Energized & Open: Twin Keys to Unleashing Your Full Potential

For much of the last fifteen years, I have seen the work I do in terms of one single continuum – from drained to energized. My goal has been to help people move up the continuum from feeling drained in their work towards being energized by it.

But more and more I have come to see another continuum as an equally important piece of the puzzle – one running from constricted to open.

Here’s how I picture the two of them together:

Constricted to Open and Drained to Energized

Want the super-nutshell version of how to use this framework? Here it is:

Make choices and take actions that move you toward feeling more energized and more open. Spend as much time as you can in the upper right of this graph.

Couldn’t be simpler, right? Right. Except it’s not a one-and-done approach. It’s something you do every single day.

(And if that feels overwhelming, consider that you are already making choices and taking actions that are sending you in one direction or the other on each of these continuums – this is just about doing it consciously.)

Life in perpetual motion

Your work life is in perpetual motion along both of these continuums.

Sometimes you feel more energized, sometimes more drained. Sometimes you feel more open, other times more constricted. And it happens on multiple time scales.

At a small time scale, you might feel more energized one moment when working on something particularly fun. Another moment you might feel more drained after a donut-induced sugar crash.

One moment you might feel more open as you brainstorm and explore possibilities for achieving a vision that inspires you. Another moment might find you feeling more constricted when that irritating co-worker gets your goat yet again.

On a broader scale, you can feel more energized when you feel like you are doing work you love. Or more drained when you feel like nothing about the work you do makes any real difference.

Similarly, you might feel more constricted if you habitually stress about things, or focus on what’s wrong. And cultivating practices like meditation and mindfulness can help you live more consistently on the open end of the continuum.

Putting it to work

This framework offers you a simple yet effective way to start exploring and making changes, both long-term and in the here-and-now.

Thinking of your life along these two continuums allows you to do a simple check-in, followed by a look at action you can take. You can ask:

  • Where am I on each of those continuums?
  • What would allow me to move in the direction of more energized?
  • What would help me move towards more open?”

You can do that in the big picture, shaping the trajectory of your career towards work that energizes you and cultivating practices (like meditation or mindfulness) that help you feel less constricted and more open.

You can also do it on a day-by-day, even moment-by-moment basis. Make a habit of checking in with yourself on a daily basis and asking where you are on each of those continuums. Follow that up by asking how you could move more towards energized and/or open.

How it improves your career (and your life)

This simple way of looking at things offers a framework that can change your career and your life for the better in multiple ways. It can:

Improve your quality of life

When you are more energized and more open, life feels better. Simple as that.

Energize your success

When you feel more energized, you have more to put into whatever you do. And when you align what you do with what naturally energizes you, it creates an energy loop where what you do gives you energy that you can in turn put back into what you do.

Create space for your success

The less constricted and more open you are, the more space there is for your success to unfold.

Imagine letting go of a constricting factor like habitual worry. What impact would that have? What might that worry be keeping you from? What new opportunities might you be open to in the space that creates? How might you be able to perform better?

Help you have a greater impact on the world

Moving towards the energized and open ends of the continuums increases your ability to have an impact on the world. This runs the full range from the impact you have moment to moment on the people around you to a greater ability to breathe life into your goals and visions.

If you want to make the most of what life has to offer, tap into what energizes you and give that energy space to flow. You’ll enjoy life more. You’ll achieve more. And you’ll have a greater impact on the world around you.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

14 ways to change your life with a gratitude practice

gratitude note

I often describe gratitude as the well-being wonderdrug. It has a positive impact in multiple ways, from greater happiness, to better health, to reduced stress.

As part of my series on learning to love your life at work, I was initially going to dive deeper into the benefits of gratitude. Then I remembered the mother of all gratitude posts, 31 benefits of gratitude. So I decided to link to that and focus on ideas for developing a gratitude practice.

Most of the ideas here can be applied during your work day. I’m including a wider range of ideas because you don’t live in a work silo. The gratitude habit you develop in your whole life is the gratitude habit you will bring to work.

1. Take stock of the obvious

The first step is just to sit down and take stock of what you’re grateful for. Look around at your life in 360 degrees. What jumps out at you as obvious things you feel grateful for? Start making a list.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

At its simplest, a gratitude journal can entail sitting down before bed each night and writing down three to five things you can feel grateful about that day. Try to really feel the gratitude, as opposed to making it just an intellectual exercise.

If you want to go deeper, you might try something like keeping a Positive Journal.

3. Keep an ongoing gratitude list

Start with the initial list you made in your initial taking stock. Over time, keep adding new things to the list. You could even try doing a one (or more) a day challenge, adding at least one new thing to be grateful about every day.

These two posts on my Ripple Revolution blog have some good questions to ask as gratitude prompts:

17 gratitude-prompting questions for your gratitude journal

17 more gratitude-prompting questions

Pull the ever-growing list out on a regular basis and review the entire list, pausing to let yourself feel the gratitude.

4. Create gratitude reminders

Put up gratitude reminders to help you remember to look for things to be grateful for. Maybe you put up sticky notes where you will regularly see them. Maybe you print out the words “Thank You” and put it in a frame. Play with whatever will help keep gratitude awareness top of mind.

5. Take a gratitude walk

Go out for a walk with the intention of noticing things to feel grateful for. That might be a beautiful sunny day, or the way the rainy day is making the grass so vividly green, or the feeling of your legs moving, or the fact that your body works as well as it does. Once you start looking, you might be amazed at how much there is to feel grateful for.

6. Take a gratitude drive

This is similar to a gratitude walk, except you do it in the car. You can use any ol’ time behind the wheel – your commute, running errands, taking the kids to soccer practice – to practice finding things to be grateful for.

7. Have a gratitude meal

If you sit down with family for a meal on a regular basis, try making one of those meals a gratitude meal on a regular basis. Each person in turn can share something they’re grateful about, maybe even why they’re grateful, and what it means to them.

I love the idea of making this a frequent occurrence, especially with kids. The more our minds know they’re going to be called on with a “gratitude quiz,” the more they start to take note throughout the day. Imagine planting those seeds with your kids!

8. Find a gratitude partner

Just like having a workout partner helps you stay committed to going to the gym, having a gratitude partner can help you stay engaged in your gratitude practice. That might look like, for example, a weekly meeting over coffee where each of you share the main gratitude themes you’re noticing in your lives.

9. Use complaints as gratitude triggers

Want to feel more gratitude, but really feel more like an old crankypants? Fear not! You can use your crankitude as a starting point. When you notice yourself kvetching, use that as a signal to shift your focus. “OK, yeah, that’s irritating. Now, what am I grateful for?”

10. Pick a daily gratitude theme

Try giving each day a daily theme. Maybe one day is “people.” Maybe another day is “visual.” Another day might be “learning.” Brainstorm a list of possible themes, pick one, and look for gratitude opportunities in that theme.

11. Keep a gratitude jar

Find a jar or some other container, and cut up some small slips of paper. Every time you notice yourself feeling grateful about something (even small things), write it down on one of those slips and put it in the jar.

Besides giving you a focus for your gratitude (and the kinesthetic reinforcement of writing it down and physically putting it in the jar), as the contents of the jar grows it gives your a gratitude grab bag of sorts. You can reach in and grab a slip at random for a little gratitude reminder.

12. Practice gratitude in bed

I love this one. When you wake up in the morning, before getting out of bed, lie there and do a gratitude check. Then, when you go to bed at the end of the day, do the same thing. It doesn’t need to take long, but it catches your mind at some of the times when it is most receptive.

13. Do a gratitude meditation

If you’re a meditator, explore making gratitude a central focus on a regular basis. That might focusing on one thing you’re grateful for, or on the feeling of gratitude, or even letting your mind go from gratitude point to gratitude point.

14. Download a gratitude app

Do a search for gratitude apps for your smartphone. There are a lot of them out there.

Make it an experiment

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. I encourage you to take these ideas (as well as any others you might come up with), pick something that resonates most, and experiment with it. See how it works. See how you like it, and what effect it has.

From there, you can either continue with it, integrating it more deeply into your habitual mode, or launch another experiment.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

For a more positive work experience, direct your focus

focus marbles

[Part of a series on learning to love your life at work.]

Imagine that the sum total of what you focus on in your life can be boiled down to ten marbles. Each of these marbles can be either black or clear (or whatever colors you prefer). The black marbles represent objects of focus that can be perceived as negative, and the clear ones represent the positive.

Which marbles you focus on, and in what ratio, shapes how you see the world. If your focus is consumed primarily by the black marbles, you’ll see a world filled with negative thoughts, events, people, experiences, and trends.

On the other hand, if you focus primarily on the clear marbles, your world will be filled with more of the positive.

Each time you shift your focus to include a clear marble, a black one drops out of view, and vice versa.

This, in a much more complex and interrelated way, is how your view of the world actually works. The more you focus on the positive, the more positive you see, and the less room there is for the negative. The more you focus on the negative, the less you’ll see the positive.

Use your focus to sculpt your work experience

What you focus on shapes how you see the world. How you see the world shapes what you experience (and what you experience, in turn, shapes both what you focus on and how you see the world).

You can use this idea to start sculpting how you experience your work (and your life in general). You can start with getting in the habit of answering this simple question:

What’s good here?

What can you notice that is good? What is fun? Who do you enjoy? What are you grateful for? What experiences feel good?

Don’t just look for the home run goodness (like doing work you love, or the big raise you just got). Look for the small things too. That might include things like:

  • The satisfaction of finishing a project.
  • An enjoyable conversation with a co-worker.
  • The feel of the sun as it streams in through the window on your face.
  • Any compliments or positive feedback.
  • The feeling of collaborating with a good team of people.
  • The funny banter in a meeting.

Remember, your goal is to fill as much of your view as possible with the positive focus marbles.

Addition by subtraction

It’s not just consciously increasing the amount of positive focus, though. It’s also consciously letting go of any negative focus. Removing the negative from your focus not only reduces the amount of negativity taking up your view, it also makes more room for the positive.

An easy example of this is habitual complaining. When you make a habit of complaining, what you’re really doing is reinforcing a negative focus. “I don’t like this. Why can’t they that?”

And the more of that you reinforce, the more you have a tendency to see. It’s a vicious cycle.

Try this: As always, I encourage you to take this idea and do an experiment with it to see for yourself if the idea has merit. There are actually two experiments here to try.

Focus on the positive

First, make a list of all the things you can think of that are positive during your day. This is just to get you started and to prime the pump for your brain to shift into noticing-the-positive gear.

Then, for the next week, experiment with noticing as much of what’s positive as you can. Put a sticky note on your wall to remind you. Set a notification on your phone. You might even bring a co-worker into your experiment and have a daily discussion about the positive each of you have noticed.

The longer you do this, the more your mind will start to automatically notice the positive, so if you feel inclined to continue after that week, keep on going!

Reduce the negative focus

This one is simple. Stop complaining. Try it for one week. As you do, do your best to minimize your exposure to other people’s complaining as well.

If you want to go whole hog with it, you can try the 21 Day Complaint Free Challenge.

Between the two of these experiments, my guess is you will notice a shift start to occur.

The benefit of this approach comes in two ways. The first is the immediate impact of shifting your focus. And the second is the long-term impact of training your mind both to notice more of the positive and to dwell less on the negative.

The more positive you see, the more positive you’re likely to notice. And the more positive you notice, the more positive your experience.

It’s a virtuous cycle.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to do an internal energy audit

How to do an internal energy audit

In this series on learning to love your life at work, part of what I am exploring is how to improve your experience of life at work, regardless of whether or not you can change anything about the work itself.

A great place to start is by doing an “internal energy audit.”

One of the tools I encourage people to use in their efforts to improve the here and now is an energy audit aimed at the work itself. They look at what energizes them and what drains them, and then explore ways to bring more of the energy-inducing aspects into the picture and reduce the drains.

That same idea is relevant for your internal landscape.

It’s essentially the same idea. You’re asking:

  • How do I contribute to feeling more energized?
  • How do I contribute to feeling less energized?

Another way of thinking about it (one I’m using more and more in my own life) is:

  • How do I open to the flow of energy?
  • How do I constrict the flow of energy?

One way or another, we all do each of those in umpteen different ways. For example:

Opening to the flow

  • Focusing on what’s positive
  • Gratitude
  • Expressing the positive (e.g., sharing your observations on what’s good with someone)
  • Grounding practices like meditation and breathing practices
  • Staying in the present moment instead of lost in negative stories
  • Questioning your limiting stories, assumptions, and beliefs
  • Consciously exposing yourself to what’s positive and uplifting

Constricting the flow

  • A habitual focus on the negative
  • Pessimism
  • A tendency to be critical, whether of yourself or others
  • Mistaking your negative thoughts for reality
  • A tendency to ruminate and worry
  • Getting lost in your negative stories
  • Constantly exposing yourself to what’s negative and constricting (e.g., the news)
  • Never letting yourself slow down and relax

Internal Energy Audit Framework

Here’s a framework to get you started.

1. What stories are you telling?

You don’t see the world as it is. You see it through the lens of the stories you tell. We all do. Sometimes those stories are positive, and sometimes they’re negative. Sometimes they’re empowering, and sometimes they’re disempowering. What kind of pictures are your stories painting?

You can explore three broad kinds of stories:

Stories about yourself: These might include, for example, self-criticism vs self-appreciation (e.g., “hey, I really did that well,” or, “it wasn’t perfect, but I did the best I could.”) or self-doubt versus self-belief.

Stories about others: Do you see others as basically good or basically flawed? Do you see the best in others or the worst? Are you hyper-critical of others or supportive and understanding? Is your basic default trust or distrust?

Stories about circumstances: Do you feel like a victim of circumstances or do you habitually look for ways you can improve things? Do you see the world as a fearful place or a hopeful place?

The either/or questions there are only a handful of examples to give you an idea of what kinds of stories you might find, not an exhaustive list.

2. What do you focus on?

Do you focus on the positive or the negative? Do you focus on what you’re grateful for or what you dislike? Do you focus on what you enjoy, or what grates on you?

3. Do you have room in your mind for quiet or are you lost in the noise?

A great way to tilt toward constriction is to never give your mind any time and space for quiet. Do you give yourself time to pause and be still, or are you constantly doing, doing, doing? Do you allow your mind some silent space, or do you habitually fill that space with something? (Try just being alone in silence for a while and see what happens. If you find yourself starting to crawl out of your skin, it’s a good bet you’re not giving your mind the space it needs.)

4. What input are you feeding your mind?

What do you habitually feed your mind? Do you seek out positive and uplifting input, like books to help you learn and grow or inspiring stories, or do you fill it with news about how the world is going to hell and images of violence and despair? Do you spend your time having positive conversations with people, or are you a long-standing member of the Bitch-n-Moan Club?

Do an ongoing energy audit

Taking a first look at the areas outlined above is a great way to start shining a light at what is going on in your internal landscape, but it’s not a one-and-done effort.

Try making it a habit to do an ongoing energy audit. Maybe it’s as simple as spending five minutes on your commute home reviewing the day and checking in with how things looked internally in each of those areas.

The more you can recognize what’s happening on an ongoing basis, the more you have the potential to work with those internal aspects to shift them ever-more in a positive direction.

And the more positive your internal landscape, the more positive your experience will inevitably be of what’s going on in the world around you.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The blessing of a jackhammer (and what that has to do with creating work you love)

road construction

There’s a big road construction project going on across the street from me. The last couple days have been filled with wave after wave of jackhammering.

There’s not much to do but tune it out, but every time it stops for an extended period of time I’m struck by how peaceful it feels. The silence is almost palpable.

Every time I experience that silence, I realize how much tension the jackhammer has been causing – both in my mind and my body. The silence feels like a little trip to the spa where that tension just drips away.

Sure, the incessant rattle of metal on concrete has been irritating, but it has also been a blessing.

Huh? How could a jackhammer be a blessing? Let me explain.

Quieting the jackhammer of the mind

Grating as it has been, the noise of the jackhammer has helped me experience the peace of the silence in a way I seldom do when the noise level outside is just at your standard urban hum.

Every time I feel that silence, I think, “Ohhhhh, that’s what’s there when the noise stops!”

That jackhammer and the silence in its absence is a perfect metaphor for what happens in our minds, and the peace and spaciousness that comes if we can quiet that mental jackhammer even just a little bit.

The jackhammer and the profound peace of its absence has been giving me a frame of reference – an experiential analogy, if you will – for what happens at an internal level, both with the noise we create in our minds and the potential for peace when we find ways to turn down the volume.

Recognizing the unacknowledged tension

One of the most striking things about the peace following the noise has been a realization of just how much tension I was holding in response to the jackhammer, even though I thought I was tuning it out.

It’s the same in our minds. Our thoughts create a tension in our minds we often don’t even realize is there. Maybe it’s the shrill underlying hum of a worry about the future, or rumination about what he did, or what she said, or how you screwed up.

Maybe it’s an ongoing battle with what is and an insistence that things should be different. Perhaps it’s just an addiction to going at mach speed without the ability to really relax.

Whatever it is, it frequently creates an underlying tension there that can suck your energy dry.

What jackhammering (and quiet) has to do with loving your work

The goal of getting Wild About Work isn’t just finding work you love. It’s also developing your capacity to fully experience the juice your work offers.

The tension and energy drain created by the jackhammer of our minds has a constricting effect. It makes us smaller and less open. It takes us out of flow, rather than helping us step into it.

The benefit of toning down that internal jackhammer is twofold. First, you reduce the energy drain it causes. And second, the more you can do to quiet that internal jackhammer, the more internal space you have to experience the good stuff.

How to turn down your mental jackhammer

In the Wild About Work model, one of the basic foundational pieces is some kind of grounding practice (or even better, several grounding practices).

There are a bazillion different ways to turn down the volume on that internal jackhammer. I’ll dive more deeply into a few of them in future posts, but for now here’s a handful:

Mindfulness: This is simply pulling yourself back from whatever wild gyrations your mind is doing in the past and/or future and experiencing what is happening right here, right now, without overlaying a story.

Meditation: A regular meditation practice – even just a few minutes per day – can have a profound effect on the noise in your mind. You can use it both as a regular practice and as a way to ground throughout your day.

Breathing: Your breath is a great tool for getting out of your mental noise and into the present moment. Try simply focusing on your breath for sixty seconds at various intervals throughout the day.

With any of these, try to take an approach of softening, rather than effort to make something happen. An effort to relax only contributes more tension to the mix.

Try this: Here’s an experiment for the next week, if you’re up for it. Every once in a while throughout your day, stop and notice. Are you grounded and present? Are you spooled up and tense? Just notice. No judgment.

Then  take ten breaths. Focus your attention on how the breath feels. Connect with how your body moves as you breath in and out. If your mind starts to wander as you do that (it probably will), just come on back to focusing on the breath.

That’s it. Notice, then breathe. Notice, then breathe.

Simple, right?

Let me know how it goes!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Change your life (seriously!) with a Positive Journal

In 2008, my business was in freefall, and I was broke, broke, broke (not to mention stressed, stressed, stressed). The financial crisis had hit me hard – not many people were thinking about creating careers that lit them up when they were worried about survival.

I was complaining to a friend about my situation and she said something that stopped me in my tracks. “Curt, where is the abundance in your life?”

I realized that I actually had great gobs of abundance in my life – just not the financial version. And yet it was my stress about the financial variety that was taking up my entire field of view. I realized I needed to do something to focus more of my awareness on what was positive in my life.

positive journalI decided to keep a “positive journal.” In the video above, I talk about the experience and the incredibly positive impact it had.

Knowing that any attempt at regular journaling I had made in the past had a limited life span, I decided to create a framework by making it a 30-Day Experiment. I love 30-Day Experiments. They’re long enough to start seeing results, but not so long that night on impossible to stick with it.

My only rule for the journal was that anything I wrote in it had to have a positive focus. Here are the four main areas I explored:

Gratitude: I made it a regular habit to do a deep dive into gratitude. The more I did it, the more I saw reasons to feel grateful, both big and small.

Abundance: First I made a laundry list of all the kinds of abundance I experienced in my life (love, freedom and flexibility, ideas, beauty, health, fun, etc.). Then I started picking them one at a time and asking, “Why is that important? What is the positive impact of that in my life?”

Shifting out of the negative: When I found myself stuck in a negative rumination, or a habitual negative perception, I would sometimes explore how to shift that? How could I look at things from a more positive angle? What are the positive possibilities?

Positive question prompts: I started using open-ended prompts to help me spotlight the positive. For example, “Life is good because _____,” and, “I feel confident and capable when _____.”

So what about the title to this post? Isn’t that just a tad hyperbolic? Well no, in my experience, that was exactly what keeping a Positive Journal did. More accurately, it changed my experience of my life. If you think of your awareness as a pie chart, my daily focus on the positive increased the percentage of that pie that was taken up with seeing the positive.

I went into it with a fairly open mind. I didn’t really know what effect the experiment would have on me. Turns out it was huge. It was actually a key part of being able to emotionally navigate a really challenging time.

Here are some of the outcomes I experienced:

Noticing the positive: What’s good start entering my awareness more naturally. It was already there, but this expanded my awareness of it.The more I paid attention to the positive, the more positive I noticed.

Looking for the positive: Not only did I passively start to notice the good stuff in my life, I also found myself actively scanning to find more. It wasn’t something I put effort into; it just started happening on its own.

Short-circuiting the negative: I started noticing the negative, limiting stories my mind created and automatically looking for alternative, life-enhancing stories.

I highly, highly recommend trying this. Make it a 30-Day Experiment and see what happens. Try to find a regular time each day and dive on in.

If you do it, I would love to know how it goes! Please share your experience in the comments below.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The benefits of gratitude

thank you

In a recent post on Gratitude Breathing, I mentioned the wide-ranging benefits of gratitude. This post, The 31 benefits of gratitude you didn’t know about, is the best examination of “what’s in it for you” that I have come across.

If you only do a deep dive into one post this week make it this one. You’ll be amazed at gratitude’s research-backed superpowers.

Here are the top five benefits:

  1. Gratitude makes us happier.
  2. Gratitude makes people like us.
  3. Gratitude makes us healthier.
  4. Gratitude boosts our career.
  5. Gratitude strengthens our (positive) emotions.

Gratitude can literally change your life – without a thing changing externally. It touches all aspects of your life – mental, physical, even spiritual. It creates a positive lens through which to see the world, and shifts your focus to what’s good.

I won’t waste too many words talking about it here (a first!) because the post in the above link does such a fantastic job.

Enjoy!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Improve your life with Gratitude Breathing

heart breath

Of all the things you can do to shift your perception in life, gratitude is one of the most powerful. Developing your sense of gratitude has been shown to have a wide range of benefits, both mental (like a greater sense of well-being, and more emotional resilience) and physical (like a stronger immune system).

This morning I added a post to my Job Search Stress Busters blog (a blog I created as a public service because it’s sorely needed) about something I have explored over the last few months I call Gratitude Breathing. It has had such a positive impact on me, I feel compelled to share it here as well.

As I have often mentioned, getting Wild About Work isn’t just about finding work you love. It’s also about expanding your capacity to experience the positive. Gratitude Breathing is an excellent practice to develop that capacity.

Here’s the post in its entirety:

A while back I wrote a post about Attitude Breathing, a technique that builds on “heart breathing,” as described in HeartMath’s Quick Coherence Technique.

In Attitude breathing, you imagine you’re breathing in and out of your heart. As you do, you focus on a positive feeling or attitude.

A few months ago, riffing off of the Attitude Breathing idea, I started playing with what I describe as Gratitude Breathing. Built around heart breathing, it incorporates an interactive focus on what you’re thankful for.

Interactive?

Here’s what I mean. Instead of just feeling grateful, I also incorporate an active receptiveness to the gift of what I’m grateful for.

So let’s say I’m grateful for this cup of coffee I’m drinking. (which I am!). Here’s how I would approach Gratitude Breathing.

  1. I start focusing on my heart as I breathe. I imagine the breath is coming into and out of my heart.
  2. I focus on the object of my gratitude (in this case, my coffee).
  3. As I breathe in, I think, “Breathing in the gift.” This is a way to open myself to actively, intentionally open myself to taking in the experience of what I’m grateful for being a gift in my life.
  4. As I breathe out, I think, “Breathing out my gratitude.” I imagine myself surrounding the object of my appreciation in a cloud/bubble/field of gratitude.
  5. Breathing in, it starts all over.

.
I find this has the effect of both grounding me and deepening my feeling of gratitude.

The objects of your gratitude can be small (like my coffee) or big (like a deeply loving family). The beauty of this is that it really doesn’t matter. The more you actively engage in gratitude, the more it filters into your overall outlook on life (which has a big picture stress reduction effect as well).

Give it a try. Experiment with it for a week. See how it feels.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Why your career needs you to meditate (or breathe, or eat mindfully, or…)

fireworks

Imagine a career chock full of what lights you up. It actually energizes you to do the work. Sounds like a dream, right?

It is. But if you’re like many people, you’re losing a lot of that energy unnecessarily.

Try this on and see if it feels a bit too familiar. You get up and hit the ground running. You’re late getting out the door, and then you feel the stress rising as you want to fly down the road at Mach 10 and traffic is moving at Mach 0.000001.

You finally get to the office, check your e-mail, and discover the big project you’re leading is going sideways. You look at your to-do list and realize you have three months of to-do’s crammed into your morning. You can feel the stress and anxiety start to build.

Your scenario may look different than that, but for many (if not most) people in this high paced culture we live in, the end result is the same. Your energy goes flying off in all directions like spinning fireworks.

The negative impact of an energy leak

In a scenario like the one I described above, it’s like your life has an energy leak.

Think of the sum total of energy you have any given day as water going through a hose, maybe to water a garden. When you love what you’re doing you have plenty of water coming through the hose. Lots to keep your plants healthy and robust.

When your energy is flying off in all directions, when you feel frenzied and frantic, or just plain stressed, it’s like that hose springs a leak. Or multiple leaks. You don’t get the full benefit of all the energy of loving your work.

Not only that, you don’t have that energy to put back into the work you’re doing. So the virtuous cycle nature of work you love (you do work that energizes you, and put that energy back into doing work that energizes you) gets interrupted.

You need a grounding practice

That energy loss effect is precisely why I include some kind of grounding practice as one of the foundations of well-being in the Wild About Work ecosystem (along with diet, exercise, hydration, and sleep).

A grounding practice, like meditation, or mindfulness, or any one of a bazillion beneficial practices, stops the energy from flying off in all directions. It plugs the leak in that hose, so more of your energy goes in a positive and productive direction.

It also gives you more space to deal with the challenging things in life. If somebody bumps you while you’re teetering on the edge of a cliff on one leg, it’s going to stress you out a lot more than if you’re standing on solid ground with both feet firmly planted.

A grounding practice helps create that solid ground to stand on.

You don’t have to be a yogi

If you don’t currently have any kind of grounding practice, you don’t have to wrap yourself in a pretzel and sit on a mountain top. It can be as simple as stopping and focusing on your breath for a minute or two.

I recently realized that my morning meditation practice is so important to my well-being that, if I had to make the horrible choice between meditation and my morning coffee, coffee would lose (thankfully I don’t live in a world where I have to make that choice!).

But it hasn’t always been a part of my life. When I first dipped my toe in the meditation waters, I used an idea from a wonderful book titled Meditation Made Easy called the Do Nothing Technique.

It’s as easy as it sounds. I just sat on my couch for five minutes doing nothing (at the time even that felt unnatural, as I was a bit of a do-er), letting my thoughts go where they wanted. I described it as “practicing doing nothing,” rather than meditating. Over time, that expanded to ten minutes, then fifteen. Eventually, I realized that it had evolved into what felt like meditation.

I’ll be sharing more ideas in this blog on ways to incorporate a grounding practice into your life.

To sum it up, if you want to get Wild About Work, if you want to both experience as much of that juice from your job as possible and give yourself more room to maneuver, a regular grounding practice is a vital piece of the puzzle.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to stop stress from killing career passion

reduce stressImagine sitting down to a sumptuous gourmet meal. Everything is amazing. The food makes your eyeballs roll back in your head. The atmosphere is perfect. It’s the ideal meal.

Now imagine someone is standing behind you, whacking you on the head with a stick. He keeps at it the whole meal, over and over and over.

How likely are you to be able to truly enjoy the meal? Not very, I’d wager.

It’s a bit like that with stress and career passion. You can have the perfect job, but if stress is continually whacking you on the head, your ability to truly get the most out of it is limited.

And it’s not just job stress that’s the problem. It’s any stress. As I have mentioned before, getting Wild About Work isn’t just about what happens on the job.

The Wild About Work ecosystem happens in 360 degrees in your life.

Don’t believe me? Imagine having a huge quarrel with your spouse or partner right before you head out the door for work. Something really big. How likely are you to be at your best that day? What happens at home follows you to work. Why? Because you’re the same person!

How big is your juice container?

Here’s one way I think about it. Imagine you have the perfect job, and the juice from that job, the flow of potential energy, is cascading down like a waterfall, or a fire hydrant wide open.

All you need to do is go to work and step into that flow, right? Ummmm, no.

To experience that energy, you have to catch it in your own container, your own ability to feel energized. And if all you have is a little juice cup, because stress is reducing your ability to fully experience the positive, then you’re limited in how much groove you will actually feel.

Managing stress in 360 degrees in your life is one way to create a bigger container, moving from a juice cup to a big bottle, or a bucket. When you reduce stress, you have more space to feel the juice in your job.

Whole-life stress management

I have a blog I started last year as a public service aimed at helping job seekers manage the stress of the search. In the process of blogging, a whole-life stress management model popped into my head (click on that link for more details, as well as a free 10-page e-booklet doing a deep dive into the model).

Here’s a distillation of that page. The model has four layers:

I – The Core: This consists of the basics that lend themselves to a solid foundation. Think of it as the foundation you pour for a house before that provides a stable ground to build on. Making sure you have a solid core is the first part of a whole life stress management approach  (note the similarity to the foundation in the Wild About Work ecosystem model).

The Core consists of what I call the Five Fundamentals:

  • A healthy diet
  • Staying hydrated
  • Exercise
  • Grounding practice
  • Sleep

II – Internal: This layer focuses on what is happening in your internal world. This is probably the area of whole-life stress management that has the most powerful stress busting potential, because it’s the one area in your life you can reliably control. It looks at:

  • Your Stories: How you interpret the world.
  • Your Self-talk: The conversations all of us continually have, whether constructive or critical.
  • Your Focus: Where you’re directing your attention, both internally and externally.
  • Your Now-ness: Being in the present moment.

III – External: You can’t control everything in the world around you, but you can exert some influence on it. This layer takes a look at the choices and changes you can make, and how you can shape your surroundings (physical, community, etc.) in a way that supports you.

IV – Tools & Techniques: These are the on-the-fly techniques you can apply to reduce stress in the moment, like breathing techniques, short guided meditations, etc.

You can find a collection of all the stress busting quick tips I have posted over on the Job Search Stress Busters blog (things that take ten minutes or less) on the Stress relief quick tips page.

Whatever your situation at work, whether you love your job or are bursting with the desire to make a change yesterday, incorporating a whole-life stress management approach into the picture can improve it.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

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