#37 Stressed, Tired and Unhappy At Work?

June 3rd, 2013

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.”

Mary O’Connor, Romance Writer

I love quotes that make me laugh. That’s exactly what the one above did for me and then… it gave me a slap upside the head. Why are so many people SO busy and SO stressed and SO tired?  And why are other people, who are just as busy, happy and content?

I wonder if some aren’t like the mosquito, sucking all the blood out of others by negative attitudes and never looking within, for answers or help. If we keep pointing at others and pointing out how they are upsetting us, we will never stop and take an honest look at ourselves.

Do most of your sentences start with ‘but’?  Get rid of that word. Catch yourself and substitute the word ‘and’.  If ‘but’ is in your self-talk you might be using it to make excuses for your own behaviour.. ‘But he never listens to my ideas’. “But I was hurt at my last job, that’s why I won’t try again.”

How do you speak to yourself? Are you looking for trouble before it happens? Are you blaming the past? Are you setting yourself up for failure? If we keep enough negative words circling in our heads we become like the mosquito. People see us coming and they wish they could reach for the spray.

If you find yourself making sweeping negative comments, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this true’, ‘what is true’. Those two phrases will help you reframe your thinking. Often we use phrases like ‘he ALWAYS’, or ‘she NEVER’, when in fact if you ask yourself ‘what is true’ the situation is far less earth-shattering.

When dealing with difficult people, we are told to ask questions for clarification. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Why do you say that?’ Perhaps it’s time to point your finger back at yourself and ask yourself those same questions.

Learn to listen to yourself and think about what messages you are sending before you start to judge others. Ask yourself, ‘are you a bee or a mosquito’?

Joan Craven’s bookGot It! 21 Communication Tips for Busy People is available on Amazon and as a Kindle.


#36 Family Caregiving – Stressful and Satisfying

August 8th, 2012

When it comes to planning, my parents have always been ahead of the game. They moved into a condo before my brother and I thought they needed to and now are talking about moving into an assisted living facility. At 87 and 88 they are slowing down. Mom still cooks most of their meals and dad drives around the town they live in so they can pick up small amounts of groceries and go to medical appointments.

Lately mom has had some health problems that her family doctor is trying to figure out and dad’s shingles still bother him. Is it time for a change? Who knows. I have looked into having a home care aide come in once a week for about 4 – 6 hours and see if that is enough. We will meet next week and put that in place.

The assisted daily living facilities seem to be small and I think it would be a difficult adjustment for my parents to live in it. Also when my mom cracked her pelvis they had meals on wheels and they didn’t enjoy the meals so I can’t see they would adjust to three meals a day in an assisted daily living facility.  The place they live in offers meals and they go down for dinner twice a week and that seems to be enough.

So far mom and dad make their own decisions and my brother and I support them. Hopefully a home care aide once a week will allow them to be in their own home and still feel safe and happy…..I’m not alone in this care giving role. Almost all of our friends are making this caregiving  journey too. What I hope is that I’m filing away what I’m learning so as we age, we have a plan in place so our kids don’t have to make difficult decisions some of our friends have had to make.

Even when your parents try to be positive, keep their sense of humour and not put too much pressure on their kids, it is still a stressful time. I think mainly I feel so sad that my parents are fading and wish I could magically fix it. I know it is a journey and I’m lucky to be part of it. Many people my age don’t have loving parents.


#35 Summer Berry Picking- Happiness in Eye of Beholder

August 6th, 2012

My friend and I had a wonderful afternoon picking saskatoon berries. We both were raised on  farms so it was nostalgic to chat about the times we picked when we were growing up. With purple stained fingers and happy hearts we brought our treasures home. I have two pies cooling on my counter and the rest of the berries are in the freezer where I hope I can resist them until winter hits.

My husband asked how we could stand the heat and I thought about it and said ” I didn’t even notice.” When you do things that are fun, time and physical conditions are often forgotten.  It was a moment for me to consider what it is I love to do and then actually make plans to incorporate at least one of those activities into my daily routine. I’m going to try.

What do you do, just for you? I’m curious.

#34 Got It! Lower the Bar on Expectations for Family Caregiving

June 1st, 2012

When I wrote my book Got It! I put in a chapter titled Lower the Bar about lowering expectations of ourselves. So often we expect so much  of ourselves we are constantly disappointed because we have not achieved our goals.

I have decided it’s time to lower the bar with regard to our expectations of our aging parents. When we do, our life will become easier.

As I thought about my own parents and my husbands parents (who are now deceased) I decided that part of the issue we “children” have when we interact with our parents is we are not lowering the bar in our expectations of them.  They were our caregivers and were selfless and always available.

Now they often need our support. The relationship changes. For children, most of us in our 50s and 60s, it becomes a time when we sometimes  feel helpless and hopeless.

We don’t want to take away their dignity and yet in some cases we must make difficult and unpopular decisions. We don’t want to see them struggle and yet sometimes they must. We don’t want to see them slowing down, and yet that is a natural part of aging. Sometimes our parents say and do things that embarrass us.

I say it’s time we lower the bar with regard to our expectations. When I think about the way I felt at 40 and now as I near 60, I’ve slowed down.  Add 20 or 30 years and I expect I’ll be checking my door lock three or four times, repeating stories and digging through my pruse, for what seems likes hours, to find the correct change.

When at a restaurant I will most likely say something inappropriate in a loud voice and take my time choosing from the menu.  My kids might say I do it now! So, as a caregiver, we have to lower our expectations.

Yes our relationship changes, yes things take more time, yes we wish things were different – I know my parents wish things were different now too! So now  I give myself a stern talking to and say good enough is good enough.

We will do one errand instead of three. We can take our time at a restaurant and when I look around I see that no one else seems upset that there is loud talk or the odd comment that seems a little off. It’s obviously my issue.

So instead of expecting things to get better or go back to the way they were, I am enjoying this governor that helps me slow down too. I am learning lessons on how I want to be when I reach 80 or 90.

Once we switch our expectations to be real ,and lower the bar,  life is much less stressful.

I take time to enjoy my time with my parents and can smile at the “new” experiences I’m having. Instead of taking on volunteer work, I consider the time I spend with them my volunteer commitment.  What a lucky person I am to have such a great volunteer job. It makes it easier to say no the requests I get to help out somewhere.

I often ask myself, will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 weeks or 5 months and if it does not, I build a bridge and get over it.

What a gift I’ve been given to be able to spend this time with my parents who cared so well for me all these past years. I’m thankful for each new experience.


I Got It! #32 Want To Enjoy Change?

May 13th, 2012

I’ve just spent two days with the fabulous Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert and author of Pop!

The workshops were sponsored by the Calgary Chapter of CAPS and what a mind expanding experience.

I am thinking about all the interesting people I met and the words I heard and then puzzling how to put it all together into a “what’s next” for Joan. Aren’t I just the luckiest person to have that opportunity?

Change is like riding in a white water raft – you are floating along enjoying the scenery when all of a sudden you hit a wild rapid and you hang on for dear life and eventually make it through to hit those lovely calm waters again. Ahhh….. relax and then you start to anticipate the next rapid and begin to prepare……change – it is fun, exciting and it is scary.

Today I’m going for a three hour coaching session with Sam. I can’t imagine what I will come away with – it’s sort of like Christmas when you meet with Sam. You know it’s going to surprise you – you just don’t know how. It’s always thought-provoking and thoughtful in a way that causes you to smile and you go away with  an “I can do it” attitude.

I’m glad the sun is shining in my heart and in Calgary!

I Got It! #31 Coping With Change?

May 8th, 2012

How does one transition from a job they love to a new stage in life? That question has been circulating in my head for the past two years. Today I go public with my thoughts. I am no longer accepting new speaking and workshop opportunities. I am happily fulfilling the obligations I have for the 2012 year and passing my work to a talented woman who will bring her wealth of experience, knowledge and  sensitivity to the role.

It is a strange feeling to be declining work and not actively seeking more. For those of you who run your own business you will understand. We never know when the next opportunity will arise so to to say no or talk about change to clients, who you trust and enjoy working with, is scary!   And while it is sometimes daunting, it also feels right to me.

What will I do? Once a writer, always a writer so I will write and look for new ways to promote my book Got It! What will I write? So many ideas… to settle on one right now is impossible. Will it is be a book? Probably not in the form of my others. What form? Humm…good question.

Why now? Why not! So over the next months I will write about “the change.”  It just might help me crystallize  “what next.”


I Got It! #30 Would You Like Shorter Meetings?

January 17th, 2012

If so, cut yourself off. Too often we go on and on thinking the more information we give, the more the person will understand or want. Read the rest of this entry »

I Got It! #29 Negativity Harms Your Bottom Line!

January 7th, 2012

If you think ignoring negative Nellie or negative Nathan will make them go away, think again! Many negative people don’t even realize they are negative and they can suck the life out of you.

While we are all negative sometimes, there are people who have made it their life’s work. If you are a manager you must confront this behaviour because negativity can cost your organization millions, if not billions, of dollars each year. It can lead to increased turnover, customer complaints, errors, accidents, and illness.

First, try to diagnose why this person is negative. Do they feel unheard? Was a change not explained to them? Are you asking much more than this person can achieve in the time given? Has negativity become their habit?

If you are a manager, give immediate feedback when you hear your employee making negative comments. Do it in private and use concrete examples. Address only behaviours you can pinpoint. Negativity is a performance issue, so handle it like any other behaviour you measure. Make sure your employee knows the consequences so you can measure changes that occur.

Whether you work or manage negative people, ask direct questions next time they begin to complain. Let them know that when they are negative, it distresses you. While you may not ask each of the questions, have a few ready.

  1. Is what you are saying true?
  2. Are you using exaggerated words? (horrible, terrible, always, never)
  3. Will your comment help our company?
  4. Will your comment help our customers?
  5. Would you say these comments to the person you are talking about? Let’s go find them so we can hear both sides.
  6. Can you tell me about something good that happened today?

For a co-worker, your questions may cause the negative person to rethink what they are saying and become a little more self-aware.  They may become uncomfortable and find someone else to listen to their complaints. Either way, you will not allow them poison your thinking.

If you manage this person, you will help them become more self-aware and let them know what acceptable standards of behaviour at your company are. One study says that 80% of negative people do not know they are negative because no one has ever confronted them before.

Ignoring negativity won’t make it go away and it can move like a virus and negatively impact you and your company.

I Got It! #28 Want To Improve Your Communication Skills and Your Job?

October 24th, 2011

In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers. Communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing to job success.Source: www.mindtools.com/CommSKLL/CommunicationsIntro.htm
Before you start working longer hours and improve your technical skills your first step to getting ahead at your job should be an assessment of your communication skills. Do people frequently misunderstand you? Are you easily frustrated by others? Do you talk more than listen?
People often say that communication skills are soft skills. I disagree. Communication skills are essential. Think about a successful leader you know. My bet is he or she is a good listener, is able to get along with most people and works collaboratively with others.

I Got It! #27 Got Tips for Family Caregivers?

August 25th, 2011

I phoned my friend to wish her happy anniversary. Instead of being able to go out and celebrate she will visit her mother-in-law who has been in the hospital for over 10 days and is now waiting for a placement into an Assisted Daily Living facility. After checking in on her MIL (mother in law) she will find out what room her mother is in as she was rushed to the hospital this morning too. The only bright spot is they are both in the same hospital, which is a blessing in our city of over a million.

Then I chatted with another friend who just got home from picking up some groceries for her parents. Her mom wasn’t up to going and her dad was having ‘a quiet day.’  This friend had planned to stop in and see her son and wife and new baby however she was too tired and was heading home.

We are the sandwich generation. Both my in-laws have passed away in the past 18 months and my own parents have their ups and downs.

We all talk about how we want to help, the guilt we feel when we make a choice to take a break for a day or two and what can we do to make their lives and our own better. There seem to be no easy answers and sometimes it makes one think about our own aging and what plans we can or should make. Plans need to be made and often before we think we need to!

What has been your experience? Any tips?