on the bench outside, under the tree whose buds are growing and will burst out with leaves soon.

spring fever

Pah to fabric half walls and shades of beige coated drywall – we crave bark on craggy trees, grass reverting from dormancy and squishing underfoot, birds chirping and building nests.  Who can think of dollar-cost averaging when its spring?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Do Something Unexpected, But in Character

Complacency is dangerous to each of us, in some part because it is so seductive.  Part of complacency is the see-saw that most of us enact as we try to fit in but be seen as an individual in our own right at the same time.  This brings to mind the Push me-Pull you from the original Dr. Doolittle movie.  It’s quite a challenge to be two disparate things at the same time.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.


There are times when it is a good idea to be part of the crowd and it is always important to keep a strong hold on your sense of self.  Your self-expression feeds off of your perception of position within this balance.


I am known to like Hello Kitty – I was considered too old for her when she first came into popularity years ago and disregarded that stricture on her more recent second turn in the popular eye.  I was given a Hello Kitty lunch box as a gift a few years ago, perhaps a gag gift.  I happened to need a new means to transport my lunch to the office and not being one to waste and also being secure in my own idiosyncrasies I started to carry my Hello Kitty lunch box to work every day and store it in the communal refrigerator.  I received a variety of reactions from my co-workers from outright amusement through to those who tried to shame me for such a ‘childish’ act.  Hello Kitty brought a smile to my face that boosted my mid-day; therefore I made it clear that I was immune to any negativity.  I proved my ability to act professionally in many ways through the way that I completed tasks; Hello Kitty gave me an outlet of a different kind of self-expression.  Eventually she wore out and I started to carry a less noticeable bag that still had personality.


I don’t recommend such an extreme for most, if any of my readers.  I have a background in Theater that peeks out in splashy ways sometimes.  But there are so many ways to create something tangible that represents encouragement to your uniqueness: perhaps some small talisman in your pocket that reinforces your resolve or puts a smile on your face, perhaps a ritual phrase, word or action.  Anything that helps to remind us of our best self.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Being Spectacularly Yourself

A few years ago I had a very difficult year.  There’s a list that pops up periodically in articles of serious stressors and I was affected by a fair number of them in this particular year.  This isn’t about stressors or difficulties, though.  It is about finding your joy by understanding yourself.


“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”

~Albert Camus


I learned many, many things that year, but two stand out as beacons to me still.  The first is just as Mr. Camus states above, only my personal expression is that there is joy to be found.  It is in such varied and unexpected places if we can only keep our minds, ears, eyes and hearts open to absorb it.  Or since such constant vigilance is difficult to maintain, remind ourselves of the possibility on a frequent basis.


The second was an idea that took hold of me then that every person has within them a ‘great thing’.  Some people have more than one; some people may never realize their great thing.  But it exists and just waits to be discovered.  No one else can tell you what your great thing is; you must look inside yourself and then nurture it.


By saying great thing, I don’t mean to imply that it is something that will bring fame and riches or indeed any sort of renown necessarily.  (And I am deliberately not capitalizing great thing because it is personal.)  Your great thing will most likely play a part in your definition of success.


“Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

~James Thurber


I have a friend that posted on Facebook shortly after this past New Year that while at a party she was asked the traditional question about her resolution for 2013 and on the spur of the moment she answered to sparkle.  Isn’t that just grand?  She has had her trials, but she chooses to sparkle.  (She is possessed of an excellent wit, so I have no doubt that she will be able to fulfill this resolution.)


Finding joy, nurturing your great thing, or sparkling won’t prevent the trials and tribulations of life from pecking at you, this is true.  But each will help you to achieve contentment, and internalized, will flavor all your endeavors.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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February 11, 2013 · 9:21 am