My department at work is partaking in a book club. The book we are tackling right now is The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. This is my second time reading it and I am not complaining (this is huge, since I never read books twice)! Achor is a positive psychologist. Considering how far back psychology goes this is a brand spanking new area of psychology. I feel like it is safe to still call the majority of positive psychology as uncharted waters. He and his fellow psychologists have discovered that the American (along with other cultures) mindset is flawed regarding success. Many of us have grown up being told that “success in life will make you happy.” Achor and his colleagues believe that we have it all backwards.
Mr. Achor truly believes that happiness will lead you to success. Several studies have shown that those who are happy at work are more successful in the workplace. Some areas that show improvement are: productivity, sales, creativity, efficiency, etc. The list goes on and on. Shawn Achor also discusses some simple steps that can get you closer to finding happiness. He says there are five things that you can change now, make a habit and help increase your happiness advantage. These five steps that will get you closer to finding your happiness are: finding three things to be grateful for, writing in a journal, exercising, meditating and doing random acts of kindness. The only way these five steps will really benefit you is if you make them a habit and perform them every single day.
Achor does a great job in his TED talk covering the gist of his book. However, the talk does not do the book justice. His book is not only helpful in the workplace finding happiness but also in your personal life. Just by reading the book I already feel like I am one step closer to success with my happiness as my vehicle.
You wake up on Monday at 7:00am and a sudden feeling of dread comes over you. It’s the first day back to work after the holidays. You start dreading the first day because you just had a glorious extended break for Christmas and/or the New Year. Who would want to go back to the daily grind after a relaxing vacation? NO ONE!
This feeling only gets worse once you walk into the office and take a seat at your computer. Your inbox is over flowing with junk mail, important mail, personal mail and etc. Thousands and thousands (or what may feel like thousands) of emails sit in your inbox awaiting your attention. You look to the right of your computer and there sitting in a nice pile 10 feet high (or what may feel like 10 feet) is a pile of papers. You do not even remember creating this pile nor did you realize you had that much paperwork to sort through. Instead of tackling your tasks at hand you sit there….staring. Where do you even start? Will your to do list ever end? Why doesn’t anyone else seem as overwhelmed as you? What a way to start off your 2014 work year!
I am assuming the average American experiences this feeling almost every time they go to work in the new year. And if not, then I should probably see a doctor for this anxious condition I possess. The article, 28 Emotions You Feel When Returning to Work After the Holidays, by Brittany Lewis hits the emotion spot on. She may not have the most appropriate choice of words when listing the emotions; however I cringed while reading it because I knew the exact feeling she was trying to get across. Sean Coughlan’s, Back to Work: 10 Worst Things about Post Holiday Blues, also gives the reader a good idea of why going back to work is so hard.
There comes a time (hopefully, a quick few minutes after your dread hits) when you realize you need to start getting things done. I eventually had this realization, but it still took me a while to act on it, because with a never-ending to-do list, where do you begin? One of my most reliable coping mechanisms is research. I started to read articles on this common emotion and how to handle it on your first day back. I found some really excellent tips on how to manage your tasks and mitigate that overwhelming emotion. The article that I found the most helpful was, Dreading Work After the Holidays? 10 Tips to Deal with an Overwhelming To-Do List, by hrvoice.org.
The tip that really stuck out to me was “Identify the verbs that need attention”. I looked at my to-do list and noticed a lot of big verbs in there, such as, plan, implement, create, discuss and write-up. After reading this specific tip, I went and dissected each of these tasks and made them even smaller. Making your to-do list consist of smaller verbs that are easily doable gives you a lot of baby steps to your big goal. Instead of “planning” for something, I am going to first brainstorm a couple of ideas. Now my to-do list doesn’t appear impossible.
The one point that I do not fully agree with is “Always be prepared for ‘bonus time'”. When I find time to breathe and decompress, I am going to take it! I am not going to use that “bonus time” to go through my emails or tackle a tiny step on my to-do list. I believe that it is important to find the smallest bits of “me time” during the work day just so I feel rejuvenated when I do go into that meeting or start to tackle a big chunk of my to do list. Either way, make sure you recognize when that “bonus time” comes into play and make use of it one way or another!
No matter how you feel (i.e. dread) and how you handle your time (i.e. poorly) at work right after a long vacation, DON’T PANIC…This too shall pass.
I spent a portion of Sunday attending a yoga class. I understand yoga is a time to find your center and become one with your body. Clearing your mind and being connected to earth and your body is a large part of it; however, I could not help but linger on a statement by the yoga instructor during this particular class. “Come to it with a beginner’s mind. Don’t have an expert mind. A beginner’s mind offers you the opportunity to come into a situation with a completely open outlook.” Of course at this point I lost my focus and started to ponder what she meant by this.
The more time I put into my job as a staff recruiter the more I realize I come in with a narrower mindset on how things should be. I have the attitude of, “well, this is how this particular scenario played out for the last two times…so that must be how this situation will end as well.” I think an expert mindset is an excellent asset to bring to the table. All the knowledge received from past experiences is priceless. Although, due to some of the past experiences I notice myself making assumptions that may not necessarily be true in that particular situation. “Come to it with a beginner’s mind.” I think this is such an important lesson.
A beginner’s mind will most likely not be as clouded as an expert mind. There is more openness and clarity to a fresh mind. A beginner’s mind sees so many more options and solutions to situations because it doesn’t recognize “limitations” put on that situation.
Not only has this statement helped me stretch a little further in yoga, but I now find myself stretching my mindset a little further in the workplace as well. Don’t let your ego and expert knowledge cloud your judgement and problem solving skills when you are welcomed with new problems and situations in the workplace. “Come to it with a beginner’s mind.”
Numerous people have approached me and asked about my job and what exactly outdoor education is. I’m sure most people encounter similar questions regarding their particular job and industry. Have you ever actually taken the time to research the specific definitions and key terms used in your industry?? I finally decided that using the same definition my boss told me 5 years ago during training just wasn’t cutting it and I wanted to soak up all the definitions and philosophies out there regarding my industry. I encourage you to do that as well if you haven’t already done so.
I did not get my degree in Outdoor Education so I never received a formal education on what exactly it means. I went through a few articles on outdoor education and discovered one that really enlightened me on the term. Feel free to read the article, Outdoor Education: Definition and Philosophy, by Phyllis Ford.
Phyllis Ford informed me that there is so much that entails outdoor education that it is near impossible to really put one specific definition on the phrase. She continues to let the reader know that there is one really broad definition that helps give the general audience a solid meaning of the phrase. That definition is, “Outdoor education is education ‘in’, ‘about’, and ‘for’ the out-of-doors.” The term “in” the outdoors refers to the idea that outdoor education should be taken place in some outdoor setting. This can be ANY outdoor setting, there are no real restrictions on this. The term “about” refers to the idea that every principle, every topic can somehow be traced back to the natural sciences and the outdoors. As the educator you want to shoot to make this connection with the students. The word “for” the outdoors refers to us acknowledging that there needs to be some kind of respect between yourself and your environment in the outdoors. There needs to be an acknowledgement that we are stewards of the outdoors. This basic definition should give people a sense of how broad the field is. This could consist of many different types of lessons and ways to go about it.
Outdoor Education does not have to take place at an outdoor education facility. Not-for-profit, for-profit, municipalities, recreation departments….you name it, any organization can facilitate outdoor education. The author of the article, Outdoor Education: Definition and Philosophy, also discusses the philosophy of outdoor education. The biggest philosophy that I gained from reading this article was that outdoor education is and should be a life-long experience. It isn’t just meant for a 5th grade class at an outdoor education facility. Those 5th grade students should spend more moments throughout their life eager and thirsty for more knowledge and awareness “‘in’, ‘about’, and ‘for'” the outdoors. It is a continual process.
The other three philosophies of outdoor education listed in the article mainly pertain to our involvement and knowledge of the outdoors. The first one is to build an awareness of what it means to be a steward of the outdoors and to accept that fact. The second one mentioned is to learn the principles and concepts in the environment and in a cultural sense. Once the concepts are introduced it is vital to learn how everything is connected. The third philosophy that Ms. Ford brings up is that it is vital for humans to understand their involvement in the outdoors and how that impacts the outdoors. Even if we are just leisurely enjoying our time outside we are in some way or another impacting the outdoors.
Outdoor education is not necessarily synonymous with such words as “environmental education”, “experiential education” or “conservation education”. All these terms take on a whole new meaning. Environmental education covers the total environment and topics in that particular area. Conservation education focuses more on our carbon footprint and natural resources. Experiential education is all about engaging the participants fully into a topic they are being educated on, otherwise known as “hands on learning”. There are many more terms that people like to associate outdoor education with. This can be okay to an extent. For instance, my company does outdoor education, but we also do experiential learning. This means that we not only meet the definition of outdoor education but we do the same for experiential learning.
I know this article Phyllis Ford wrote helped me out with having a better idea of how to explain to people what exactly outdoor education is. I’m hoping to fall upon more information that helps give me more insight into my own industry but for now I am going to accept what little enlightenment I received today.
Steve Baskin, one of the owners of Camp Champions, had the opportunity to do a TED Talk. Camp Champions is a summer camp located in Marble Falls, Texas. I am currently employed at this particular camp; however my position is related to the outdoor education program versus the summer camp.
Steve discusses the benefits of not just summer camp, but interpersonal relationships. He mentions a shocking statistic that the average teenager spends about 53 hours in front of a screen of some sort enveloped in technology. I learned from this talk that the more time youth (and adults) spend having face to face time with one another the more likely they will be able to stregthen interpersonal characteristics, like empathy for instance. Places like Camp Champions and The Outdoor School offer youth the chance to remove themselves from technology and focus on their relationships with their peers and develop incredible interpersonal skills.
Technology is phenomenal! Look how far we have come in the medical field thanks for technology. We now have the ability to communicate with loved ones across seas in a much quicker affordable manner. Technology is an amazing thing, but I have now come to the realization that similar to everything else in life…..moderation is key. Those of you currently sitting in front of the screen reading this blog or about to watch the next episode of Game of Thrones hit the power butter. Unplug for a little bit of time to create those connections and build your interpersonal qualities.
- Kids Unplugged: Summer Camps Ban Electronics (npr.org)
- Getting Away from It All: Tech-Free Summer Camp – NPR (apartmenttherapy.com)
- Digital Detox Camp Is So Easy to Hate (theatlanticwire.com)
- The Benefits of Sending Your Kids to Computer Tech Summer Camps in Pittsburgh (local.answers.com)
- Summer Camp Then and Now (brendabmarion.wordpress.com)