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Gratitude 2018

We celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this time of year in the United States. It’s one holiday all Americans can celebrate, regardless of their faith traditions. We come together to express our thanks for the many gifts we have. It’s a wonderful holiday.

I think we are particularly blessed to have a holiday devoted to giving thanks as a way to jolt us out of our usual selfish thoughts and actions. We tend to play one radio station, WIIFM (what’s in it for me) most days of the year. It gets old and stale, and on Thanksgiving we tune in to a less-frequently visited channel to hear something different: the voice of gratitude.

A few months ago, I began working with a coach to help me sort out some things in my professional life. I got a homework assignment in our first session: Write in a journal every day, and write down five things each day that I am grateful for. In the beginning, my five things came easily: family, friends, house, clothing, food. After a while, I had to think hard about what I was grateful for. There were days when I wrote “coffee cup” or “comfortable shoes.” Yes, I’m grateful for those things, too. However, I started focussing on the beauty around me and the things I tend to take for granted. My gratitude list metamorphosed into a list of qualities and aspirations as well as physical things.

Thanksgiving begs the question, though. What are you grateful for? What will you give thanks for this year? Do you carry that attitude of thanksgiving with you throughout the year?

My list this Thanksgiving is not a “top five things” I’m grateful for, but the things that I am constantly reminded to give thanks for as the days and months go by.

Heath and wellness. We all know someone who has some kind of health issue. Some may be more serious than others. We may have witnessed a loved one die from cancer or heart disease this year. I am grateful for my health and the people who care for those in need. I decided to commit myself this year to donate platelets at least 19 times. I’ve been donating platelets for around four years, but I’d never tallied more than 12 donations in a year. The need for platelets is constant as they have a shelf life of only five days. I decided to step up the frequency of my donations so that someone in need can benefit from my good health. I’m grateful for the American Red Cross and its employees who take care of me during my donations, too.

Art, Where would we be as a society without human expression in art? Music, dance, visual arts, and writing all enrich my days and give me enormous pleasure. I’ve been fortunate to attend concerts, opera, gallery openings, and dance performances throughout the year. Now it’s time for me to give back a bit. I decided to donate to local arts organizations so that they can continue to make art and to offer children the ability to attend performances. School trips to see shows in our community may be the only opportunity a child has to see professional artists perform for them. Who knows which child will be inspired to become an artist or a lifelong patron of the arts?

My Faith Community. Two years ago, I wrote this about my faith community, Gethsemane Lutheran Church: “I have always attended or belonged to a church, but my faith is challenged and enriched by the people at Gethsemane in very special ways. We join together to live out our faith in the community through service.” I am very lucky to have found a faith community where I am accepted, loved, and challenged to serve others. No matter what faith you adhere to or even if you aren’t religious, a community of people that supports you and works with you for peace and justice is a wonderful thing.

The ability to work. There are days when I’m not so grateful for some of the challenges I face in my job. I know I complain far too often about this situation or that person. I need to remember that I am able to work and do something that I enjoy (on most days!). I am not hampered by a disability or relegated to working in a job that doesn’t pay a living wage. I continue to learn and grow in my chosen field. I have the freedom to explore other opportunities and learn new things. I credit my parents for instilling in me the desire to learn and the determination to keep moving forward.

Nature. My gratitude list on many days includes parts of nature. I am particularly fond of trees, no matter the season (but not very happy about raking leaves). I love the shade in summer, the colors of leaves in autumn, the stark branches against the sky in winter, and the pale green of spring leaves. I’m also partial to flowers, but nothing makes me happier than sunflowers. I love the scent of roses and the sunny faces of daisies. It saddens me to think that we humans have brought about changes in our climate that affect the nature around me. I’m grateful that I am able do my little part to help the earth. This year, we installed solar panels on our house. We do all the other things to help the environment like carry reusable shopping bags, recycle, compost, and reduce our use of disposable goods. There are days when I’m not so sure it helps, but I’ll continue to fight the good fight.

These are just some of the things I’m grateful for. I hope you have the opportunity to take some time this holiday and consider the things you’re grateful for. Think about focussing on gratitude each day throughout the year. Tell someone else about the things you are thankful for. Share your gratitude and see where it leads you!

Get It Done!

I am the consummate procrastinator. If there’s a project or task to get done, I’ll find a way to procrastinate and put it off until it must absolutely get done. Sometimes I hurt myself by putting things off too long. Here are some techniques I use to combat procrastinate and get things done.

Lists. I make lists–a lot. I create a list of my top five or six tasks for the next day before I wrap up my work. If I can put it down on paper (or in my phone) it gets it out of my head and becomes more likely that I will actually accomplish what I want or need to get done. There’s something very satisfying, too, about drawing a line through a task you’ve completed (or tapping the button that says “completed” on your phone). I know people who create their lists in a notebook and keep a record of all the things they’ve finished over time. I’m not that organized and prefer to use notepads I accumulate from attending conferences and expos.

Chunk it down. I learned this trick when I was working on my dissertation. The entire project looked huge and the prospect of working on something so large became a block. I put off starting the writing because I couldn’t conceive how to finish. Someone told me to take pieces and work on just that part for a while. When I did that, I started completing chapters. Soon, the chapters took shape and I was able to connect them and shape the entire project. “Chunking it down” gave me the ability to focus and finish. Now, I do this with larger projects on a regular basis. I break it down into parts, focus on the parts, then assemble the final work. I’m more likely to finish a small piece in a timely fashion.

Consider the end result. It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t have a vision of where you’re going with something. I like to know what the planned outcome of a project is before I start working on the component parts of it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of considering the objectives or determining the preferred result. Whatever the end may be, starting is easier when you have a goal. This applies to just about any endeavor you undertake! I trained for marathons and half marathons one week at a time. The goal was to finish the race, and I kept this in mind as I trained.

Set a timer. If the prospect of working on a project for a long period of time (especially when it’s something you don’t like doing, but must) keeps you from starting, set a timer and tell yourself you’re going to work on X for Y minutes. When the timer goes off, give yourself permission to do something else. Come back to the project and set the timer again. Work on it for a number of minutes, then stop. This might seem counterintuitive (work on it until it’s done!), but by giving yourself permission to step away from a task that you don’t like makes getting it done a bit easier. I use this when cleaning my house. I really dislike cleaning. I manage to get it done with the timer.

Take a walk. Get out of the office and take a walk now and then. You’d be surprised what five minutes away from your desk will do to your attitude and ability to focus. Too often we chain ourselves to the desk thinking that’s the only way to get something done. We end up spinning our wheels and spending more time checking e-mails or looking at cat videos on Facebook. Walking away from your work at regular intervals can help you get it done. I make a point of getting up once an hour and either walking around inside the building or heading outside for a walk around the block. I’ve even done this when working at home. I come back to my desk energized and ready to get things done.

Sometimes you just need time to think and absorb the material you’re working on. Don’t forfeit contemplation in an attempt to speed up the process. Some projects are complex and need time to develop. Try any of these techniques next time you find yourself avoiding the work that needs to get done. Hopefully you’ll be able to accomplish what you thought you couldn’t and stop beating yourself up for procrastinating. That in itself will be an accomplishment!

Good Intentions

I logged into the dashboard and looked at the date of the last post. It’s been six months since I posted on this blog. There were comments on that blog post from November 2016 waiting for my approval, but I have been too preoccupied to even mark them as spam (as they were). At least, until today. The good intentions I had when starting this blog have eaten at me too long. Nothing happens unless you do something. So now it’s time to do something.

Training can be an all-consuming occupation. Besides the time spent delivering training, there’s the research, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, general preparation, and post-event evaluation that take the majority of my time. Actually delivering the training is the tip of the iceberg. When you add coordinating other activities ancillary to my main role, my days (and sometimes evenings and weekends) are full. This sounds like an excuse, but it’s meant as an explanation and a warning.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities that comprise our occupations. I have been complaining to family members for some time that I feel like my department is losing sight of the “big picture.” We schedule training classes and engage outside trainers willy-nilly as if being busy equals success. We lack the planning and direction that could help us run a focused, intentional program. We are not evaluating the efficacy of our programs. I miss this. I am a “big picture” kind of person. I like having a plan and executing it well.

I also happen to think that just providing training, regardless of the outcome, is more for show than the business outcomes the training is supposed to drive. (Look at all the programs we have! We’re being helpful!) Too often, we confuse offering training opportunities with participants being able to perform as we want or need. Just because they show up doesn’t mean they apply what’s learned.

I have put off returning to this blog for months now thinking that I didn’t have it in me to add anything interesting or consequential. In November I was grateful for the responses I received on my post about gratitude. The post had little to do with training, but the timing felt right (it also helped to have read a similar post on one of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks). Then the holidays happened, then it was a new year with new programs to launch, and the list goes on. You don’t make art out of good intentions, as Flaubert reminds me.

So, enough with excuses and good intentions. It’s time to get back to a plan and execute, evaluate, and adjust it accordingly. I want to make good art.

Gratitude

Although we should practice gratitude every day of the year, we think about it most on Thanksgiving. Yesterday I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks. Gini Dietrich wrote about The Grateful Challenge and posted her top 10 reasons to be grateful. I liked the post so much, I decided to copy it! This may have little to do with training or education, but what the heck, it’s Thanksgiving!

rosa-calvinThe first word I wrote in my list for The Grateful Challenge was family. I have been blessed with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. I have my own family consisting of my husband, my daughter, and Calvin, the wiener dog. I’m thankful that we can all be together for this holiday, and hopefully many more. I’m thankful for the great times we’ve spent together at ballet performances, soccer games, and around the table sharing a meal. Calvin doesn’t get to come along to the performances or soccer games, but he does enjoy the occasional snack that falls from the table or sitting on someone’s lap after thetonyme meal!

I never thought I would be a sports fan, but then I started watching soccer (the real football), and I was hooked. Some of the best times I’ve had over the past few years have been at Mapfre Stadium watching the Columbus Crew. Because we’re season ticket members, we get to go to all kinds of special events and meet the players. I finally got the courage to ask players to pose with me for pictures. This is one of my favorite players, Tony Tchani, smiling with me at last season’s fan fest. The Crew didn’t do so well in 2016, but we still love ’em!

glassWhat would life be without art? I can’t imagine a world in which we didn’t have the ability to express ourselves and reflect the beauty around us through art. I’ve long wanted to take a glass blowing class, but never found the time or the money to do it (it seemed frivolous, etc.). Then my daughter gave me the present of a glass blowing class at a local studio, Glass Axis. We both took the class and created ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree. It was hot. I loved it! (The ornament didn’t turn out too badly, either.) One of my goals for 2017 is to go back and create something else out of glass. I think I’m hooked.

ymcaA major challenge for me in the past two years has been to get healthy. This included losing weight and becoming more active (they do go hand in hand). We have been members at our local YMCA for many years, but I got out of the habit of working out regularly. This year I decided to try something new. I went to my first cycling class in January and got hooked. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get out of bed early 2-3 times a week and sweat with a group of people who are having just as much fun as I am. I joined them this morning for our pre-Thanksgiving feast work-out. It was sunflowerstough, but worth every minute!

There’s something about sunflowers that always makes me smile. I like flowers in general, but sunflowers are favorites. The come in different colors and sizes. I planted some last year, and the seeds that the birds and squirrels didn’t eat grew into lovely, tall plants with many, many blossoms. I missed the chance to plant sunflowers this year, but I plan on making up for it next spring. Who doesn’t like flowers that make you smile?

glcquiltsI am most grateful for my faith community at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. I have always attended or belonged to a church, but my faith is challenged and enriched by the people at Gethsemane in very special ways. We join together to live out our faith in the community through service. The quilts in this picture are one example of that. This year 101 quilts were made by Gethsemane members and shipped to Lutheran World Relief, then on to people all over the world who will use the quilts for warmth, shelter, and clothing. It’s a reminder to me that we have so much when others have very little.

Whatever you are thankful for today and throughout the year, I hope you have the opportunity to take a few minutes this holiday season to think about the people and things that make your life wonderful.