Category Archives: Teams and Workgroups


The Time
Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Although the attribution to Winston Churchill cannot be supported, there is a saying I recently ran across which summarizes many of the struggles we face on a daily basis:

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Perspective is crucial in most dealings, but even more so when one is going through extended periods of difficulty. Even an optimist will eventually flag under the weight of consistent struggle. At some point – and the point varies greatly with each person’s priorities, temperment, and intentions – one needs to take a step back to look at the big picture.

Right now is difficult. We’re not disputing that.

The foundational question is:
Do you want to get through this, or do you want to find a new situation?

This question of intent is vital because it changes the impact and the answers of the questions which follow. Fundamentally, if you want to be in a different situation, then your effort is best placed on that rather than on impacting your current situation. Why? Because getting through difficult times is a lot of work.

If you cannot leave your current situation despite an overwhelming desire to do so, then it also impacts how you handle things. You may need to make the best of a bad situation, but the situations where you invest your time and energy need to be different if you’re simply looking to survive long enough to get out than if you’re looking for ways to thrive and fundamentally change your situation.

Once you’ve come to terms with intent, look at the details.

  • Why are things difficult? Is it a side effect of something good, such as rapid or extensive growth? Or is it because of something bad, like mismanagement? The two are not mutually exclusive, so the question may need to be fine tuned – How much of the difficulties being faced are the result of something good vs. something bad?
  • Are the bad contributing factors something which can be dealt with? Often the answer is Yes – even when, at first glance that doesn’t appear to be the case.
  • If they can be dealt with, is it worth the effort? The answer to this one is sometimes No.

From there, the questions and decisions are more nuanced.

  • What opportunities do you face. What pitfalls do you need to avoid?
  • How can you improve your situation?
  • Who can you enlist for help?

Each of these will spawn a myriad of additional questions specific to your situation, but let these be the foundation to help you determine where you need to apply yourself.

Take the time periodically to step back and gain perspective. You’ll find that you’re in a shifting landscape and the perspective you need today may not be the right perspective a month from now.

Pieces of Yourself

The Time
Photo by noor Younis on Unsplash

At one point in my life, I had a job which I’d poured everything into turn toxic. When I looked back on it now, I see the pervasive negativity that came out of everything I said during that time in my life. There were a lot of hard lessons learned during that time of my life.

One of them is to identify when toxic negativity is becoming a part of my attitude, and to nip it in the bud. I will still occasionally share with friends and family that I’m under a lot of stress. In my current position, we’ve been understaffed for a long time, and that takes its toll. So sometimes, I need to hear someone else tell me I’ll get through. That hat little bit of encouragement is all I need to reinforce what I already know.

I like my job. I like my company. I work for people I’m happy to work with, and I work with people who have my back. I’m in a good situation. Like everyone, sometimes I just need a break.

Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.
― Robert Louis Stevenson

Another big lesson I learned was to pay attention to how much of myself I’m committing to work.

I never used to consider myself a workaholic, but I’ve recognized that over the years I’ve developed a strong focus on whatever my work is. While kept in balance, that’s okay, but when that becomes the majority of my life, the results are damaging. I make an effort to keep that from happening.

I probably still put more time into work than I should, but I keep myself grounded in friends and activities which I care about and which aren’t associated with work at all. It keeps me happy. It keeps me well rounded. And in the end, it makes me a better worker.

The Duty of Happiness

A Boy And His New Bestie
Photo by Alicia Jones on Unsplash

Stress had gotten the best of me. I was stressed out to the point of being tired and irritable all of the time. Finally I hit a point where I realized something important. The job was not going to change. This was the new normal.

Something had to change.

That something needed to be me.

So I started mulling it over: What did I need to do to be in a better place if my situation wasn’t going to change?

Right around the same time, I had a conversation with a co-worker. She was complaining. I entered the conversation with the intention to just be someone who would listen while she obviously needed to get things off of her chest. After a few minutes, I realized – almost as though I was a third party watching myself – that the words coming out of my mouth were a full agreement with what she’d said even though I didn’t agree with her complaints. The negativity brought on by my stress had become so ingrained that I wasn’t just a sympathetic ear, I was encouraging her complaints.

I knew then that I’d crossed a line. I knew that for myself and for my team I needed to turn things around lest I become a toxic element in my workplace – something I NEVER want to be. I took it upon myself to accept the responsiblity to find positivity in my situation.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
― Robert Louis Stevenson

I like lists. They’re not for everyone, but they work for me. I sat down with a pen and pad and made a list. It could have been a list of things that would make me happy. It could have been a list of what would get me into a different situation. But it was neither of those things. I am in a place that I have chosen, and which is good for me (despite the stress). And merely looking for things to make me happy wasn’t goint to cut it. I needed to change. I made a list of things that would give me back control of the path my career is taking. I had been pouring all of my energy into tasks that would “keep the lights on,” and had begun doing so at the expense of the things I needed to do for myself.

The next day at work, I picked something off of my list, and made 15 minutes for it. Then I came home and picked another thing off of my list and made 30 minutes for that. And then I resolved to turn those 2 things into habits. Not necessarily daily habits, but at least weekly habits.

I then looked for something positive and fun to fill the moments when I needed to unplug and just be happy. Although I’m not normally a situation comedy sort of person, it ended up being the TV show No Tomorrow, a sit-com about a woman who falls for a guy who’s living for the moment because he’s convinced the world is going to end.

Lo and Behold – The character kept an Apocalist of things he wanted to do before the world ended.

About the time I’d realized that my stress levels were spiraling out of control, a friend had suggested I create a bucket list and actively work to cross things off of it.

So I made another list. This time of things which would make me happy, give me a sense of accomplishment, or that would let me check off things I’d just never made the time for.

The next evening, I picked one thing off of my second list and did it. Now, my own apocalist isn’t all things which I can knock out in a night, so working through it will take some time, but the act of working toward those personal goals – both big and small – nudged my focus one step further into the realm of hapiness.

Now, armed with my two trusty lists, I had made it my responsibility to be happier. It was time to take that one step further. It was time to use my new attitude to positively impact the people around me.

This is a process. It’s not going to be done overnight, and I’m going to slip up sometimes. Nonetheless, I’m in a better place, and I can see the personal benefits that I’m already reaping. Am I seeing tangible results in those around me? Not yet – at least, not that I’ve noticed. But I’m not giving up.