Family, Life, Motivation, Rambles

Aspiring to be

In an attempt to not break my workday writing streak I headed over to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Inspiration Button. After several uninspiring, or I don’t know you like that, clicks I was inspired by the following prompt:

When I grow up I want to be like…

Let’s get something straight. I’m not growin’ up and you can’t make me. I hold dear my Ravenclaw coffee mug, coloring books and super amazing twisty Crayola coloring pencils, and my silly accents I use while making dinner and jamming to 90’s hip-hop. By jamming I do mean dancing in my kitchen while wearing dachshund printed PJs and fuzzy socks. #dontjudge

There are also many in my life who have inspired me to be the best me I can be. However, weird and sometimes immature that may be. Hey, I hope they are proud.

#1 My Grandmother

#2 My Aunt Merita

#3 My Great Aunt Hazel

Despite being terribly sick, my Gran raised me from two years old until she died in 1997. Off and on I spent time with various family members when Gran was in the hospital or recovering from being in the hospital. She was declared dead once, and we were told she was brain dead another time. She wasn’t ready for such a final diagnosis and managed to push on.  Because of her health, her time spent directly entertaining me involved reading, drawing, coloring, word search, or other word games like Scrabble or Boggle.  I learned to entertain myself by playing outside, climbing the fruit trees, picking blackberries, kicking a ball around, or building with legos. Not those lego kits either. I had to use my imagination to come up with what to build. My favorite was designing lego houses. I wanted to be an architect or a veterinarian. Gran never discouraged me. Our games gave me a love of words and creativity. When I discovered music she would listen to me practice for hours. Never complaining. At the beginning that had to be terribly difficult. By the time I was in high school I was pretty good, but a trumpet is loud and had to be difficult to listen to hours on end. She knew music was my ticket to college. Living on her fixed income, there was little money for extras. I did not go without needs and she did her best to make sure I got some things I wanted. Others helped with some of those too. She instilled her love of art, reading, and her “do what you have to do” spirit.

My Aunt Merita is my go-to for all things advice. I know she helped Gran when things were tight. I remember staying with her regularly. I grew up as her 5th child. When I discovered the level of math and advanced science necessary for architecture or veterinary medicine, I realized my goals needed to be revised. Social Science and teaching became my area of interest. As a teacher who began her career later in life Merita was able to guide and advise. She stepped in as a grandmother to my children, an advisor when I needed to find my way, and a friend when I needed an ear. She is a strong independent woman who battled cancer and won. Given only a few months to live and asked by doctors if they could study her case, she emphatically proclaimed she was not ready to give up yet and sought treatment. That was ten years ago. While we are separated by distance these days, she is only a phone call or text away. In a sense, we share a mother. It is because of Gran that Merita and I have similar views on getting done what has to be done and pushing ourselves.

Lastly, my Great Aunt Hazel.  She would come by regularly to chat, sometimes bringing fresh vegetables. She loved Gran’s cooking so it was usually at lunch and the vegetables would be part of it. Aunt Hazel was loud, vibrant, and lived her life the way she wanted. After her husband died she ran their coal mining business and kept it successful. Talk about a woman in a man’s world. I can remember staying with her once and she took me for a 4 wheeler ride around her property. It was terrifying and exhilarating.  She was in her 70s and loved the adventure.  By her 90s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had such an amazing attitude about it. Very much an “it is what it is” mindset. Once, at a family gathering (decoration if you are familiar with the Southern tradition) Aunt Hazel was riding her scooter along the dirt walking paths and weaving in and out. She was having a joyful time, happy for anyone to tell her all about her grandkids…even if she had just heard about each.  Aunt Hazel was willing to help Gran anytime it was needed, and she didn’t have to be asked. She recognized the need and filled it. She was vibrant and didn’t let anyone tell her what she couldn’t do or how she should do it. She also did what made her happy.

These three summaries of amazing women are extremely condensed versions. Gran, Merita, and Aunt Hazel are my best examples of tenacity, strength, and joyful living. Each rose above their circumstances in life. Each faced adversity and pushed on anyway. Each modeled the tenets of continuous improvement, be your best self, and help others when you can.

I want to be like them. I want to be me, not what others think I should be. I want to be driven, creative, and strong in the face of adversity. I want to be happy where I am and help bring happiness to others. I want to offer words of wisdom when it is needed. I want to be able to ride a 4 wheeler in my 70s and a scooter in my 90s.

Empowerment, Life, Motivation, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Sometimes You Need a Personal Reboot

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Step away. Stop thinking about it. Do something else…or even do nothing.

Recharge.

Reboot.

We walked away from the chaos for the weekend and had an amazing personal reboot while camping at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. It was a new place for us, and new camping experience as it was our first with a camper. (For the record, I am not so sure tent camping isn’t easier. However, I will say the camper amenities are rather nice to have.)

For some, camping is not a relaxing experience. For us, it works. It’s therapeutic. The outdoor air is refreshing, nature all around, and if you’re in the right spot the views can be amazing. The entire camping experience is about meeting basic needs and enjoying time away. There is no pressing work, professional nor home, to be done. It’s not true to say there are no distractions. There are, but the distractions while camping are different.

In order to have a hot meal, there have to be good coals to cook on. Start a fire. Tend the fire. Assemble the meal. Monitor until cooked. Clean up so no unwanted foragers are attracted to your site while you sleep. Repeat.

It’s basic and it’s freeing. There’s no thought of work. We periodically check in with home to make sure all is well. Otherwise, we take care of our camping needs, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors. There’s a good bit of time spent doing nothing. My favorite time is after dinner, staring at the fire, listening to the sounds of the night, and reading my current book…or just staring at the flames. This camping trip we took two of the dogs for a hike, came back to the campsite, and took an exceptional nap. Why when there was so much nature to see?!?!? Because we could.

We took the time for a personal reboot.

Burnout is real and keeping balance requires a dedicated effort. Sometimes you have to disconnect and walk away. Not only is it OK, but it should also be encouraged.

When this pandemic experience began no one knew what to expect. In my household, we believed work would slow and worried about what that might mean. Instead, the workload increased. We became very busy and had to make a dedicated effort to maintain downtime and connect with each other.

According to a recent LinkedIn article from Bloomberg many are using busyness as a coping mechanism.

Not healthy.

Recharging has to be intentional. Taking the time will actually increase your productivity.

You can’t be innovative if you’re not creative, and you can’t be creative if you’re stressed, exhausted, distracted, or sleep-deprived.

You know that feeling when you see your phone battery reach the point of the blinking red light with 15% or less battery remaining? You know when that happens it is time to plug in and recharge. That small percentage will not last long so you act. Most of us have a sense of urgency about not letting our phones reach that stage. Have that same sense of urgency for yourself.

Resting allows you to achieve your goals and prevent burnout. Take some time to do something you enjoy. Take some time to do nothing. It’s OK.

Career, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Life, Motivation, Self Improvement

What motivates?

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino

Motivation is your general willingness to do something. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but WHAT compels you to action?  Simply wanting something is not enough. One has to be motivated to walk the path to pursue goals.

Reaching the next level in one’s career or getting in better physical shape sound worthwhile, but they are much harder to turn into reality in the absence of meaningful goals. – Psychology Today

Motivation changes over time. Two major factors influencing this is maturity and stage of life.  What seems important in our younger years is less important as we mature.  What drives our career at the beginning is not what drives our career as we advance.  Relationship status and parental status can drastically change one’s goals over time.  Money isn’t always the driving force of our decisions.

Forbes.com outlined nine factors that motivate employees. Below are my thoughts on their nine listed factors.

  1. Trust: Employees desire trust in their workplace and managers. Clearly communicated expectations are essential.  Feedback must be direct and valuable.  Trust and consistency go together.  If an employee never knows what to expect from a manager, trust will be hard to establish.
  2. Being relevant: Employees want to feel like they matter and they have the opportunity to remain relevant in their jobs.  They desire opportunities for continuous improvement, opportunities for professional growth in their roles.  Employees also want to utilize their strengths.
  3. Proving others wrong: This one is rather odd.  It is better explained as having a drive to achieve and exceed expectations.  “Never underestimate an employee’s need to perform until you have properly evaluated and tested their abilities and potential.” (Forbes.com) Managers should embrace innovation in their team by being open-minded and willing to listen.  While specific ideas may not be 100% on point, those ideas can lead to greater discussions and progress.
  4. Career advancement: Employees need opportunities to grown in their jobs and advance.  There is no joy in just spinning your wheels.  If they can’t advance in their current role, the motivated employee will find a place where they can.
  5. No regrets: The journey for personal success is made up of failures, successes, and changes.  Having enough perspective to value all three is an important motivator.  We learn from our failures as they are opportunities to grow and succeed.  Success and change also provide opportunities for growth, but our failures are hard lessons learned.
  6. Stable future: Change is inevitable.  However, constantly feeling like your time is limited or feeling that your job is always on the block–very much a de-motivator.  On more than one occasion I have heard “good employees don’t get let go” and that is just not true.  Due to decreased funding and reduction in force I’ve seen good teachers lose their jobs because they didn’t coach.  I’ve seen employees let go because they were the most recent hire and someone had to be released due to budget cuts.  If a company is always in the news for their cuts, potential candidates are hesitant to accept a position. Candidates who will accept the position expect more in compensation and they will always have an exit strategy ready.  With an exit strategy in place, that means they are a greater risk for accepting a better offer if it comes along.  They’re the one’s who are always looking.
  7. Self indulgence:  It would be unrealistic to not include personal goals.  Personal goals are a driving force.  However, perspective is required to balance short and long-term benefits, or repercussions.
  8. Impact: Employees want to leave their mark, they want to make an impact.  Want to deflate an employee?  Ask for their opinion, and then tell them what will happen not even taking their thoughts into consideration.  Please, don’t bother asking if it doesn’t matter. That’s insulting.
  9. Happiness: Self-esteem and self-satisfaction are fueled by happiness.  It’s important to enjoy what you do. Happiness isn’t just a smile. Happiness radiates.

It is not possible to motivate someone who refuses to be motivated.  While motivating factors can be intrinsic or extrinsic, motivation is non-existent if one rejects it.

I recently heard a story referencing 3M’s approach to motivation.  With significant expense a study was conducted that resulted in 900 pages pertaining to employee motivation.  Deciding that was too long, the study was repeatedly condensed from 900 pages until it reached one page, then one paragraph, and finally one sentence. “Employees respect what management inspects, not what they expect.”  In other words, hold employees accountable.  This is not to be confused with micromanagement. Ask how things are going, follow-up, give feedback.

A few responses I’ve heard when asking people what motivates them:

  • At first it was monetary. Now, it’s doing a job that’s meaningful, making a difference, and doing something that I enjoy. I’m making a level of money that I’m comfortable with.  I’m not going to sacrifice everything else just to make more money.  It helps that I believe in the mission and goals of the company I work with.  For the most part, employees are aligned with the mission statement. 
  • Appreciation
  • I work for my family first. The paycheck is the prime motivator, because that’s how we keep food on the table and gas in the tanks.
  • I chose my profession so I could make a difference in someone’s life. 
  • Having the ability to be creative.
  • Freedom to do what I want is my motivator. Setting my own hours and being my own boss.
  • I want to leave my mark and when I walk away know that something I’ve done was a positive for the company.

While money is necessary it isn’t the primary motivating factor for employees. Most will leave a job if they can find a better work environment that pays just as well.  Many will even take a pay cut in order to have a better work environment or a job that aligns with their personal goals and direction.  A recruiter recently told me that potential employees were more interested in PTO benefits than increased pay. Personal time and personal satisfaction are increasingly important in motivating employees in the workplace. A toxic work environment will push employees to be on the lookout for something better. In today’s job market, employers can’t ignore the desires of a changing workforce. Flexibility and adaptability are important if they wish to motivate attract and retain quality candidates.