Tag Archives: meaning

Are You Alive at Work?

Have you ever been so engaged in a project that the hours you spent working on it seemed like minutes and you almost hated to finish it?

A key mechanism in reaching that state is your brain’s”seeking system,” says Daniel M. Cable, a social psychologist and professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, “When our seeking system is activated,” he says,”we feel more motivated, purposeful, and zestful. We feel more alive.”

In his book Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, Cable says that employees’ seeking systems play an important role in fostering creativity and innovation. However, many organizations are “deactivating” the seeking systems of their employees by limiting their roles, stressing efficiency, and enforcing precise metrics.

Three triggers that activate the seeking system–self-expression, experimentation, and purpose–are disregarded or discouraged in many organizations. People who can respond to these triggers at work actually produce more dopamine–the same neurotransmitter that is increased by physical exercise. Absence of those triggers leads to fear and apathy. The effect of a work environment that discourages employees from offering ideas or taking time to try new approaches is similar to that of an opiate.

Think ponds are a way to preserve your seeking system–whether you work somewhere that encourages self-expression, experimentation, and purpose or the opposite. Your think pond celebrates ideas and provides a space for experimentation. Finding meaning and purpose in the work is intrinsic to the process.

If you already love your work, maybe a think pond will help you improve and advance the ideas and solutions your employer seeks and go after opportunities that make you feel even more alive.

If not, maybe your think pond will give you a diversion that compensates for your stultifying workplace. Maybe it will help you change it. Maybe it will bring you the clarity and courage you need to leave it for the situation that gives you life.

What Unites Us?

Pick out ten people from the phone directory, randomly. Chances are, they will differ widely in their methods for earning a living, their career aspirations, and their educational credentials. They will each have their own interests outside of work, their own ways of making the world better, and their own unique mix of strengths and struggles. What unites all of their diverse enterprises–all the different ways they spend their time, earn their money, and pursue their own conceptions of excellence and success–are the same four inter-related, lifelong human endeavors stems from and continually draws from four elemental capabilities:

We dream. We learn. We create. We launch.

Those capabilities are at the root of everything we do in the world and we continually develop them and draw from them. They underpin all our efforts to plan careers, pursue jobs, improve skills, build reputations, cultivate clients, and build networks. They are with us throughout our studies and in every job we hold, as well as in all the periods of transition and change in between. They are the cornerstones of what we do to add value in our workplace and in all the communities to which we belong.  They create the framework for facing challenges, confronting change or upheaval, and dealing with what disturbs or inspires us. They contribute to our everyday, mundane activities, such as cooking or shopping, our pursuit of and escape from routine, and all our efforts to care for family, friends, community, and world. They help us cope, persevere, grow, and find joy. Regardless of occupation or location or education or wealth, every person possesses these four capabilities in some form and develops them to some degree.

Those four endeavors are powerful tools we can use to confront the changes and uncertainties of this time and to live a more rewarding, meaningful life. Most of us, however, are not using the tools at our disposal to our full advantage, nor are we sharpening them in preparation for future challenges.

How can we pursue these endeavors with greater passion, intention, and discipline?

Time to Reflect: Fall 1918 Revisited

Exactly a century ago, the modernist poet Amy Lowell wrote a poem about walking down the street on a beautiful fall afternoon that was “the colour of water falling through sunlight.” Lowell says that all she can do with this beautiful day in September 1918 is put it in her lunchbox and save it for another day when there is no war.

“I have time for nothing,” says her last line, “but the endeavour to balance myself upon a broken world.”

I’ve always loved the imagery of that poem, as well as the little glimpse of the world into which my grandparents were born. Now, as I look at our politics, all the breakdowns in our society, all the violence and racism, the constant state of war,  I feel the poignancy of that last line so much more deeply.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42990/september-1918

Inspiring Quotes for Think Ponds

“The future is not in building a new tower of Babel, but in cultivating well trodden paths from house to house.”
Raimundo Panikkar

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
Howard Zinn

“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope…These ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy

Think Ponds: Who Benefits?

Whatever field you are in, starting or belonging to a Think Pond can be a vehicle for:

  • Doing joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
  • Having conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
  • Making “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, more purposeful, and more aspirational.
  • Becoming attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects.
  • Working with a diverse array of minds and talents.

People in the following situations can benefit especially from Think Ponds:

Good Job, Dreams on Hold

You are starting to feel that dreams, creativity, and fulfillment are luxuries that must take a back seat when seeking employment, keeping your well-paying job, and getting ahead at work. You find the future too unnerving to consider. You often remind yourself that you are lucky just to have a job that pays the bills.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have an outlet for expressing who you are, a reduced likelihood of burnout in your job, and a better likelihood that you will be ahead of the curve when your profession or industry changes.

Fulfilling Career, Financial Uncertainty

You are in love with your job but worried about whether the income you earn will sustain you and whether you will be ready to seize opportunities to go to the next level when you have grown out of your current job. You are trying to “make it” in a creative sphere and are having trouble getting noticed or accepted into the dominant group.

Think Pond Benefits: By participating in small projects whenever you can, you will have opportunities to tap into additional income streams without detracting from your job and to show what you can do to people outside your industry or profession. You will increase your visibility as a professional by creating new avenues for sharing your creative work and unique skills in more diverse contexts.

Career Success, Change Agent

You are secure in your job and confident that you have the foresight and agility to stay ahead of the next wave of change in your profession or market. Your work is energizing and fulfilling. You have a clear, compelling dream, know the path to achieve it, and have the necessary knowledge and resources to boldly step onto that path and follow where it leads. You would like to help others.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have greater visibility, opportunities to accelerate success and diversify your network, a wealth of ideas and topics for your blog or Linked In presence.

iPresence: Artistry, Artifact, Artifice

By Deborah Vrabel

In the last post for Rich iPresence, I talked about similarities between iPresence and what we might call “real human presence”–when we or our organizations are with the audience both physically and mentally, both giving and commanding attention.

Still, we need to stay aware that our iPresence is a virtual human presence existing in a virtual reality. It doesn’t happen the same way life happens. We create it out of the stuff of who we are and what we do. It is a combination of artistry, artifact, and artifice.

Artifice. When I talk about “artifice,” I don’t mean setting out to deceive other people by creating content that is patently false, as in “catfishing” on Facebook or creating deceptive pop-up windows. By artifice, I mean purposefully playing the games that sustain the illusion of the Web as more than a technology. Most of us accept the premise of making believe that this virtual commons is really a place where real communities gather. Then we promptly forget and never accept the need to do the work of community or sometimes even observe the rules and courtesies of community.

Rich iPresence means conveying awareness that we are placing our lives, our ideas, our opinions, our work “someplace” and that doing so matters. It asks: Where does my content belong?

Artifact. While iPresence as “artifice” focuses on where we are placing our content–what kind of context we are entering and producing online, “artifact” refers to the trail of individual pieces of textual and visual information we place online. Everything posted online by individuals, whether original or something recycled, becomes a cultural and historical artifact.

Rich iPresence is more than feeding the companies and industries that have the computing power to analyze trends and patterns for commercial purposes and providing free content to the aggregators. It means we think about the message we want these artifacts to convey–both individually and collectively. It means the pieces we place online have unity and coherence. It asks: How long and hard would someone need to work before gaining reasonably accurate picture of me and/or my organization as an online presence? Are we handing them a well-executed scrapbook or a hodgepodge of loosely connected snapshots? Will exploring our organization’s online presence be like a well-organized tour of a historical site or more like picking through old items in a thrift shop hoping to find something unique or valuable?

Artistry. While artifacts carry knowledge and convey history, “artistry” provides original ideas and a glimpse of soul.

Rich iPresence asserts that the “content” we produce through human thought and inquiry must be more valuable than the widgets and images and design elements we use to frame it. It means thinking about not only clearing a path for people to follow but also making meaning. It asks: Does my digital opus illuminate the purpose and meaning of my experiences, passions, contributions, and qualities? Are we populating web pages or living up to the vision of a global village?

Think Pond: The Essential Question

By Deborah Vrabel

Creating opportunities, incentives, structures, technologies, and spaces for dialogue and collaboration is an important theme for most large organizations. It is often a daunting challenge—but well worth the effort. As a writer, I have been privileged to witness, participate in, and/or chronicle a few groundbreaking collaborative endeavors and agonize along with clients who made valiant attempts in impossible circumstances. I have also seen a few pseudo-collaborative efforts—which invariably failed.

Because of that stimulating, sometimes frustrating vantage point, I have thought deeply about collaborative work and how to sustain and enhance it. But I always thought about how collaboration would benefit my clients—never myself. Until recently, I never asked the question:

“What kind of collaborative relationships would be generative for me and others facing the realities of creating or recreating a meaningful, rewarding career in a time of rapid change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty?”

I started to ask that question and explore what my ideas might look like.

Copyright 2016 Deborah Vrabel. All rights reserved.