Good morning, citizens of 2020. First change to the wellness practice is financial wellness: no more overtime. The boss announced it mid-December. Starting tomorrow I have to return to a regular eight-hour work day. Or I should say, I get to. The second change is occupational wellness. The benefit of overtime wasn’t just extra money. It made it easier to stay on top of the workload. I will miss the extra productivity more than the extra money. The challenge now will be to resist trying to cram the same amount of work into less time. The American standard would be to feel pressured to do exactly that; cue the squawking of American workers who will default to exactly that.
Nope. I was the one who asked for the overtime to help ease the burdens on the department when I was hired, so I felt like the designated volunteer to vocalize the collective worries of the department. I did so, of course, in the interest of managing expectations.
The downside of achieving an annual goal means the goal line gets moved higher/further for the next year. How will we do more with less?
You already know the corporate answer. Suck it up. Buckle down. Grind.
But there is a rhythm to these things. A cycle. Patience, people. Think it through. Knee-jerk alarm in January is shortsighted. Why are there more illness-related absences between New Year’s Day and Easter than any other time of the year? Because grinding just breaks people down. People are already exhausted from the holiday season and year-end stress. We’re poor, we’re bloated, we’re tired. Belt-tightening and dieting and unrealistic demands only make things worse. What the world needs now is calm.
We (meaning me, I) will ask for overtime again when the fourth quarter rolls around. Wait until the brass is jonesing for that goal line. Wait until crunch time, when the win is close enough to tantalize. That’s the time to employ the Help Me Help You strategy. Wait until the sentiment is rah-rah-rah, c’mon team, we can do this. Point out that we crushed our goal for 2019 by pushing hard in the 11th hour because we had the overtime to do it. October is when you fight for overtime; not in January.
Going to work so early for the overtime also served as a traffic-beating strategy. Am I going back to sitting behind bumpers again? Another nope. I’m creating rituals to support my values this year. Sitting in rush-hour traffic is a stupid ritual which supports the notion that Work Hours are the most important hours of the day. Conformity dictates we all sacrifice more hours of life to support the Work Hours, in mind-numbing, heart-numbing stop-and-go increments of nothingness. These are not my values. But timing is everything, folks.
At the same staff meeting in which we were told 1) no more overtime, we were also told 2) we’re not hiring extra help as promised, and 3) there will be no more year-end bonuses. The three-fold boom of bad news lowered over the department. The boss surveyed our fallen faces, pausing in that awful silence, bracing for the backlash. Everyone tensed. I saw the boss take in a breath and hold it. I felt a nudge from the Universe signalling a critical moment. Calm, Mercy, calm. Instead of leading a protest I seized the opportunity. What do I value here? What are my values? Speak calmly.
Understood, boss. Instead of changing my hours I’m going to continue coming in early. Those early hours are too productive to sacrifice. I will just take longer lunches. The boss blinked. I smiled calmly. The boss blinked again. I smiled bigger and nodded, calmly. The boss quickly agreed with a bewildered Okay and then visibly relaxed a bit. The boss expected a fight. I offered calm.
Splendid, I replied, using body language to communicate satisfaction. I let out a contented sigh. And then the boss did the same. The boss DID THE SAME.
The rest of the department collectively exhaled and I could see them come back from the edge of mutiny. Sense of doom was diffused; focus shifted from lack to abundance in the space of a few heartbeats. Everyone considered possibilities instead of obsessing over the loss of perks, at least for the moment. That’s magic, y’all. That’s also social wellness, because when the negativity inevitably returns later, the end note and set point will still be possibility and calm, and this will make it easier to move on.
I’m really proud of this. The magic might not be sustainable for everyone but we build new neural pathways in the brain when we break out of habitual responses, especially when dealing with let-downs and blown expectations. However long or short the effects may live, I showed them how it works in real time. When the grumbling and complaining resume there will be a frame of reference for suggesting an alternate way of thinking about it. They will remember how it worked and the calm it created.
So moving on. What will I do with those long lunch hours? Anything I want.
Run, walk, hike, eat slowly.
Yoga, hit the gym, read, relax.
Meditate, write, meet with friends.
Explore, discover, experience.
Draw, paint, sing, dance, create calm.
Make it back to my desk truly refreshed.
Create rituals to support my values. And if they ever put the kibosh on the long lunches I can still arrive early to do any of these things in the mornings and continue to beat traffic. See how the Universe conspires in my favor? In conspires in yours as well.
It wasn’t all bad news, of course. The business is rolling out new rewards eligible to all throughout the entire year, as opposed to just the end of the year. This is not a bad deal since it gives folks more control over the what/when/how. We can choose when to participate (and how), and then choose how we’d like to be rewarded.
I’m a big fan spending extra energy when I actually have it to give rather than trying to muster it when I don’t. Remember the ayurveda clock?
Schedule things when they make sense for your bio-rhythms whenever you can. For instance, I know I always hit the skids emotionally in June and July. Those are shit months for special projects, extra energy drains, or anything requiring more oomph because my heart generally isn’t in it. I set myself up for shitty results when I try to take on any challenge during this time, so I don’t. Save it for the high energy months.
More opportunities to choose create better options for success, so I’m opting for optimism. I realize this sounds cliche on New Year’s Day but creativity always gives me a boost, regardless of where the holidays fall in the mix.
And I’m not going to lie. All of the images I made over the last few days approaching the New Year all carried forward the theme of calm. Scroll back and check. Calm, calm, calm. That’s synchronicity, my friends, another form of magic.
Join me in observing Calm-uary, won’t you? It can be the first ritual we create together to support our values. If you’re goal-oriented and resolved and all charged up with fresh start fervor, that’s okay. Ride the wave if you’ve caught one. Have a great first day, first week, get it on. Just keep in mind January is usually when we also have our first wipe-out and when that happens, calm.
Calmly return to the practice. Calmly adjust and begin again. Calmly remember it is a practice and not a performance. Calmly create a ritual to support what you value.