Archives for the month of: December, 2013

Marykate:

My family celebrates Christmas and everything we did was amazing. The holidays are my favorite time of the year because the music, decorations, and traditions remind me of when I was younger and everything my family and I used to do together. We still maintain meaningful traditions and spend time together, but we’ve lost some family members through the years that I always miss around this time. I believe it’s important to have “down time” during this season so I can recharge my batteries and put things in perspective. When I was in college and grad school, I usually had about a month off between classes to come home and relax and it never seemed long enough! But now that I work, I didn’t take any extra time off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s and I was in the office during those holiday weeks (except, of course, for the holidays themselves). I appreciate my time with my family and friends so much more now. I tell my youngest sister and her friends to appreciate their time in college because they will miss it when it’s over. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with where I am in life, but being an adult is hard work! It’s hard to make someone appreciate what they have before it’s gone, but I do try! I’m immensely grateful for my job and although I miss my down time, I think working makes me even more grateful for the time I do have to spend with people I love.

I want to be a grateful and thoughtful person; I want to always remember to thank and appreciate those whom I love. I’ve had more time to think over the holidays, and I noticed that my train has been pretty empty the last two weeks and the traffic seems lighter. I know that will end soon, probably the day after New Year’s, and I’ll go back to crowded commuter trains and rush hour traffic. I’m sure I’ll sit there and sigh and grumble, but I hope I remember these few weeks and how relaxing they were (yes, even if I did have to work!). I’ve been trying to appreciate the relative quiet on the train by reading without my headphones in and looking out the window, instead of shutting myself inside my own head. I realized that the train ride is nice–I can watch the sun come up and take some quiet time to think. It was nice to just be in the moment.

This post is probably all over the place, but what I’m trying to say is that I want to be a humble, grateful, good person. I think the only way to do that is to stop rushing around, be still, and think about what matters most. Thinking about that really helps me figure out what my priorities are, and knowing this about myself gives me the opportunity to question my choices. If I can be honest with myself then I can become a better person.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and that you have a happy and healthy new year!

My family’s 14 foot Christmas tree!

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Finding ways to be remain bright when things around you seem dark.

Finding ways to be remain bright when things around you seem dark.

Heidi:

I’m trying to take my own advice from my last blog (i.e. if it’s not working, redesign it. to read the full blog, click here).  Like so many pieces of advice, it’s easier said than done.

When I come home, I am not as happy as I am as I am at school.  This is for a variety of reasons, some of which I have identified but others remain unexplored.  To deal with the strange school-to-real-life transition I am going through, I’ve been adapting using some different methods, two of which I’ll share with you today.

When I’m particularly anxious about the future, I use the five senses approach.  It’s the practice of using your senses to stay in the moment.  When I first heard of this, I watched someone demonstrate it out loud and even that had a profound calming effect on me.  To use this method, you pick a sense and name three things according to the sense.  For example, I feel the softness of the inside of my sweatshirt, I feel the smoothness of the kitchen counter, and I feel the cold of the kitchen floor.  I usually do about three senses—sight, touch, and hearing.  By the time I’m done I feel calm, aware, and almost ready to write a poem.

Another method I use is my phone.  By this I mean I simply call my friends.  If possible, I set up a meeting.  Yesterday I met a friend for coffee and I left feeling rejuvenated and happy. This helps because it can take you out of your own bubble.  Everyone has their own issues. Listening to other people’s problems and offering empathy makes you feel connected.  Feeling connected to other people can give meaning and purpose to your life.  Once you talk about your own problems/anxieties/shame, etc., it gives them less power over you.  Plus you’d be surprised at the wise and helpful suggestions you might receive from your friend.

If any of these work for you, great!  But don’t be afraid to throw them out the window if they don’t—what works for me might not work you.  To find more techniques, check out this website. If you’d like, let us know in the comments what works and what doesn’t–we’d love to learn from you!

MaryKate:

On Friday morning, I realized I made a mistake at work and I felt really badly about it. I was worried off and on all weekend about going back to work yesterday, Monday, because I just wanted to fix the whole problem. Although it was my fault, I also understand what I needed to do to fix it and now, I will make sure that it never happens again. That’s all I can do, right? Once I got into the swing of work yesterday and completed what I needed to complete, I felt better. It’s hard to remember that I’m still somewhat new in my position, so I’m more likely to make mistakes. I set such high standards for myself and I know I’m capable of doing great work, but I can’t shake the anxiety I feel sometimes.

Ironically, I came across a short post last night on MSN Living about how people with thick skin are happier people. The article was written by contributors to SELF magazine and it’s about learning to overcome rejection, criticism, and fear to become a better, stronger person in your career and in life. This resonated with me for one big reason: I have always been a people-pleaser, and that usually means that I take criticism (even healthy, constructive criticism) personally. I realized a year or two ago that I can’t live my life this way and I have been trying to change slowly. I’m making progress, but I still have to remind myself every day that I cannot please everyone all the time. That’s life! You can be the nicest, most understanding, hardworking person and you still cannot make everyone happy. And you know what? I know, deep down inside, that that’s okay! So how can I change my attitude for good? How can I give myself permission to be human while also striving to be the best I know I can be?

The only thing I am sure of is that this type of life change takes awhile. I have to give myself the time and the resources to build my confidence in my professional abilities. Everybody makes mistakes and I have to learn to view them as learning experiences, not as catastrophes. I am my biggest critic and I think it has served me well in the past, in that I don’t like to perform below the high standards I set for myself, but I think I’ve been sabotaging myself without knowing it. There is a way to strike a nice balance in which I can feel comfortable with myself and happy with the work I do.

Does anyone else feel this way, especially in their professional life? Do you have strategies to grow a thicker skin?

confidencePhoto credit

imagine.

Heidi: 

I was home for Thanksgiving break last Tuesday through Sunday.  On Sunday morning I came downstairs for breakfast and the kitchen table was covered in sections of the Star-Ledger newspaper.   I passed the table with no intent to pick up any of it to read, but one headline caught my eye.  It read, “Thinking outside the cubicle”.  If you know me, then you know I immediately picked it up and read the article.

It discussed the redesign of Siemens Financial Services’ offices.  They rid the office of cubicles, replacing them with low, opaque glass walls to separate working spaces.  They also added an open kitchen, informal meeting rooms, and couches to promote interaction among co-workers.

Part of the deal is that employees are not assigned a permanent desk.  At the end of the day they must pack up their papers and personal belongings and put them into a locker and the next day set up shop again at a different desk.  One of the employees that the article references is one that says this is the most difficult part about it [the new office redesign] is packing up and moving desks each day.  I think it would be quite difficult and even irksome.  But I also think it forces employees to reorganize and reprioritize their daily tasks and that would foster efficiency.

I always thought I’d never end up in an office job because I have a strong aversion to pantyhose and cubicles, but maybe now I don’t have to rule it out with these new designs that foster the collaboration and human interaction that I value so much.

I remember watching a TED talk a while ago about the way we design school buildings and office spaces.  It was given by someone who studied nature and the way animals interact within it.  What she and her team of researchers found was basically that animals socialize and work together to live a better life.  She suggested that school buildings should be designed with this in mind.  For example, more spaces for face-to-face interaction to promote collaboration and therefore better learning.

I think that this is a wonderful idea considering the problems we face as a country and as a world.  Can you imagine how much more efficient we would all be in solving problems if we were more adept at talking and listening to one another?  Perhaps the collaboration in our early years due to the designs of schools would cause us to have skills such as the ability to compromise when we are older.  I think most people would agree that would aid us greatly politically as a country and also in our personal lives.

Design can change behavior.  That is probably one of the most exciting things I’ve learned this Thanksgiving vacation.  I think in the back of my brain I knew that to be true, but realizing what those words mean gets me excited.  The implications of those words not only give me faith for our future as a country and a world, but also for the rest of us on a micro-level.  Move your furniture, exercise your body, take a new route to work—to put it simply, if something’s not working, redesign it.

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