What’s new?

A friend of mine likes to ask “What’s new” when he sees someone for the first time each day. I’ve noticed that most people answer “nothing much” or “same old same old” and rarely do they elaborate on what is actually new in their lives.

Whether or not the question is intended to be rhetorical in nature, I wonder how often we stop to consider what is actually new in our lives? What is new in your life today? Does a list suddenly come to mind that you’d love to share? Or do you have to stop to think about it for a while before you eek out a thin but eager answer?

The new things in life are often how windows of opportunity are packaged. It’s easy to overlook them, especially if you are stuck in a mode of droning along, like a good little worker bee. Even if nothing is new in the circumstances round about, every day provides a fresh canvas upon which you can express yourself in new ways. Just because your circumstances are stale doesn’t mean that you have to be!

You’ve no doubt heard the statement which goes something like this: “If you are bored, you are boring.” While that may not always be the case, boredom is often the result of the prolonged experience of sameness. Sameness, in turn, is often produced by habitual reactions to the world’s happenings. If, therefore, you change up your habits of reaction, you are likely to enjoy a new experience, even if all other things are held equal.

When my friend asks me “What’s new” my first response is, “Well, everything!” I suspect he gets a kick out of that reply as much for its uncommonness as for what is to follow in conversation. The recognition of newness is the first step to experiencing a more vibrant, dynamic and influential life.

So…what’s new with you?

The Joy of Work

“In ev’ry job that must be done, there is an element of fun!” ~Mary Poppins

While I am not typically quick to admit it, as the father of two young boys I have watched several kid’s movies enough times to know the lines by heart. The classic movies from my day, such as Mary Poppins, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and the Sound of Music, offer a refreshing relief from the comparatively intense movies produced for children today.

The line quoted above is one of my favorites, spoken just before Mary Poppins performs an inspiring Tom Sawyer-like show that inspires the children in her charge to tidy up their room. Far too often people dread work only to find themselves depleted and dour when it comes time for play or holiday. The time it takes to unwind often eats up most of the free time and the embattled and worn soldier must return to his wearisome post unrested, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Work, like play, can and should be enjoyed. Whether or not you enjoy it depends on how you handle it, not on the nature of the work. Mark Twain, in his inimitable style, noted the difference between work and play in Tom Sawyer:

If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why people are so willing to blindly follow the idea that work is to be disdained. Some may say that my position in the company makes it easier to enjoy work, but I can assure you that every job I have ever held, from cabinet-maker’s assistant to CEO, was thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoyment is a radiant stance that can be maintained independent of the nature of the work you are obliged to perform. Whether you work alone or with others, on complex systems or on simple ones or doing repetitive tasks or something new every minute, you have the opportunity to enjoy what you do when you recognize that joy and enjoyment is something that can be generated from within you.

Far too often people are convinced that the source of joy is external to themselves. Life becomes an endless pursuit of situations and people that will somehow make them magically happy. Rather than enjoying what they lust after what they don’t, vainly hoping that the next thing will deliver the coveted sense of fulfillment and joy that is missing from their lives.

What about you? Are you willing to accept the challenge to find “an element of fun” in “ev’ry job that must be done”? What do you have to lose, really? A word of caution here: when it comes to enjoyment, don’t fake it until you make it. Do the work necessary to come to the point where you can truly and honestly enjoy your life.

Have a great one!

For the full excerpt of Tom Sawyer’s marvelous insight see: http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings_tom.html.

Victor Wooten, Amazing Grace: The Flow Experience Revisited

Every once in a while you hear or see something worth sharing.  I heard this solo by bassist Victor Wooten years ago…it’s definitely one of my top ten favorite musical performances of all time.  Victor exemplifies the unmistakable “flow” experience described so meticulously by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”

If you are unfamiliar with this musical genre, I encourage you to relax into it, much like you would ease the car into gear as you gently let out the clutch.  Don’t force it, stay with it…Victor’s enjoyment is contagious.

Sit back and enjoy…      

Wasn’t that spectacular?!?  The performance demonstrates so clearly what it is like to be caught up in the enjoyment of living; I just couldn’t resist sharing it. 

Speaking of sharing, I thought you might also enjoy one more passage from Csikszentmihalyi’s book:

“As our studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components.  When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is most positive, they mention at least one, and often all, of the following.  First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.  Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.  Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.  Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustration of everyday life.  Sixth, enjoyable experiences, allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.  Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.  Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.”   

Victor experienced all eight components of enjoyment.  Don’t you agree?  He was there!  

The beauty of this is that the flow experience is available to everyone, in any situation.  There are, of course, certain predictable (and surmountable) barriers to the experience that are well-described in the book.  If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.  It contains a set of keys that will open the doors to enjoyment in every aspect of your life.