Ah, Brussels airport.
Nice quiet haven for me.
Ah, Brussels airport.
Nice quiet haven for me.
I am on my way home from Belgium today. So I will not have the ‘net time to pick a Saturday Share blog.
I will share instead a low-res photo of the goose family I watched on the day that I was able to get some alone-time to flip the scrip on the attitude that was dragging me down. It is a reminder (to me as much as to anyone else) of the privileges I have in my life, and the gratitude I feel for them.
Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective to change my whole week. Especially if I am sleep-deprived. Hope you have an excellent weekend, amigos.
One of the most rewarding parts of my travels and of meeting international colleagues is when I encounter kindred spirits on the journey. This happened to me on Wednesday night, right after a particularly grueling day in which I was frustrated with my inability to communicate as effectively as I intended with my director.
We had gone into some planning sessions and I’d agreed to dates for our next team meeting in late September, realizing that I truly do not plan to be in that position by then. However, I had not had the time to talk with my director 1:1 to let him know my intentions for August/September, in terms of moving on or at least taking a sabbatical.
As we took our break for the day before dinner, I wrote for a while to process the cognitive dissonance, and then took a walk outside. As it happened, I encountered what was either a mule or a donkey (do you know the difference? I cannot tell) and two women from India who were as fascinated as I was. It turns out one of them was a person I have talked with many times on conference calls, and I had never met her in person. So a nice surprise.
After a bit of walking on the grounds of the Abbaye de La Ramee I began feeling better, and I sat next to the pond with my journal. I took off my shoes and let my bare feet touch the ground while I watched a families of ducks swimming by. I considered the privilege I have in being able to travel like this, and meet colleagues in other places, collaborate with clinical scientists and engineers to create solutions for patients.
I went to dinner with a much better attitude, and tried to keep myself open to meeting new people and making the most of my experience. As it turns out, a bit late into the meal, a Hungarian colleague sat down a bit later into the meal after we had received the appetizer. The room was noisy so it was hard to talk and hear, but I sensed we had some things in common. So I made an effort to find out, and it turns out, we had a wonderful conversation.
My team scattered to find others that they wanted to talk with that evening, and my colleague and I shared a fascinating discussion of our respective challenges in the areas we work, along with thoughts about what might be next. After dinner we went for a long walk, talked about our mutual joy in yoga and running. He shared some brilliant invention ideas, and we brainstormed ways to realize faster innovation at such a large company, and how to partner with others who can help advance the work.
All in all, I was so grateful to connect with someone who clearly was a kindred spirit and “old soul” in terms of awareness and consciousness of the ways we want to create change in the world. Sometime we are put in the right place at the right time, to meet others on our cosmic “team” to do the work we are meant to do. Amazing and incredible.
Happy Friday, all.
Wisdom from my favorite sociologist and life coach, Martha Beck (from her Compass Points email):
I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.
This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.
It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.
I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.
This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.
I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.
What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time?
This month I was invited to participate as a guest writer in the “Making More Meaning” blog by Stephanie. I love her idea to invite several reflections from fellow bloggers on how we find meaning and I am honored to write on this topic.
The minimalists have led the way in our understanding that collecting more possessions is not what gives our lives meaning. I got a reference a few weeks ago to the book “Stuffocation: Living More with Less” from Lisa at the Simple Life Experiment podcast. James Wallman makes a compelling case for an experiential approach over materialism in the way we live our lives, and traces the history of this change in perspective.
Wallman helped me see how collecting things to show one’s status may have arisen from and evolutionary fitness marker display, which helps me have more empathy with this human impulse. At the same time, we have an ecological imperative to evolve away from this way of living, given worldwide population growth. Left unchecked, the manufacture, packaging and waste generated in making more “stuff” could lead to massive problems in the earth’s ecosystems.
I consider how I personally find meaning daily life. During my 20’s and early 30’s, my career was sometimes more about earning income to pay my bills, while I found true meaning in my volunteer activities. I am fortunate today to work for a company that has a meaningful mission to me: “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” When focus on the patients we serve, and stay committed to the mission, I find a great deal of meaning in the clinical research that my team does every day in Latin America.
On the other hand, when a focus on short-term profit clouds leadership judgment on what is best for the long-term health of our department, it is much more difficult to be propelled by the mission. I believe people can profit from their work and add value to the world simultaneously. There is nothing wrong with making a fair profit. We can re-invest profit into further innovations. Profit and start-up capital are often required to develop new solutions for patients in a sustainable way.
Finding meaning and purpose is about making a contribution that aligns with our values and allows us to use our strengths and talents often. I like Brene Brown’s definition of spirituality (from her work in Rising Strong) to explain how meaning, purpose and spirituality intersect for me. She sees spirituality as something not reliant on religion, theology or dogma, but rather a belief in our interconnected-ness and in a loving force that is greater than ourselves. It is in this way we complete our connection to spirit, living as interconnected beings. We fully acknowledge everything we do has effects on other people, on animals, and on other life on our planet.
We must do some inner work on ourselves, to be sure that our intentions are not coming from a place of needing to “prove our worthiness” to anyone. We are inherently worthy of love and belonging, just by being born. But the gratitude that flows from this realization gives us generosity of spirit that feeds our energy and our commitment.
We are also wired to be in relationships with people, animals and other living organisms. Research shows that we benefit from being in nature, though there is some controversy on whether it is nature itself, or being in community with others that really boosts our well-being. Healthy relationships have been shown to decrease your chances of dying prematurely by 50%. Support offered by caring friends can buffer the effects of stress. In older adults, loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.
Note that it is about quality and not quantity of your relationships. Even if you have 500+ facebook friends, this does not substitute for 2-3 close friends (or family) in your life that you know you can truly count on when you need support. As an introvert, I know that it takes a lot of energy to maintain many relationships, and so I cultivate them selectively, and in a deeper way.
Is it possible that the “meaning” of friendship gets diluted if you have too many friends?
I will leave you to ponder that one, while I get back to some work I must complete this week. I would love your thoughts or comments.
Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.
This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.
I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.
I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.
Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.
Have a great week!
Overnight plane flight:
Pack the coziest sweater.
You won’t regret it.