Watch Out

Most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties.” – in Managing Oneself, by Peter F. Drucker

Were you as relieved as me, when you read the above quote by “the founder of modern management” Peter Drucker? Not only does he legitimize career uncertainty, he even acknowledges that it can be a sign of brightness. Oh, happy day!

It’s not exactly like I don’t know what I want to do in life. It’s just that I sometimes question whether I am in the right place to do “it”… Oh, and whether I want to keep doing “it” for the rest of my life… Although life is long, it is also very short! Especially with the decades of education we have to go through nowadays. Good thing modern medicine seems to be prolonging our lives with an equal amount of years, I guess.

This uncertainty is one of the many reasons that I am so grateful for the coaches in my life. As previously mentioned, my coaches help me confront and discuss questions about my career, motivations, values, etc., which are crucial aspects when defining my desired future.

At the moment, my coach and I are working on defining my strengths, to subsequently utilize them to achieve my goals. As Peter Drucker states: “a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses…“.

In his article “Managing Oneself”, he further raises some of the questions, I am discussing with my coach:

  • Am I a reader or a listener?
  • How do I learn?
  • Do I work well with people, or am I a loner?
  • Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an advisor?
  • Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a structured and predictable environment?
  • Do I work best in a big organization or a small one?
  • What are my values?

Come on, now, have a go at the above questions yourself! And if you are interested in learning more about Managing Oneself, read Peter Drucker’s article 🙂

 

The Positivity Advantage

Throughout generations, human beings have been wired to be keenly aware of negative circumstances and consequences in their environment, in order to survive. Although we no longer watch out for saber-toothed tigers, an evolutionary imprint called “negativity bias” still lingers within us. Said bias causes negative events to have a greater effect on the human psyche, than neutral or positive things. In fact, research has found that it takes about three (but ideally six) positive comments, experiences, or expressions to compensate for the damaging effects of one negative.

While the negativity bias may protect us in situations related to survival, it may cause distress in everyday encounters. I personally experienced such distress when I moved to a new country to start a two-year graduate program. Although I appreciated the dynamic and challenging nature of the program, it was also tiresome and insecure to constantly work with new people and unknown tasks. The constant pressure for performance was intense, and unlike anything I had experienced before. Over time, negative thoughts caused by the pressure at work started to consume my motivation and mental energy.

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To cope with the stress, I started keeping a gratitude journal, in an attempt to habituate mental positivity. Initially, I used the app 5 Minute Journal. Every morning I would log three things that would make the day great. In the evening, I would scan the last 24 hours for things that had made the day great. The app also allowed me to upload a photo to commemorate each day, which was a nifty little feature!

It didn’t take long before I noticed the difference. Most noticeably, I started to recognize and appreciate the “little things” in life. In the beginning, I was simply looking for things to write about. With time, however, I started noticing all the great things in my environment naturally, and suddenly I had a lot more than three things to write about!

Although I no longer keep the 5 Minute Journal, the ability to appreciate my surroundings has stayed with me. In a way, I feel like the exercise helped me build a positive, mental foundation. And if I ever have a bad day, I get energy from scrolling through and remembering the entries in the app.

In freedom we soar

About six months after the experience described above, I was reading Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage“. Among many great exercises to increase happiness, the book also confirms how it is possible to train your brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.

However, what is even more exciting, is that the gratitude exercise I performed has been found to have staying power. Shawn Achor continues to describe how a study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for only a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month and six-month follow-ups. Even after stopping the exercise, they remained significantly happier and showed higher levels of optimism.

Although this finding sadly made my experience less unique than I had flattered myself thinking, it hopefully inspires you to try the gratitude exercise yourself. I mean, if one week is really all its takes to create a more positive outlook on life, for the love of god, people, get that gratitude journal going! 😀

Pockets over Purses

I just did an inventory of my closet and realized that I have no less than 11 blazers. Granted, these have been collected over many years, but the finding still shocked me. Especially, considering my boyfriend’s humble wardrobe contained only 5 blazers, despite him wearing a suit to work basically every day.

However, what was even more shocking was the fact that only two of my blazers have – what I call – a “business pocket” (thank you, Massimo Dutti!). You know, that little pocket on the inside of the blazer.

I’ve always been fascinated by all the stuff men seem to fit in this little pocket. It’s like a male Mary Puppins bag, from where men pull the most random stuff. Once, I even witnessed a coworker pull out a bar of chocolate from his business pocket in a meeting. Although he was kind enough to offer me a piece, I was still bummed out by the fact that I did not have a chocola… sorry, business pocket myself.

After starting working full time and attending my fair share of business meetings with clients, I have come to miss the business pocket for other reasons than storing chocolate. You see, in the shipping industry (in which I work), we love business cards. Seriously, if you attend a meeting with someone without getting their business card, it’s like they weren’t even there. Business card, or it didn’t happen!

Which leads me to this question: Where should women keep their business cards, if not in the business pocket? Usually we keep our stuff in a purse, right, but we don’t really carry purses around in the office. Our pants pockets are too small, plus you don’t really want weird shapes and sharp edges down there(!). And carrying them around in your hand definitely seems too desperate.

You see, this is a serious (first) world problem, which has made me invisible in the memory of a lot of potential connections! Therefore I make the following plea to every designer out there, making female blazers: PLEASE give us business pockets so we can lean in and leave our physical mark on a meeting! Thank you.

P.S. Of course I declined the sweaty piece of pocket chocolate from my co-worker… or did I…