See the Lights !!

This time of year can lead to a variety of emotions. For some, the holidays are difficult while others are ecstatic. It runs the gamut and it’s hard to know how people are facing the season. It would be best if we had the courage to have safe conversations with each other. We tend to steer clear of anything that could lead to vulnerability or sensitive issues. We’re afraid we won’t know how to “properly” respond if someone gives an answer for which we’re not prepared. So, instead of interacting we avoid. That saddens me. It truly does. We’re at a time in society where more interaction would be more beneficial versus avoiding each other.

I’m a person who goes through periods of joy and also times of stress. The stress in unrealistic and brought on by the thoughts in my mind. Like most people, they tend to wander and make up scenarios with absolutely no context. I do love the music, the chance to decorate our house and to exchange gifts with my wife and kids. I don’t even mind going out among the crowds who seemingly come out of the air and fill shopping centers. The stress comes because of time and how we try to cram a year’s worth of activities into a very small window.

Thankfully, my wife introduced a tradition from her childhood that keeps me balanced. She used to get in the car with her family and they would drive around neighborhoods to see the lights. The displays weren’t the houses of friends and families per se. They were random people who had decided to have outdoor displays to capture the feel of the holidays.

When we were first married (before kids), Debbie and I kept up with this tradition and we loved it. After our kids were born, we continued driving around to see what people had put up. Now that they’ve “left the nest”, we’ll have our first season to go and see the various lighting displays as a couple once again. I’m geeked to get a thermos filled with hot chocolate to enjoy as we cruise through the night to see how creative people are.

There are several reasons why I enjoy seeing the lights each holiday season.

Time together – I am fortunate to have a phenomenal wife and kids (adults). I don’t take that for granted in the least. I know that family dynamics may not always be the best for people. But, when you take time to do things together, you have a better chance to have positive experiences which lead to positive memories.

Reduced stress – It’s easy to get caught up in the pace of life and its various pushes and pulls of the holidays. It’s an even stronger level of stress than you experience the rest of the year. However, when you’re slowly driving through a neighborhood looking at lights, the pressure you may be feeling melts away. That release is so valuable and it helps you get things back in some semblance of order and sanity.

Seeing the light – The most stunning part of seeing the displays all around us is that the light pierces the darkness. The tiny bulbs emanate all of their energy to brighten the shadows. The colors are clear, distinct and welcoming. They bring a smile to your face every time and show how powerful light truly is.

Think what your days would be like if you enjoyed the time together with those around you. How would they feel if you stopped, paused and took a breath in the midst of the daily pace of work/life and realized you didn’t need to be that stressed. And, how would your day be if you saw the light in others instead of darkness?

You have the opportunity to keep in mind the serenity of seeing the lights as you approach your day. This next week do two things – (1) See the positive side of others and be the light in their day that breaks through any potential negativity and (2) Go out yourself at night and drive around.

Take the time to go and see the lights !! You’ll be glad you did and it may become a tradition for you as well.

What’s Your Counterbalance ??

The breeze is blowing on a beautiful sunny day as I rock back and forth enjoying every moment on my front porch. My earbuds are in and my iPod Classic is easily shuffling through the musical array I have collected. Oh yeah, I’m writing a blog too.

When you talk to others, is this how they describe their day? I doubt it. They may have experienced a great day in some form or fashion recently, but most people tend to express disdain for either the pace of their lives or the work that they conduct. What’s intriguing to me is that people would rather grouse and wallow in each other’s frustrations than listen to how someone stepped out of that endless cycle and enjoyed what was around them.

HR is tough. This is not a new thought in the least. What we miss though is that the same pressures that we may experience are happening to every single person around us. We’re not unique in this and we should be mindful of that. The primary way we’ve chosen to address this experience in the workplace today is to seek a “work/life balance.” Trust me, it would be sweet to be able to unplug from one facet of our lives and plug into another, but it’s not realistic.

It’s not realistic because we don’t want it. We don’t seek “balance”, we seek relief. We want to escape from whatever is straining and causing stress. If those factors are lessened we feel we have achieved balance. It’s wonderful that the strain is less, but we’ve really only shifted to something else for a moment in time. And, I think that is very healthy !!

I want you to try a new idea on in this arena. Instead of having separate areas of your life, which you won’t maintain well, what if you had a “counterbalance” ?? What’s a counterbalance? It’s something that provides you an out. It breaks the daily grind and allows you to breathe deeply just for a short period of time. There’s no set method that will work for everyone. I know there are a myriad of 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21 steps to happier lives. These may be uplifting slogans, mottos and look good on coffee cups, but I think they’re too cliché.

I don’t feel that I can prescribe what a counterbalance is for others, and I’ll be honest, I have some “go to” escapes mixed with others that vary on a regular basis. The biggest advice I could share on this is that you need to build a counterbalance into your day EVERY day !! This isn’t just something to do during the workweek. Counterbalances work year round.

My counterbalances include time reading non HR/business books, music playing everywhere, “surprise” phone calls to friends on my commute home, time with my faith, volunteering, and sitting on my porch enjoying nature. I have built counterbalances into my daily routine so that I have fewer times where the weight of the day consumes me. It still happens every once in awhile, but not often.

I also believe that we can be counterbalances for other people. We can provide that “out” that breaks whatever cycle they’re spinning in. It takes an intentional mindset and a lack of fear that you’re intruding. I enjoy practicing HR this way knowing that entering into conversations with employees can be a counterbalance for them even if they don’t realize it’s happening. It’s a great way to be disruptive in a positive way. You should try it !! If I can ever be a counterbalance for you, reach out and let me know. I’d dig it very much !!

Mums2This week break the cycle which I know is tugging at you !! And, take that next bold step and break the cycles of others around you at work, at home, at church, at school – wherever you encounter people. I never think that the people that we meet is a coincidence. We’re in each other’s lives for a reason and for a purpose.

Now, I’m going to go back to enjoy my counterbalance. Here’s what I’m looking at as I type. I hope you enjoy our mums, and here’s the song playing – Statues by Foo Fighters – which just fits if you don’t get those counterbalances going.

 

The Wisdom of Tide Pools !!

I am a big fan of Social Media. I use most of the well known forums liked Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. I dabble in Instagram and Pinterest, and am always interested in watching other platforms to see what they offer. I think they’re an incredible way to communicate with people globally and they provide avenues to connect that we didn’t have in the past.

I know there’s a negative side to Social Media and the way I look at it is just like all areas of life. If you want to find the dark side of something, you’re sure to find it. I choose not to – ever. I use the great wisdom of Eric Idle from Monty Python – “Always look on the bright side of life !!” (double exclamation points are my addition, always wanted to be a Python)

The biggest challenge for me is taking note of how I use my time on Social Media. It’s easy to get bombarded with friend requests, likes, invitations, retweets, etc. It can grab your attention and take it away from other things. Let me share a story . . .

This past week I was on vacation with my family in San Diego. It was our first time there and we rented a condo that sat up high enough on a hill to see the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean. We took in the phenomenal San Diego Zoo our first full day and I took tons of pictures of the animals and the park. The second day we went to Coronado Island and the beach. Again, incredible and tons of pics. I felt compelled to post a few !! The third day we ventured to Cabrillo National Monument which is a National Park.

Tide PoolWe decided to see the tide pools before the monument, lookout and light house. To get to the tide pools, you hike up and down the cliffs alongside the Pacific as the waves do their best to erode the shoreline every few seconds. It was physically challenging, but I wouldn’t have missed it. The views were panoramic and inspiring. We took our time and were careful as we worked our way over to the area where the pools were formed inside a rock ledge. As the kids and my wife were taking pics of their own, I leaned over one of the pools and said to my wife, “Debbie, you have to see this !! It’s beautiful !!”

And . . . then I slipped and slid down into the tide pool. I panicked and tried to push off the bottom, but never felt it. I was up to my chest (and I’m 6’4″) when I grabbed hold and pulled myself out of the tide pool. The kids yelled “Phone !! Camera !!” I yanked them out of my cargo shorts, but they were blank, black rectangles. My “swim” took less than 30 seconds.

I was safe but drenched. Everyone around asked if I was okay, and I was thankful I was. I’ve seen many posts from my friends about the need to be unplugged from Social Media and I agree with them. I’ve taken breaks, but I’ve never had one taken for me. It seems that my slip broke the chain I didn’t know I had.

When we got back on the trail to see the rest of the National Park, Debbie reminded me that I lost a phone and camera, but she could have lost me. I was only a few feet from dropping down into the ocean. A sober reminder.

The break was what I needed because it was life before Social Media and technology. The rest of the trip was better than the beginning !! We saw one of my past Eagle Scouts who is training with his brother at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista to try and make the Archery Team for the 2016 games in Rio. We climbed the California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man and saw the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, and we enjoyed delightful food and picturesque sunrises and sunsets.

I was missing the reason that I post, blog, tweet, etc. in the first place and that’s the people in my life. I learned a great lesson from that tide pool. It’s not the technology that’s a problem, it’s how I choose to use it.

I plan to take this lesson to heart from now on.

 

Walk a Dog !!

After returning from SHRM14, I was faced with the reality of a very full plate at work and at home.  I’m sure this is no different than all of the attendees as they made their way back to their non-conference lives.  It’s very easy to jump back into the incredibly fast pace of life and have things seem overwhelming. Nothing ever seems to fall into place even for those who are phenomenal planners.  The reality of things moving in and out of each day means that you have to react and respond because people expect to be heard.

LabradoodleSo, like most of us, instead of just going back to what I already had in front of me, I volunteered to watch our neighbor’s dog while they went on vacation.  Normally, my great son watches the dog, but he was going to be in Atlanta, Georgia for a mission trip with his youth group.  Now, you have to understand that Piper is an extended part of our family.  We are very close to our neighbors and have known Piper since he was a puppy.  Did I mention that Piper is gigantic ??  I’m a big fan of large dogs, and he definitely fits the bill.  Piper is a Labradoodle, and he can easily put his head on the kitchen table just to check out what happens to be “available.”

I used this opportunity to start my wellness program by walking Piper early each morning.  We went for it by walking 1 1/2 to 2 miles each day.  It has been magnificent !!

What in the world does this have to do with HR ??  Everything.

You see, I’m a person who is constantly on the go.  I am a person who says “Yes” all the time because I feel I have the capacity to take things on and I enjoy being full all the time.  In doing this, I rarely take time to reflect and clear my mind.  This isn’t a good approach, but it is what I think everyone practices.  People are always bemoaning how busy they are, but we don’t take steps to do anything about it.  We may go on vacation to break away, but even those trips are filled to the max to “enjoy” our time off.

Taking a walk allowed me to start the day unencumbered because Piper was the focus.  He knows how to start the day !!  First of all, he can’t wait to see you.  As soon as you hit the door, he’s excited that you showed up.  Secondly, he can’t wait to start the day and be with you as you share a walk together.  Every day the same path is new to him.  He doesn’t complain about ritual or pattern because it’s never the same.  When he sees fellow dogs, he greets them and can’t wait to talk to them regardless of who they are, where they live, how they look or how they act.

How would your HR role look if that’s how you approached each day?  What if everything was new and exciting instead of mundane and repetitive?  What if EVERY single person mattered for who they are, what they do and what they bring to work each day?  What if you were so excited to see everyone each time to encountered them?

Clearing my head on these walks actually improved my perspective on people.  I’m going to keep walking every morning, even without Piper.  Having some time just to break the pace is healthy for all of us.  I hope that each of you find your own way to break out of the pace. Trust me it’s worth the walk !!