Friday, December 30, 2011

All this social media is doing my head in!

I knew the attraction of social media had got a bit out of hand when I failed to keep two chat conversations running simultaneously (one on G+ the other on Facebook) while making witty repartee with a friend regarding her latest droll status update. I know for some people that’s nothing, but this is me, the person who was sneered at for not having used a computer not that many years ago!

It had started off innocently enough. A friend and I were arranging to meet for coffee. We’re both introverts and appreciate the ability to arrange get togethers without the need to talk on the phone –  Facebook to the rescue!

The other conversation was on G+ with someone I haven’t met, but with whom I share thoughts and links on the environment and sustainable energy. English is not his first language, so I like to think carefully about what I want to write so there are as few misunderstandings as possible, hence my style of writing is more formal and “correct”, with no slang. I need to concentrate for that!

I was doing ok for a while, but the toggling between links, people and social networks began to play havoc with my brain.

Was I arranging to meet for a coffee locally, or had I got mixed up and perhaps arranged to meet someone in a far distant land, complete with ice and snow, for a coffee in his hometown? Definitely time to call it quits!

It’s said (by those who say they're in the know) that it’s important for businesses, and particularly solepreneurs, to have a strong presence on line. The more you want to be seen to be an expert in a particular field, the more they encourage active participation in a range of social media settings.

But, let’s be honest about social media, it can be a whirlwind of aimless chatter and links to content of dubious quality that have the ability to distract us from what it is we want to do and achieve. It can be like 'Whistling into the wind'.

“They” say we should be on Twitter. I’m trying, really I am, to take Twitter seriously, to give it a fair go and make something meaningful of it. But, honestly, whenever I take a peek it feels like I’m opening a door and staring down a hurricane. It’s frenetic! I doubt would anyone notice if my meagre contribution disappeared. I’ve chosen to keep it though, for the links that come in, and of course when Adam Hills has done his Mess Around shows, it’s fun – now there’s someone who uses Twitter to advantage!

Personally, though, I sputter on, occasionally making tweets: Little reminders about slowing down, making time for exercise, uplifting sayings and mindful exercises. If anyone drops by they won’t be overwhelmed with a barrage of data or links. If the reminders help someone else to pause for a moment, then that’s great. If not, meh, there’s no damage done.

I use Facebook as I mentioned mainly for family and friends. A few other people have snuck in, and that’s ok. I like the ease of sharing happy snaps and informal tidbits – the sort of things I choose not to share with professional colleagues!

Linked In is my professional social media hangout. It is what I use for professional contacts, for catching up with ‘lost’ colleagues and seeing who is up to what in my field of Career Development. My Linked In groups are where I can ask for advice, share experiences, comment and interact with other professionals in my field. It's great for that.

I’ve used Linked In to assist some clients by encouraging them to revamp their profiles so it’s there as part of their professional presentation. It’s a good place for them to quickly add experiences and highlight achievements. Having a recent photo is important, and potential employers often check for consistency between your resume and your Linked In profile.

And then, there’s G+
Oh dear.
G+ is the current bane of my life. It’s where I meet and interact with people who reflect my diverse interests.
Different clusters of interests = different circle.

It’s certainly not a time waster, because that would imply that it’s frivolous or petty. No doubt there are places there you can look at cute cats, diverting dogs and a whole range of well, yes, timewasters. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to talk to, debate with, grumble to, be inspired by, and encourage, people from many, many countries, from Iceland to the Ukraine, from India to Canada.

I wasn’t sure how to use G+ at first. I’d been invited to join back in the very early days, and recognised that it was different to FB, but couldn’t quite see how to use it. No family, no friends, and only one blog buddy – there didn’t seem to be much opportunity for interaction. I didn’t know how to find people, or what was expected. I wasn’t aware of any tutorials way back then!

Thankfully I’d filled out my profile with some useful information and someone who knew the ropes had filtered profiles for people with similar interests. He was starting a meditation hangout and invited me to join. Unfortunately due to the timezone difference I couldn’t make it, but suddenly I saw that G+ was a whole lot more than a FB lookalike, and with amazing potential.

Through that first contact with a ‘stranger’ a whole range of people with diverse interests emerged. Photography, art, astronomy, social conscience, science, blogging and the environment: I’ve met people I couldn’t have had access to in my normal life. I’ve been stretched, challenged, learnt about SOPA and all sorts of other things, all from the comfort of my laptop.

I enjoy the depth of interaction and that fact that an unsubstantiated comment could well be met by “Can you cite a reference for that please”. WOW! Because of the beauty and ease of use of the circles, it’s easy to keep interests and posts separated and relevant to my different interests - joy oh joy!

I doubt that I’ve explored much beyond the surface layer - maybe I never will. But if you haven’t had a look at G+, I’d encourage you to dip a toe in, spend some time acclimatising and see if it works for you. Remember to say hi when you do!

How do you use social media? What works for you?

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seasonal job vacancy available at short notice.

I'm not sure where the photo came from, but isn't it brilliant!
If it's yours, please let me know.
Whilst on a training flight early this morning, tragedy struck the much loved (by children and junk toy makers) figure, known in many parts of the world as Father Christmas or Santa Claus. It is understood that Father Christmas had been whooping it up with his reindeer.

The reindeer, led by the exuberant Dasher, were enjoying stretching their legs after twelve months of idleness and were excited about the biggest event on their admittedly, mostly empty calendar. It's rumoured that the effects of climate change and a warming earth had disoriented the team as they usually navigate by observing glaciers which have been melting at an unprecedented rate.

 “Forgetting about intercontinental air space regulations and not beng up to date with the effects of climate change are a bit of a hazard when you take to the skies so rarely” confessed a visibly devastated spokesperson for Father Christmas.

Lawyers are vying to represent the interests of Father Christmas, and figures in the mega millions are rumoured to be offered to the winning firm. A well known company from Australia are said to be in the running! However, given that Father Christmas gifts everything he makes, this figure is possibly somewhat inflated, as he leaves no obvious estate other than some very shaken reindeer a battered sleigh, and the unheated, uninsulated sheds the elves work in.

An international incident is looming with the pilot of the aircraft claiming complete innocence, "I was not flying negligently" he insisted at a press conference earlier today "the mad fool came out of nowhere and didn't even show up on the radar. Then WHAP, I couldn't see a thing for presents, sleigh and reindeer".

In scale the incident will probably top Russia’s rage at America trying to bring the internet to its knees with the proposed SOPA bill, and be even larger than China’s chagrin at America setting up a military base in Darwin, Australia. Aussie annoyance at the government allowing, nay encouraging, a northern US base pales into insignificance compared to the untimely demise of Father Christmas by an aircraft of ***** nationality. Those pesky Americans seem determined to flex their international muscle and will probably try to gain notoriety by sending their most aggressive lawyers to work on this most sensitive, discreet case. Admittedly, it would be a coup for any firm to represent such an interesting figure.

Human Resources representatives for Father Christmas are scurrying to find a suitable replacement. Advertisements for this part time, voluntary position, have been placed on line and they’re scouring the earth to find someone of suitable shape as well as an astounding level of athleticism, generosity and genuine cheerfulness. Candidates are unlikely to have their references or Working with Children checks vetted thoroughly given the short time frame and urgent need to fill the vacancy. All applicants are – unfortunately - welcome. A note just to hand advises that the successful applicant need not be fat, Anglo-saxon or male.  The situation is obviously extremely dire and tension is mounting by the hour.

Historically, Father Christmas wore a green suit, but it’s understood that when Coke Cola (oh dear, Americans again) commandeered the image, this was changed to the current vibrant red. The incumbent will naturally be provided with a tailor made suit as the current one is in poor shape, not to mention its rather torn and blood-spattered appearance.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja vu - heart shaped?

Only one post!?

For brevity, I'll share a Drabble; it originally appeared on February 17 2011. My selection criteria? Short because it's a blog hop, but also showing my interest in social justice and careers.







Predatory employers suck the life out of the young and vulnerable, secure in the supreme right of their greed and avarice.

Say it’s for the good of society. That it represents progress and the might of the free world.
Democracy in action!

But really they love the feeling of power and all that that means.
Betray the trust of the innocent; exploit and manipulate vulnerable employees.

Desperate for work, children will take anything,
even washing bloated hearts in a pool, wearing ill fitting uniforms and inadequate wings.
Fixed smiles belie inner sadness.

They unwittingly support
the rampant commercialism
of
love.

*


This Drabble first appeared in The Burrow Valentine's feature 17 Feb 2011.  Thanks to Burrower's, Books & Balderdash for hosting.

A Drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more, no less.

Picture from Wikimedia commons.

On the 14th December I managed to whittle the year down to choose 12 13 favourite posts, and I thought that was hard! You can go here for a selection of themes, from social justice and workplace communication, to the healing process after being the target of ongoing bullying. 
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The year in review.

Well, that was a challenge!

I've just taken Mitch's suggestion about going through my blog posts from the last 12 months and making a short list of my favourites. His suggestion is to do this to bring some older posts back to life, and to give newer readers some idea about the types of things you write.

Mitch is Mitch Mitchell from I'm Just Sharing. He has lots of quality information about all sorts of things including improving your blog.  He was recently featured on Arlee Bird's Tossing it Out which is where I met him.

I've managed to whittle away, to list 12 13 posts that include some of my favourites. It was a lot harder than I expected and I kept getting distracted, thinking "Did I really write that?" "It's not too bad at all!" (Which I confess is a pretty good feeling!)

I'm going to present them in reverse chronological order simply because that's how I re-read them.

1.  The Great Barrier Reef or to quote from 4 corners "The Great Barrier Grief". I wrote this in response to a TV report on the damage that is being done in and around the Great Barrier Reef by coal seam gas mining and exporting our finite minerals overseas in massive tankers.

2.  Exams. Failure is in the eye of the beholder. I was angry when I wrote this piece. Not at any particular person, but at the world in general. The world that puts immense pressure on students to achieve high grades, and which occasionally leads to tragedy.

3.  Workplace bullying. Behind closed Doors. Angry again. This time a personal reaction to the classroom bullying of two of my relatives. I've been on both sides, I know teaching is really tough, however, bullying by teachers is unacceptable. I've seen it up close and personal, and sadly, it can happen like this in the classroom.

4.  Workplace communication sounds like a bit of a dry topic, but it's fascinating! "If you REALLY..." explores manipulation and offers a perspective on how it can become a habit for some people.

5.  Another one on communication, discussing Teams, games and sport. I'd been reading Susan Haden Elgin's "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work"and was intrigued by the notion of 'games' themes and terminology in the workplace. Something to explore further another time I think!

6.  Do you bully yourself? is something I'd been wanting to write for a while, particularly after spending April presenting Workplace bullying in an A-Z format as part of a blog challenge hosted by Arlee Bird.

(The link to the 2012 Challenge is in the sidebar to the right). Here's the link to my A-Z posts on Workplace Bullying. It's a bit long and rambling. You can tell I was blogged out -  it was a rather intense month.

7.  Random acts of kindness is a brief to the point post - it was enjoyable to write and revisit.

8.  Another step, recovering from bullying Recovery after being the target of serial bullying can be a lifelong process. This is one tool that can help. I felt it was important to balance the equation after spending April exploring bullying tactics.

9.  Recovery from bullying - learning new patterns. If you've been bullied, I believe it's important to be proactive and arm yourself with new behaviours. Here's another idea to assist.

10.  I'd never written a book review, and having read so many, decided to try my hand. It was an interesting exercise for an outstanding book. An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig Albert.

11.  I hadn't heard about Drabbles until I came across Burrowers Books and Balderdash, (here) but having tried it out, I became addicted. The discipline of saying what I want in 100 words is good! (I spent April over at jumping aground writing alliterative drabbles. Yup, drabbling is great). This one, on young workers was included in the Burrow February Valentine feature.

12.  Have you heard about The Red Light Flashing?  Sometimes, something in us seems to sense that all is not right with an apparently attractive course of action. In this piece I attempt to explain without the benefit of waving my arms around to illustrate a point.

13.  Another Drabble, Pole Star. I said I liked writing them! This one was featured in the Burrowers Books and Balderdash, December Advent Calendar in 2010. My take on the photo prompt wasn't a Christmas theme, but the words demanded to be written - I didn't think overly about it, just wrote. I'm still pleased with the result, but sad that nothing has changed.


So, there you have it. There were some posts that I re-read and thought, "Hmm, that could do with a bit of a tidy up" but on the whole, they weren't too bad. If you haven't spent time reviewing your own posts, I'd recommend the exercise. It's easy to forget what you've written (or is that only me?) and I found it encouraging to see a general improvement in my writing.
Graffiti on a wall in Melbourne

cheers

Sue
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas is coming

Tourists pause, aimless and free, fondle market wares, hold them aloft, twist and turn, alert for the perfect Christmas gift.
Street market stalls laden with goods
Heels clack clack clack
on the footpath behind me
Loud. Insistent. Demanding.

I turn, maintain momentum, keep pace:
“You seem to be in a hurry. Must be a local!”  
A laugh and wide grin, “How did you guess?”

I gesture to the tourist busses, densely packed groups, alfresco diners and coffee sippers, deeply relaxed and at ease.

Muslim women, tightly scarfed, giggle together;

Cheery red poinsettias.
Elderly Italian and Greek women with sensible shoes and bags, closely inspect the local farm fruit and vegetables;

Asian groups of mixed ages and genders, umbrellas angled against the sun, wide brimmed hats pulled low over black hair and tied with bows under chins, ponder whether to try the local Japanese restaurant for lunch – their body language is clear.

No, they’re not local, but they are welcome …
or are they?

I was once lost for words when a friend said “I didn’t know we got that type of person down here” when she saw a group of traditionally dressed Moslem women.

 As I watch cars inching down the crowded street, sporting jaunty antlers and red noses under the searing sun, I wonder sadly if that sentiment remains.

Isn’t there enough room for us all?
The Town Crier decked with tinsel making a Christmas announcement.


I cringe at the addition of a Santa hat

Monday, December 5, 2011

The pain of bullying up close

I've written and deleted, and written and deleted, but my words aren't adequate, so I'll take away my megaphone and soapbox and go and calm down.


What would you say to Jonah?
What would he hear?
What would you say to the perpetrators and onlookers?
What would they hear?
What would you say to the adults around?
What would they hear?
Can any words help?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas questions

Are you galloping towards a frenetic bout of over-consumption this Christmas season?

Are your purchases something you've thoughtfully and consciously chosen or are you buying as a habit or  in response to the powerful advertising machine and their clever manipulation?

Is the "stuff" you're being encouraged to purchase worthy of your hard earned wage?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow the money trail and you find ...


*Alliterative drabble for the letter D,  re-posted from the 2011 A-Z Blogging Challenge at jumpingaground.  (edited)


Hundreds of distinguished scientists drown us in detailed data describing the devastation that will dampen our spirits due to our voracious determination to drill for oil continuously and use all the dark coal completely 'till it disappears forever.

Those with vested interests delve deviously to detect a difference of opinion, then jeer delightedly and defame the dedicated scientists calling them dreary, deranged and deluded. They are determined to make a dramatic beat up and decide to discredit the danger. 

Oh dear; ruthless dealers, dumping on the deeply knowledgeable. 

Dangerously deluded politicians also choose to ignore our Earth’s degeneration.

Dollars dominate.

We need all the help we can get.


***
A Drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more, no less.


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The A-Z blogging challenge is coming!

The A-Z Blogging Challenge: is a fun month of blogging and blog hopping and comes with a huge amount of camaraderie and lashings of support from the amazing organisers.

The idea is that during April, you link up with a thousand or more other bloggers to post each day of the month (except Sundays) starting with A on the 1st and working through the alphabet to Z on the 30th.
It was so good that I'm diving in again in 2012 even though I was blogged out by the time I got to Z in 2011!

You can see some of the things people blogged about this year towards the end of this post, and whilst you don't need a theme, it works for me and provides a good structure. Last time,  I really wanted to blog about climate change. But it was too hard, too complex, and to be honest, too darn depressing. But the idea has been playing on my mind all year, niggling and asking for my attention.

Even though I don't want to spend months researching climate related issues and immersing myself in the facts and figures, if I'm going to live according to my core values it's something I'll choose do.

Core Values:
  • one of my vital core values is to connect with and spend time in the natural environment. I'd like future generations to have the opportunity to enjoy it as I do. 
  • another is to be part of a community, to connect with, and be part of something bigger than my own little space in the world. It'd be great to connect with others doing their bit to make a difference. 
  • a third core value is to do with education and personal developmentI like to extend myself. I enjoy being educated, informing, sharing and trying to explain concepts clearly
To live comfortably with myself, I'll embrace my values and move in a direction where I act on them, even though it may be difficult. I'll try to ignore my inner demons of "Nothing's going to change", "I'm setting myself up for disappointment because no-one's interested anyway" and "Who do you think you are? You're getting too big for your boots if you think you can make a difference".

ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
To help me through, I'll apply the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and mindfulness meditation and make space for the feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, find room for my demons and breathe deeply into any discomfort. (Information on ACT here.)

Preparation is the key!
Rather than leaving the preparation to the last minute (silly me) like last year, when I blogged about Workplace Bullying (list of areas I covered here ), I've been thinking ahead, mulling over how to present the whole depressing schemozzle so it’s not a major turn off.
Pilfered from Burrowers, Books and Balderdash here.
But, first, I needed to drag myself out of the chasm of despair and fear that envelops me when I think about climate change and the destruction of our eco-systems. So I took some time off to relax, be inspired, blow away the cobwebs and re-energise. And it was fun!
Once upon a time, this was the seabed.
The track is at the top of a range of hills in Mutawintji National Park NSW
 After rain, the dry river bed becomes part of a river system
extending for many kilometres
Mutawintji National Park NSW.
North west NSW. 
Menindie Lakes
Click here to join the A-Z blogging challenge in 2012 with Arlee Bird and his great band of helpers.

Themes
It'd be great if you join me and the other participants who'll be blogging from A-Z in April. Not all the topics are heavy! Participants cover everything from gaming, film, books, writing, photography, paintinggardening, birds, grammar, haiku, travel, art, artists, anime, stamps, science, the solar system, old postcards, craft and everything in between. You'll meet witty, wise, poetic experienced bloggers as well as people who started blogging purely to join the fun of the challenge. It's simply amazing!

I'd like some encouraging company! I'd been feeling insignificant and scared when I allowed myself to think about climate change and environmental damage in the privacy of my head. It was only when I made veiled comments to others, including my doctor, that conversations opened up and I realised I'm not alone in with the continual sense of fear and doom. My doctor commented that he is treating more people for depression than ever before, and suspected that isolation and fear about the future may be part of the cause.

Click on the ENGAHC button at the top for more information about my theme. Please 'follow' if the topic is something you're interested in, or can contribute to. I'd like you to share your insights, stories and comments.

Do you have something you'd like to blog about?
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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Great Barrier Reef - or to quote from 4 Corners "The Great Barrier Grief"

What are Australian politicians at local, state and federal levels allowing to be done to our beloved Great Barrier Reef?

How can they possibly look themselves in the face, look at their children and grandchildren, family and friends and tell them that they condone massive dredging in not just one, but up to 6 or more areas along the coast near this exquisite world heritage area?

Dredging for massive ports to allow huge tankers to transport coal seam gas for export - for sale to the highest international bidder.

Exporting our natural resources to countries which may have even less interest in environmental sustainability and clean renewable energy than we do. Countries which have fewer community members who are able to take a stand and object.  Countries where fewer people will understand the potential cost to Australians and anyone who has ever gazed in awe at the Great Barrier Reef and wondered at the beauty and amazing colours in the astoundingly diverse range of marine plants and animals who call it home.

I'm appalled at what's happening up in Queensland near the town of Gladstone. I knew the Great Barrier Reef was a World Heritage Area and assumed that that meant it would be afforded some protection from the voracious mining interests nearby. It appears not.

A disturbing documentary from our most reputable investigative reporters on 4 Corners explored what is happening and the extremely concerned response from UNESCO (United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which is responsible for protecting world heritage listed sites like the Great Barrier Reef).

4 Corners report here

Millions of cubic metres of sea floor (a mix of toxic sludge from land and waterways runoff including pesticides and contaminants from the recent floods) are being dredged inland of the Great Barrier Reef, and dumped close to the World Heritage Area to make way for massive new coal seam gas export facilities. The sludge is to be dumped within 1km of the world heritage site.  It has the so alarmed UNESCO that they're warning the Reef could lose its iconic world heritage status. If that happens the ripple effect to the tourism industry affecting jobs there could be huge.

The areas being dredged include sea grass and mangroves which are important fish breeding grounds, as well as being home to marine creatures including turtles and dugong.
The reef is already stressed. Being so close to major shipping will expose it to further risk of spills and groundings which happened recently during a storm, resulting in kilometres of damage to the fragile corals.

The fishing industry is concerned as stocks appear to be showing the effect of exposure to toxins in the water. Locally caught fish have bleeding lesions and 'exploding red eye'. With breeding grounds being dredged, the fishing industry will be sorely affected. Fish suppliers are concerned about the quality of the local fish, and some are refusing to sell local catches.

(This link was inserted 21 May 2012) and includes a brief update. A couple of days ago a tanker became sticken near the reef. A disaster was averted, but it's a taste of things to come.

November 9th 2012 update. Things aren't improving, in fact they appear to be getting worse. New post here with two petitions.

GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group who were concerned enough to create a petition calling on the Federal Environment Minister to "Immediately halt all dredging in the Gladstone Harbour and Great Barrier Reef and not to approve any major coastal developments until the UNESCO strategic assessment has been completed." GetUp will deliver the petition to UNESCO in Paris.
(The following is quoted from GetUp)      "As The Age recently put it- what's of primary concern is the "vast dredging program" associated with the construction of three coal seam gas plants located inside the reef's World Heritage area. "The Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) has approvals to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour boundaries, inside the World Heritage area, over the next 20 years...a volume equivalent to 27 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.   
Environment Minister Tony Burke has so far refused to stand up for the Reef, a priceless and fragile site of significance not just to Australia, but to the world. Imagine if the Pyramids were being bulldozed or the Grand Canyon mined -- the global community would be furious ... UNESCO are sending a special delegation in March to investigate what is happening - but that's too late to stop the damage happening now. 
Meanwhile, UNESCO are being lobbied hard by the insatiable coal seam gas industry. And although they failed to even tell UNESCO about the project, the state and federal governments would have us simply trust them to monitor and regulate this crazy project -- claiming it's possible to dredge up 46 million cubic metres of reef inside a world heritage site provided there's sufficient environmental oversight. If the Australian Government won't stand up for the Great Barrier Reef as it's ripped up for corporate profit, we will.
That's why we've created an urgent petition, as we prepare to launch this campaign on the global stage. www.getup.org.au/dredging-the-reef 
The fragile and unique ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef is already under intense pressure due to earlier floods and a changing climate. We've witnessed a steep increase in the rates of death of endangered marine wildlife this year -- including dolphins, dugongs and turtles. The massive development for the coal seam gas industry may well prove too much for it to handle. 
Coal seam gas mining is now affecting our communities and environment, from the family farm to the deep blue sea, and once these areas are destroyed, no amount of money will ever bring them back. Sign the petition now, and if you're on Twitter and Facebook, be sure to share this emergency call to action with your friends. 
Thank you for using your voice now, The GetUp team
What do you think?

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to fail an exam. Success (almost) guaranteed!

I love presenting workshops on exam technique to adults. It’s immensely satisfying to explain the "magic" that helps some students sail through exams with flying colours. These are techniques that my adult students can easily adopt to help them succeed.

Adults returning to study often share how, at school, after failing an exam dismally, they put a brave face on, pretended to be cool and not to care. But in the safety of our classes they often open up. Some still burn with the shame of failure and occasionally break down in tears reliving the humiliation of their school days and failing exams.

When students are fearful, they don’t learn or remember easily. They clamp up - not a good start when going into an exam.

There’s often be a collective wail of despair when exam time comes around: “But I don’t know how to study. I don’t know how to answer the questions. I hate exams. I can’t do it.” 

In an effort to break the ice and have a laugh, I ask in all seriousness if anyone knows how to fail an exam. The looks say it all – “Oh crap, she’s lost the plot entirely, what do we do now?”

But of course they know how to fail an exam! They’ve done it often enough to be very familiar with the skills required. And the logic goes, if they know how to fail an exam, they also know the basics of how to pass – start by doing the opposite.

By working from the negative, it proves to each of them that they already know how to study! This lighthearted technique gets them to think about the problem differently, opens them up to another way of looking at the issue.

They already know what to do! Now all that remains is to choose which of the (opposite) actions they can incorporate into their lives with as little pain as possible.

This following is a somewhat tongue in cheek list, but still relevant with so many students working towards final year exams.

So, in a spirit of caring and sharing, during what is a very stressful time for many students, parents, caregivers and teachers, I present for your amusement:

How to fail an Exam:

Before:
  • Attend as few classes as possible during the year 
  • Sit at the back of the classroom and draw dirty pictures  
  • Text friends during class 
  • Sigh, moan and daydream 
  • Disrupt the class as often as possible and get asked to leave 
  • Don’t study - in any way shape or form - ever 
  • Complain loud and often about how you’ll fail - negative self talk really helps
  • Party the night before
During the exam:
  • Don’t turn up 
  • Cheat 
  • Panic 
  • Don’t read the question/s 
  • Don’t answer the question/s 
  • Answer the question with what you want to talk about rather than what is asked 
  • In essays, when asked to present a rough outline, ignore the instruction
  • Write illegibly (deliberately)
  • In multiple-choice questions, tick all the options. Or none. Or scribble some out and circle others so the marker has no idea which is the answer you hope they'll notice

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but covers most of the tried and true methods my students had become expert at.

What else can you add?

Note: Most of my students went on to successfully pass their exams. There was no magic involved. They were interested in the courses, determined, enthusiastic and motivated to prove they could succeed.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Exams - failure is in the eye of the beholder

What are we doing to our young people going into the exam period?

Too many teachers and parents add pressure by ranting and raving about failure, implying that life isn’t worth living if you don’t pass the final secondary school, or university exams. Tragically, some students take this to heart and choose to end their lives. I can’t begin to express the sorrow and grief I experience every time I hear of a young life lost, particularly at exam time.

I wonder if they felt it was impossible for them to live up the expectations, hopes and dreams of those around them. If they were aware that they hadn't worked as relentlessly and hard as they could and had felt that taking their own life was better than facing the shame of failing an exam. I wonder if they had heard, (hopefully mistakenly) and taken to heart, that to fail an exam equates to being a failure as a human being.

Knowing the remote, but possibly tragic consequences of this extremely limited view of success; why is it that when a young person is coming up to the exams, teachers, parents and the news machines put more and more pressure on them?

From the in your face shouting and barrage of demeaning and demoralizing slurs on character, to outright predictions that “You’ll fail if you keep that up” the pressure is unwarranted and undermining on an often fragile self esteem.

I wonder if anyone involved really believes the students have no idea about the enormity of the perceived importance of the final exams. After all, it's been relentlessly hammered into them for years. "If you think this is hard, just wait till you do your *VCE" and "This is going to be the hardest year of your life".

I’ve chosen the words in the above paragraph carefully … Perceived importance.

Worst-case scenario: The student fails the exam.
Of course teachers may see this as a negative reflection on their teaching ability. The school may see it as a negative reflection on it and the teacher. Their ranking may go down, and they may not be seen as so prestigious. The parent may see it as a negative reflection on their parenting. The student might not get into the course they dreamed of. Their pride may have been dented, but the student never was, and never will be a worthless human because they failed an exam.

The student is NOT a failure; they have failed to answer the questions that were asked on that particular exam on that particular day. This is not a direct reflection on their worth as people. The world does not and will not end. It does not and never will make them bad people, undeserving of respect, tolerance, compassion. It does not mean they won’t go on to live lives that are rich, full and meaningful. It does not mean that they won’t go on to satisfying and successful further study in years to come. It is not a prediction about the rosiness of anyone’s future.

Exam results don't predict life achievements
Failing an exam could mean all sorts of things about the student’s stress levels, study habits, adverse outside influences – all sorts of things, but never is it, nor should it be used as a threat to predict a life that won’t be worth living.

As a teacher or parent, you should never make dire negative predictions about any student’s future – it’s cruelly undermining, often leads to loss of confidence and an inability to perform as well as possible. It rarely encourages a student to work harder and should never be used as a tactic – it’s heartless and vindictive, especially when accompanied with shouted, in your face putdowns.

In addition, no one has that fictitious crystal ball. We don't know. We can't predict the future. We're not seers, soothsayers or psychics. Many inspiring citizens have failed exams and gone on to be publicly revered. Please don't ignore their contribution in the push for impressive exam results.

As a long time teacher, counsellor and facilitator at tertiary institutions I’ve seen the result of undermining, toxic, vicious and cruel comments made by teachers and parents up to thirty and forty years after the event. Comments hissed under the breath, laced with venom, or shouted publicly, openly in front of a class.  Unfortunately many students take to heart and believe what powerful adults tell them. These comments stay with people, creating churning, nagging doubt and too often a profound sense of hopelessness.

Is that what we want for any young person taking their first steps into the adult world?

I’ve worked extensively with competent, yet academically insecure, nervous adults. Wonderful people, contributing generously to their communities, yet their underlying self esteem is in tatters as they’ve suffered at school with a powerful teacher who has glibly, possibly thoughtlessly or flippantly predicted that they won’t amount to anything. The teacher might not even remember, if they do, they might say: "I didn't mean anything by it, they were just words to get them studying harder."

Just words?
Words are powerful tools, used to inspire, encourage and support, but also to control, dominate or insult. "You're hopeless, you won't amount to anything" - what a cruel prediction, surely designed to erode confidence.

I've seen smart students with undiagnosed learning difficulties who, at school, had been publicly ridiculed, shamed, belittled and taunted for being unable to produce a single page of written work. As adults they are desperate to prove that they’re as good as those who can spell accurately and put sentences together easily.

These people are NOT failures. They contribute to the richness of our communities.

They are our families - they are sons and daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

The last exams of secondary school are part of life, one step. One small step in the path of many, many steps. The exams may be important, they may make it easier to gain immediate entry into university. But 'success' as a wholesome, interesting, intelligent, worthwhile human being does not and never will rest on achieving a high grade at the final exams in secondary school (or university for that matter).

What's been your experience with exam pressure?

The following link to youthbeyondblue.com has some excellent fact sheets on depression. Link here. Please seek help if you think you're depressed or need assistance with exam technique.  

If you know anyone who might benefit from this reminder about the place of exams as a predictor of life success, please post the link to FB or share in some way.


thanks

Sue

* VCE/HSC/SACE etc are the final exams at Australian secondary schools. They are scored and used as a basis for entry to many university and tertiary courses.
Graffiti art on the side of a building in Berlin. 2009.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Workplace bullying – behind closed doors

From the pre-pubescent “Mum, my teacher’s mean” right through to the be-whiskered deep voiced rumble “That creep was shouting in Serena’s face so close she was being sprayed with spittle”, it seems that bullying is rife in the classroom, usually out of view (or conveniently ignored by those in power) and behind closed doors. And who’s going to believe a child anyway and look dispassionately at both sides? The parent finds that even when the most tentative comment is made, the ranks close and hackles rise. “How dare you question my teaching methods?”

This post is for the boys in my family.  I want to let you know that whilst I can’t do anything to ease your pain, hurt and anger, I can help raise awareness and call these mean teachers by the rightful term: bullies.

How proud I was to hear that in the face of relentless verbal taunts you acted responsibly and wisely. When confronted by a bully, we advise that you turn and walk away, get out of their vicinity and don’t respond. You’ll probably be labelled as a difficult child, wilful and disrespectful. But in the face of threat, embarrassment and discomfort, you showed bravery and courage. You left the classroom where you were the target of the teacher bully. I can’t imagine how much you were provoked to feel that was the only action available to you.

You are marking time, surviving at school, but not thriving as you should be. Sometimes school sucks big time.

When the teacher bully targets one or two children, humiliates and belittles them publicly, the rest of the class responds with nervous titters - best to side with the bully than become a target yourself!

What strength it takes not to respond, to pretend to laugh off the humiliating comments. But you see the pain of those who are targeted day after day, week after week, month after month and you don’t know how to help. You stick up for them when you can, but see the injustice and cruelty. You’ve observed how the teacher looks for any behaviour that is out of line, draws attention to it, but never notices or praises the good. He laughs and brings attention to your classmates learning difficulty to his utter shame and bewilderment.

A domino - Berlin 2009.
To confront the teacher bully and tell them to “back off” from verbally abusing another student takes a lot of courage. By golly, I admire you for this. You’ve drawn attention to the bully’s unacceptable behaviour, which he may not take kindly to; from experience you’ll know this method can often backfire and you may become the next target.

How proud I am of you, standing up for the underdog who was being unfairly harangued. To be confronted by a large, dominant and angry teacher is intimidating, frightening, humiliating. It’s an abuse of power and is never acceptable. It never encourages a student to work harder or better or showcase their talent.

I see strong boys, acting with integrity, courage, intelligence and compassion. I’m so proud to be related to you. The teacher bullies you’re confronting appear to be sadly lacking in these qualities. I wonder if they’re threatened by these strengths in you.

To be confined in a classroom where abuse if rife, to be the target, or observe another being harangued, needled, provoked is horribly painful.

You rail against the unfairness, and as parents and family, we can’t always help. We don’t have the answers, and often feel powerless too. Sometimes it sucks being a parent. We don’t always know how to put a stop to teacher bullying - but we see your hurt, anger and frustration and are here to listen whenever you need to unload.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chaotic Careers

What role has luck played in your life or career?

Jim Bright is professor of Career Development at the Australian Catholic University and quite a presence in the Australian Career Development field. His Chaos theory of Career Development fits with my experience and that of many of my clients.

An article on the role of luck in careers recently appeared in the Financial Review "How to get luck on your side" link here.

Whilst we might like to think that talent and determination are the key factors in success at work, there is often something else happening too. Bright explains that not everyone with talent will make it to the top of their field no matter how hard they try - and discusses the reasons for this.

It's not simply hard work alone that puts some people at the top of their field. Bright and others believe there's an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time and of putting yourself in the way of opportunities and being open to change.
Like this tree, many people are able to take advantage
of the opportunity for re-growth after a major unforeseen setback.
Bright's theory of career development is that we live in a world of uncertain events, where the idea of our work-life as a linear progression is simply not how life unfolds. People's careers change direction and often appear haphazard as they hit a wall or another opportunity occurs. Often they 'spin around to do something completely different.'

Jim Bright believes people need to be luck ready and says that even if this doesn't come naturally it can, to some extent, be learnt. Bright and Pryor have devised three tests (link here) so you can see where you fit on their luck scale. You will be asked to create a user name and password and then choose the test you wish to complete.

People who score highly in flexibility, optimism, risk (adventurousness), curiosity, persistence, strategy, efficacy and luckiness will be more open to change and put themselves in the way of chance events more often than those who are less flexible in their outlook.
Random events can cause us to change direction.
Along with many others, Bright believes that our vision of careers needs to include the vision of chance and uncertainty. He encourages us not to stick overly rigidly with a plan, and to acknowledge the importance of the complexity of the world in which we live. This will enable us to make the most of the potential of unplanned and unforeseen events.

Three tests
The Luck Readiness Index profiles your response to chance and measures your awareness and readiness to take opportunities in a changing environment.

The Change Perception Index profiles how you view change in your life and career compared to others. Each comes with an extensive in-depth report. These are available for a fee of $9(Aus)

The Exploring Chaos Reality Checklist is free, and is quick and easy to complete. The checklist is designed to assess your thinking about change in your career and the workplace (and I would add in life in general). An informative interesting and useful printable outline of your results is available on completion.

I've mentioned in previous posts about how change can be very uncomfortable for many people.  But even when it's uncomfortable it can be positive and adapting to it can be an indicator of career success.

The future is not predictable - an example is sudden, unexpected downsizing of a company which can leave unprepared workers floundering and stressed.  Learning to be adaptable and to reinvent ourselves to take advantage of random opportunities can be extremely empowering.

The free printable report from the Exploring Chaos Reality Checklist has suggestions for ways to think about your pattern of responses, as well as how to use this information proactively in regards to future events.  Not bad for free!

Link to tests here.

How have chance and random events affected your life?



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Workplace communication - "If you REALLY..."

Imagine before you a small child and a parent – the child is exploring notions of power. How much they have of it, where it begins and ends – not that they’d call it that or be aware of it, but for all intents and purposes that’s what it is.

The small child says, possibly with not much hope of success: “If you REALLY loved me, you’d buy me a pony.”
The parent, taken by surprise, wonders if they’re doing a good job of this parenting thing, may feel guilty for working long hours and not giving quality time to their child. Desperately wanting to be loved, the parent may not spare a thought about the pattern that could begin to evolve if they immediately satisfy the request and those that will inevitably follow. (I certainly don't mean to imply that life will be forever fraught if you give a child a gift, mostly things are fine!)

The child, grows into a young teenager and is asked to help with household chores, specifically to hang out the washing. Possibly embarrassed to be seen hanging out her mother’s bras and her father’s jocks, but more importantly having learnt to manipulate by trading on love, says in a plaintive, pleading tone (which she’s learnt tugs at her mothers heartstrings and brings the desired result): “If you REALLY loved me, I wouldn’t have to do chores and could go play with the other girls.”

Fast forward a couple of years. The youngster, now of driving age, and fully conscious of the power he holds, it having been reinforced time and time again, uses the proven technique: “If you REALLY loved me you’d buy me a car.”

Lo and behold, there’s a lovely new (to him) car. But, horror of horrors, one night he comes home late, slightly under the weather, with the car dented and bent. He says to a parent: “If you REALLY loved me, you’d tell the insurance company you were driving, so I’m not penalised.”

Obviously what follows isn’t predetermined. This kind of power hunger certainly won't happen to everyone, but for some people,  they feel alive and strong when they can manipulate others with language. Feeding this type of addiction to power can become an end in itself. If the person is a bully, this can be disastrous for those caught up in the web.

In the workplace:
The words evolve to be more appropriate for the workplace, but the desire to manipulate others and watch how they respond and capitulate remains. “If you REALLY cared about this department you’d: “work unpaid overtime/not agitate for a pay rise/not lodge a complaint about bullying/sexual harassment.” In fact, the manipulation can be in any sphere and cover many different scenarios.

For those of us brought up to be “good” people, to not rock the boat, and to respect authority, this form of psychological game playing can be very hard to resist. Of course you care about your workplace and the department!

How to respond:
The best exchange I witnessed was so simple, so effective that it’s stuck with me for years. The target, (I’ll call her Jenny and come back to her later on) simply responded to the “If you REALLY …” statement with a calm: “That’s an interesting point of view, I’ll take it on board.” And went on with what she had been doing. This was so simple, so effective as to leave the chronically manipulative co-worker temporarily without words. (And between you and me, looking mildly foolish.)

Sadly, what is simple is not necessarily easy.

The difficulty can be to become aware of the pattern of manipulation. It’s helpful to clarify the scenarios where you get “trapped” so you are aware of them. As the Scouts and Guides say “Be prepared”.
The attacker wants and expects a result. Some want you to squirm and justify your actions, others want to waste your time. Some are bullies. Rarely are they interested in a rational, mature discussion.

Harmless fun?
I once had a co-worker; I’ll call him Tom. He was fun and efficient to work with, but had a dreadful habit of baiting another co-worker who I’ll call James. Tom would deliberately bait James with the tried and tested words “If you REALLY cared about the environment you’d get solar panels installed and get all your windows double glazed. “ Tom didn’t do this maliciously, but simply for the sport of seeing James get totally wound in knots trying to justify how his home was heated and cooled.

James would become flustered and go quite red in the face. Tom just sat there dropping in a word here and there, a bit like a fisherman winding in a fish. At the end of the embarrassing experience when James had been unable to justify why his home wasn’t powered with solar cells, and had flounced off, Tom would look at his watch with satisfaction and announce how much time James had spent on this fruitless exchange. This happened time and time again with Tom gleefully keeping a tally of the time wasted.
Some verbal bullies are like ravenous sharks feeding on your  responses.
As an observer, it was hard to know how, or even if, it was possible, to prevent James getting caught. James took the bait, AND the hook, line and sinker. Repeatedly.

Does James care about the environment? Yes, desperately. Does this mean he needs to justify his decisions about solar panels to Tom? No, not at all. Tom isn’t interested in the reasoning and doesn’t want a mature discussion. As I’ve said, he’s initiated the ‘conversation’ for a very different reason.

What could James have done? James consistently gave his attacker Tom, exactly what he wanted and expected. As well as feeding Tom’s feeling of power, by taking the bait, James was agreeing with the implication that he didn’t care about the environment.

How would my friend Jenny who you met earlier have responded? I suspect she would have stuck to her line: “That’s an interesting point, I’ll take it on board.” If James had learnt to say something like this, even after a history of being trapped in an ever tightening circle of half finished, awkward sentences, Tom would have had little room to manouvre.

Some other possible responses could go along the lines of: “Of course I care about the environment, I’ve got some brochures to look at and am comparing solar options.” And then James casually wanders off not waiting for Tom’s reply.

Or perhaps, “Yes, of course I care about the environment, there’s a lecture at the local college next week, would you like the information so you can attend?” Your tone of voice won’t be dripping with sarcasm and it shouldn’t come out as a put down. You are simply, respectfully replying, adult to adult, as if the initial bait was an honest request for information.

Elgin in ‘The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work’ (p118-9) says: “What the verbal abuser wants is the confrontation. The scene. The fight. The row.” She goes on to say that the abuser doesn’t want to be ignored, but “wants your full and undivided attention. The bait itself is trivial to verbal abusers, (and it is) valued only for its potential to provoke you”. “They care about demonstrating that they have power over you and can control your behaviour”.

“Therefore, anytime you take the bait in a verbal attack and participate in the verbal violence loop, you are letting them get away with it.”

If something like this has happened to you on more than one occasion, identify the themes that catch you and rehearse your responses with someone you trust. It might feel awkward to change a pattern, but the benefit will be well worth while.

All the above are true stories in which I've been involved in some way.

You might find the related post "How to say 'No' graciously" interesting. It's here.

Suzette Haden Elgin's web site on Verbal Self Defense is here.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Workplace communication – teams, games and sport.

I’ve been reading Susan Haden Elgin’s “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work”, (Prentice-Hall 2000) not an easy read, but very interesting.

Elgin is writing about business communication and mentions the fact that dominant adult males control most of the power in America and that many of us spend large amounts of time interacting with dominant adult males. (I have no reason to think things have changed since 2000 or are significantly different in Australia.) She explains that “… most American men today define anything that involves negotiation as a game, at least temporarily, and they switch to gameplaying behaviour for the duration of the negotiation.”

She states that women, other nationalities and different ethnic groups don’t always agree on the meaning of ‘negotiation’ or understand the terminology of gameplaying behaviour and that this leads to massive communication breakdowns in many business settings.

What is your experience at work? Certainly in the workplaces I’ve been in, gameplaying terminology is prevalent. Such comments as “The ball’s in your court”, “Are we all on the same team here?” “We’ll get some runs of the board with this one”, “Don’t waste the play”, “That meeting was a bit of a free for all” or “Good play”, are commonplace.

Often there are a lot of non-verbal signals too, with the action of passing a ball to others at a meeting to denote the next person to speak. There are visual gags and asides that leave the non-initiated perplexed, out of it and wondering what on earth is going on.

Sometimes it’s even more pronounced with the expectation that personnel will attend football, tennis and cricket matches and entertain clients at these venues on weekends and in the evening. If this fills you with dread or loathing, perhaps you and that particular workplace aren’t entirely suited.

I want to make three points relating to games, sports and teams.

Firstly: What does the word game mean to you? Is it something light-hearted and perhaps trivial? Did you love sport at school? Or was it a time of purgatory? Does it matter one way or the other if you win or lose? How do you view the language of games?

Are games to be taken seriously, to be won, do they mean something to you? If they do to everyone but you in the office, what will the effect be? If you’re not speaking the same language, how does this affect your workplace dynamics?

If we don’t understand or relate to the language that is being used, where does that leave us?

Secondly:  How do significant people at your workplace use game playing terminology? Does it pepper their speech? Are you talking the same language? Do you know how they view games? Do they love team sports or do they prefer non-team sports? How does a boss’s love of sport, the fact that he or she takes sport extremely seriously affect everyday work interactions and negotiations?
Do you like being part of a group or team?
Thirdly: How do you view team sports?
I listened to an interview a while ago where two groups were debating the benefit of team sports at school. They were rational adults, full of goodwill and respect for the ‘opposition’, but it was glaringly obvious that they simply couldn’t (not wouldn’t but couldn’t) understand the perspective of the other side.

Those in favour of team sport were adamant about the many benefits of belonging to a team that weren’t easily achievable elsewhere. They talked about the pleasure of belonging, being part of a team (that word again) working towards achieving something together, of having a goal, focus, discipline and purpose. They revelled in the joy of winning! Their entire lives, on field and off, were viewed in a sporting context.

Those against spoke about the pain of not being chosen, of being reluctantly included when the Phys Ed teacher insisted, of being clumsy, not fitting in and of being perplexed about the rules, confused and uncomfortable. They remembered doing anything to get out of dreaded sport at school, forging notes, faking illness - anything to avoid the humiliation of participating. I think it is fair to say they abhorred sport and everything to do with it.

Neither side understood the others perspective, they weren’t being difficult, there was simply a deep gulf separating them.

How do these perceptions, prejudices and beliefs about teams carry into the workplace where sporting terminology and game playing is prevalent? If you hated sport at school, how does that affect you in a workplace? How does your disinterest and lack on knowledge affect the sport lovers?

What do the words team sports mean to you? What images thoughts and feelings arise? “ Be a good sport” (and do something you don’t want to do) “It’s not winning, but how you play the game”, “Don’t be a sore loser”, “This game is for the boys, we don’t want sissies here”, “It’s a bit of a boy’s club here”, “Can’t take the rough and tumble?” (said in a derisive tone)
You might like sport but prefer to work alone.
If you don’t like games and have residual negative feelings regarding team sports, could this affect your body language when the terminology is used in a work setting? How does this affect others?

Like Elgin, I firmly believe effective workplace communication matters. When the terms are unfamiliar and come from the world of sport and games, which not everyone is familiar with, mis-communication can and will take place. Expectations about roles can, as Elgin says, lead to outright confusion and clashes; there will be hurt, baffled and angry people. Unlike her, my experience is that both men and women can be alienated by game terminology - personality type is more relevant than a division along gender lines.

It’s a bit like being in a foreign country for those who aren’t natural games people. They don’t understand the terminology. At best, they may watch and listen with curiosity, but it’s a closed book, which needs courteous, patient, respectful explanation.

Some turn tail and run when team sports are mentioned.
I believe it’s incumbent on both sides, whether male or female and of whatever nationality or ethnic group to work hard to communicate maturely and clearly in terms the other can relate to and understand.

I also believe it’s incumbent for all people involved to listen to any questions or confusion with your whole attention, without interruption or derisive, insulting comments.

It makes good business sense to get the best from the WHOLE workforce without alienating those who are not in the “in group”. It is simply good manners to try to communicate clearly and to work at it ‘till you succeed.


One last thought: If you don't understand team sports and games, does that necessarily make you a poor employee where gameplaying behaviour is prevalent? Is there a place for all personality types which makes for a richer work environment?


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happiness tip - Move!

Have you thought of having 'Happy hour' at home? Not the Friday afternoon one, guzzling cheap wine and warm beer (no offence meant to my British readers), but something a lot more personalised.

I'm referring more to doing something for yourself, something that makes you feel special and which supports your values. It doesn't have to be a major change to your routine or even take a whole hour.

I've been pulled up short a couple of times recently by friends who have ever so tactfully pointed out that I'm not practicing what I preach.

One of the things I value is feeling healthy, but I wasn't allowing any time for exercise. Not good Sue.

Movement other than from desk to car and back again had gone by the board. I'm not keen on sport and don't like gyms - but I knew I had to do something, or my poor little body was going to seize up or atrophy or something horrible. I know exercise is good for my brain, I know it's good for my body, I know I feel better when I move - but I hadn't made it a priority in my daily schedule.

If I truly value feeling healthy I need to allow that value space to flourish. It simply can't happen if I crowd the day with other stuff (including work).  But how to squeeze it in to an already full day? Happy hour for the body? It's a good ideal and might work for some, but nope, that's not going to happen for me, not every day - that would end in frustration, failure and feeling defeated.

But what I can do is start where I am, and take small, achievable steps, non threatening tiny steps, in the general direction of my value.

What I've done is set my phone alarm for twice a day to remind me to move. The alarm is a chirpily sweet bingly beep, it's lighthearted and cheerful to remind me that exercise is possible and achievable NOW! 2 or 3 minutes doesn't sound much, but it's in the direction of a core value and that's good, right? Happy minutes for my body, brain and spirit!

I've been moving more (could this be called exercise?) for a couple of months now and it's not scary or intimidating. I can do 2 or even 3 minutes (stop laughing!) and sometimes more. I have a small wooden box, just the right height to step up and down, up and down - 20 reps, twice a day, and then some twisty things to help my middle become more mobile. I know I need to keep it up for a bit longer for it to become a habit, but it's very much part of my routine, equal to brushing my teeth after meals - not a chore, not disliked, just there to be done.

The benefits so far:
a) I haven't noticed any particular loss of time from other things (like work).
b) I feel generally better physically and more energised and alive after even this small amount of movement.
c) I feel good about myself - I'm supporting a core value and feel good at achieving my simple goals.
d) I was able to walk and walk and walk in China, up steepish inclines, along rough tracks, for kilometres around Shanghai with no stiffness at all. Now, that was a real benefit and far better than any commercial 'Happy hour'. I could so easily have said: "Oh, 2 minutes is nothing, it's not worth doing". It was a direct, tangible benefit ... yippee!!


Have you been ignoring any core values that would enjoy being nurtured for a few minutes each day?
Could you spend time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings, relaxing or being mindful? 
How will you benefit?

Ping An - looking up - lots of steps! The terraces contained rice
and a wide variety of vegetables.
Ping An. Is it possible there were less
downward steps? We seemed to get back very quickly.


More China reflections over at Jumping aground.
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