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We Are Our Own Best Teachers

by Leadership Participant


It’s a new year, a time of New Year’s resolutions which typically align with health and wellness.  We are coming off several weeks with family and friends which are blessed times and also times of higher stress levels.  As we begin to wrap up our first week of 2016, the Tuesday reading from November 3rd  came to mind instantaneously.  This reading centered around turning a bad day around, tips on how to change your mood and stay positive on those days when nothing seems to go right.  The article quoted 23% fewer health-related effects from stress when you are positive and re-visited the fact that “happiness is a choice.”  What an invigorating way to enter a new year! 

This past Monday was the first day back at work for most of us after the holidays or the start of the first full week after the holidays.  Upon return, my inbox was overwhelming, I was pleasantly surprised through, I didn’t have too many meetings scheduled this week – awesome!  The phone rang a few times, I greeted those on the other end with a “Happy New Year” and before you know it, things were like I never left.  Putting fires out here and there, being conscious which fires were mine to put out and which ones were “not my monkey” and dealt with them accordingly.  I switched back to look at email – what happened in the past half hour?  Eight meeting invites within 30 minutes?  Seriously?  My pleasant “Happy New Year” greeting switched to the default, “Information Technology, this is Traci” and I noticed I didn’t sound as upbeat as I did on my prior phone call – I wasn’t even two hours into the first work day of the new year and my day was turning sour or was I just turning sour?  This was enough, I excused myself briefly and went somewhere quiet for a few minutes of reflection time.  

When I returned just a short ten minutes later, I revisited that Tuesday reading and reaffirmed this would be the topic of my reflection to share with all of you.  We repeatedly talk about self-awareness at ITLP, I really feel when we are in a frump self-awareness is key to prevent that downward spiral.  I haven’t mastered this yet but I am starting to acknowledge those feelings sooner and nip it in the bud to turn my day around.  A reminder that a short break to reflect, an exchange of pleasantries in the hall, being gracious, journaling your thoughts and feelings are all very small and pretty much effortless ways to stay aware and upbeat – your mental health and overall well-being will thank you!        

Another thought popped into my head during this “me” time – when I was in a leadership series at UW Oshkosh several years back, we watched a video of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market which taught us the “fish philosophy”.  This video is quite well-known, if you have not heard of it though, please take a few minutes to view it:  fish philosophy

The video centers around “choosing your attitude” (very similar to our Tuesday reading message) and being “playful” at work.  It shows how a very unglorified job of selling fresh fish can be the most fun, entertaining and awesome job in the world – its all what you make of it and the attitude you choose to have.  That playfulness and chosen attitude brought a near bankrupt fish market to be world famous, in just four years.  A mixture of “flying fish”, games with customers and employees’ positive attitudes led this fish market to be the setting for several corporate training videos used by such companies as Southwest Airlines, Sprint and Enterprise. 

I feel in some instances we are our own best teachers.  Ever realize when we return home after our sessions how the energy keeps going with fellow co-horts touching base regarding new tips to try or additional resources to explore?  We feel good when we can help others and those on the receiving end have their mood lifted as well – new toys and tricks to play with!  Going forward in 2016 I hope we all practice self-awareness to choose our attitudes and never let an opportunity pass to say a kind word which may just help someone else to turn a bad day around. 

All the best,

Traci Luft 
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh