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Joy at Work, Work at Joy

by Dr. Joan Marques

Self Improvement Articles

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Published on this site: July 17th, 2010 - See more articles from this month

The first decade of this new millennium has taught us some important lessons, which many of us experienced personally in less pleasant ways. We got confronted with traumatic job loss, foreclosure of property, and overall, an increased degree of insecurity in our daily life. It is therefore understandable that many cannot yet appreciate the message enclosed in these occurrences. Yet, it is there, as clear as daylight: we need to reevaluate our priorities, reconsider our mindsets and values, and reframe our lives. Our 20th century mental constructs have suddenly become obsolete. We cannot continue to compare ourselves with the Joneses and live beyond our means, because that’s the root of most of our contemporary problems: the tendency to compare ourselves with others has jolted up our living standards to a point that we had to look for the best paying job, even if our heart wasn’t in it, the largest house in the most affluent neighborhood, even if we really could not afford it; the newest car with the most advanced features, even if our old one was still in perfect condition; and a false sense of security, through all of the actions above, usually accompanied by major credit card debt.

Gradually, a light of awareness is emerging, though. This light is turning brighter as time progresses, and the essence of the recent experiences becomes apparent to the thinkers among us. We don’t have to imprison ourselves in a follower mindset. We can ignite our own awareness by ceasing to compare ourselves with anyone, and starting to reflect on our inner guide. If we dare to lower the sound on our radio, television, or computer speakers, we can start focusing our attention on our own passions. Why march in a line that does not really represent our core desires in life? Why not develop our own sense of serenity, and start doing what we wanted to do all along? Why not realizing the old Confucius adage, “If you do what you like you never work a day in your life”? Why not take leadership over our own life instead of giving it away to a senseless and obsolete habit of mindless following trends created by savvy marketers and advertisers who know our weak spots all too well?

In our modern western society, we have become estranged from serenity. We have forgotten how sacred and fulfilling it is to listen to our inner voice and follow our own direction in life. Nonetheless, happiness is not an item that you can buy. It does not come automatically with the newest model car, the largest house, or the best paying job. Those thoughts have long been proven outdated. They died when the 20th century ended, so maintaining them in these times of enhanced awareness is like trying to ride a dead horse.

Inner-peace is the best guarantee toward lasting happiness, regardless of what happiness means to each of us. Once we manage to find inner-peace, we can perform in a more balanced way, and cease to become disturbed by small things that happen around us. Dissatisfied colleagues, grouchy bosses, and difficult customers: they cannot get the better of us anymore, because we no longer perform on the compass of their moods, but on our own inner compass, instead. In the words of Bill George, retired Medtronic CEO and Harvard Business Professor, we become authentic leaders and focus on our True North. We don’t get distracted anymore by unrealistic demands that force us in a constant state of panic and into choices we would rather forego, but focus on our own mental attitude, thus making more responsible decisions under all circumstances.

Some people think that it is difficult - if not impossible - to develop this mindset of self-direction, but it’s not! In my new book “Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day,” I provide suggestions for uplifting thoughts, geared toward the wellbeing of the self and everyone around. With a guiding quote, an action plan, and a point to ponder, I introduce a simple and positive mindset of personal leadership in life to you. This is not done in a chapter-by-chapter format, but with a day-to-day approach that does not require much of your time. With about one minute of reading every day, you can acquire infinite personal gratification, and work toward shifting your mindset from victimized to victorious. You will start reframing your life, and start seeing setbacks as lessons, difficult people as important teachers, and small successes as important steps toward a rewarding future. You will detach yourself from the “have-to” mindset and start adopting a “want-to” perspective. You will start thinking deeper about the choices you make, and learn to consider alternatives you previously did not even acknowledge. You will taste the freedom of being your own positive self, working toward the betterment of yourself, your loved ones, and your community, and with that, acquire all the other positive side-effects that come with this frame of mind: better sleep at night, a better attitude toward loved ones, less pressure from outside sources, more relaxation, and more leadership over your life. Many of the points to ponder in this book are presented as short stories, such as the one below, which helps us rethink our dissatisfaction or inferiority complexes about our current status:

A dissatisfied stonecutter passed a rich merchant’s house. He wished he were the merchant, and became him. But a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair by soldiers. He wished he were the official and became him. It was hot in the chair. He looked at the bright sun and wished he were the sun. He became the sun. But a large cloud moved before him. He wished he were the cloud, and became the cloud. Soon the cloud was pushed away by the wind. He wished he were the wind, and became the wind. He blew everything away but a huge rock. He wished he were the rock, and became the rock. Then, he heard the sound of a hammer and felt himself changing. What could be stronger than a rock? He looked down and saw a stonecutter.

Dr. Joan Marques teaches management and organizational leadershipin higher education. She is the author of “Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day” (Personhood Press, 2010), now available through all major online bookstores. She is also co-editor/co-author of “The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives on Research and Practice” (Skylight Paths, 2009), which is also available through the same bookstores.

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