It’s April Fool’s Day – an excuse to find some levity in these otherwise tumultuous times. You may have to use your family or housemates as “victims” since social distancing makes pranking at work challenging right now, but use your imagination!
One of the things I miss most about working on campus is the laughter – our staff would be engaged in humorous antics all the time. We truly enjoyed each other and knew it was a gift to do so. Hopefully, this time of isolation will rekindle that appreciation when people return to their workplaces.
But until then, take four minutes today and enjoy the office prank played by Jimmy Kimmel. After you have a good laugh, think about how you can bring similar joy to the lives of those with whom you work. It may need to be virtual now, but in-person will return and chuckles are always welcome.
While walking through the park, I came across a lone teenager playing baseball with himself. He would toss the ball in the air, hit it, run hard to first base, then pick up the ball from the infield and give a serious throw to home plate. Over and over and over.
My heart hurt for this guy who is obviously without the sport that he loves. If I was a coach I would recruit him in a minute. It would be so much easier for him to say that “baseball is canceled” or to put practicing on hold during the virus but he was out there, alone, giving it his all.
Take a lesson from this player and keep doing the things that will make you stronger when the shelter-in-place is lifted. You may not be able to continue in your desired format but you can do something that will help you grow. Singers can sing in their living room even though they don’t have access to the stage. Professionals can watch TED talks or complete online learning even though their conferences were postponed. Artists can still create even though the festivals are canceled where they would have showcased their talents.
And baseball players can still hit balls as they wait for their team to reconvene. Let’s hope his dedication is rewarded.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, the musical score in a movie shapes your response to what you are seeing in the film. If the sound is scary, you’re more likely to see and feel some sense of danger or impending dread. If the music is uplifting, you’ll anticipate a positive outcome and look for signs of happiness.
I often wonder what real life would be like if it came with a musical score. Would we be more cautious when driving if all of a sudden the bass tones started and the music became ominous? Could a hypothetical score of trumpets during our isolation serve to lighten our mood?
While our life’s journey doesn’t come with audible accompaniment, we can utilize our minds to shape our own reaction to life’s events. If we allow a dark cloud to follow us, we shape our response to everything we see. If we take on a more positive persona, it, too, will shape our world.
Pay attention to the “score” you let your thoughts create. Whether through utilizing actual music or through mental modeling, let the background soundtrack of your life today add to your environment instead of depressing it.
I am (was?!) a frequent garage sale and flea market shopper and am always amazed at the number of items that were staples in my family home – things we ultimately gave away without a second thought – that now fetch premium prices. I have purchased items myself that I had previously owned and then pay to own them again. Does something become desirable just because it is old?
There is an invisible line out there and when something crosses it, old somehow becomes an asset. Things that are vintage, antique, or “velveteen” seem to have a resurgence in popularity, and if the item is an heirloom it can even become a more valuable addition to your home. Items that once seemed ragged – like this 1908 auction poster from a family sale – can have a new life by being framed a century later.
This spring refresh your home by resurrecting items from the past instead of purchasing items that are new. Display some of your childhood possessions instead of leaving them in boxes. Dig heirlooms out of the attic or garage. You’ll get memories and décor in the present – and who knows — maybe accumulate some value for resale in the future as well.
Maybe it is because people have more time on their hands and are able to craft new memes. Perhaps it is because you have to laugh in order to keep from crying. Or maybe people are just trying to see the silver lining in a very trying experience. Whatever the reason, COVID humor is alive and well.
There have been countless posts on social media – some of which have made me laugh out loud – and I’ve sent and received dozens of memes to friends and family trying to lighten the mood. People are expressing their humor in other ways, including someone who peppered a Walmart with funny Post-its with saying such as “Get the big bottle, you’re gonna need it” stuck by the bottles of liquor or “If you can smell the fart, you’re not far enough apart” by the GasX.
Whether commenting on COVID directly, the quarantine, homeschooling, toilet paper, the unknowns about graduation and prom, or the governmental response to it all, people are finding moments of levity within the gravity of the situation.
Humor has been shown to improve health and relieve stress, and heaven knows we could all use a bit more of that these days. So, as you shelter-in-place there’s no need to remain 100% somber about it. Let a few laughs release some of your emotions and help you get through the pandemic with at least an occasional smile.
In his TEDx talk, psychologist and author Shawn Achor humorously lays out a serious case against the belief that if we work hard it will result in success which will result in happiness. Achor’s research shows that the opposite is actually true: that if we are happy, our brains function at a higher level and success is more likely to follow.
Achor notes that most people assume the external world predicts happiness levels but actually 90% is predicted by the way your brain processes the world. Therefore, if you change the way you view the world, you can change the way you view reality.
He offers these suggestions for rewiring your brain by performing them 21 days in a row:
3 Gratitudes: writing 3 new things to be grateful for every day trains your brain to scan for the positive
Journaling about 1 positive experience each day allows you to relive it
Exercise teaches the brain that your behavior matters
Meditation allows the brain to focus instead of multi-task
Random Acts of Kindness allows you to act on your gratitude
Our world is a bit topsy-turvy right now and it can seem hard to find the joy in current conditions. Spend 12 minutes watching Achor’s very funny speech and then adopt one of the above practices to shift your focus to something more positive. Starting with happiness can shift your reality and help you emerge from isolation with a new formula for success.
In Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, he writes about ethical fading — the short-term focus in an organization that pressures people to do things which they normally would not do.
“Ethical fading is a condition in a culture that allows people to act in unethical ways in order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others, while falsely believing that they have not compromised their own moral principles. Ethical fading often starts with small, seemingly innocuous transgressions, that, when left unchecked, continue to grow and compound*.”
The classic example is Wells Fargo, where over 5,000 employees were involved in opening over three and a half million fake bank accounts, but unfortunately, lapses occur daily in many organizations.
I think about Sinek’s concept in this time of COVID. With millions working from remote locations there can be a great temptation to engage in work ethic fading – letting habits of productivity and performance lag. Just as with ethical fading, you may be able to justify your slacking to yourself as self-care or what “everyone” is doing in this time of high anxiety – which may be true – but it is also the start of smaller lapses that can have larger negative impacts.
Don’t let your 8am start time fade into 9am then 10am before you turn on the computer. Try to remain vigilant in keeping up with email and communication. Stay on target to complete the projects you are able to finish. Reallocate any open times to create for the future instead of checking out early.
The times of uncertainty will settle into something new in the future. Take care now so that the virus doesn’t claim your work ethic as one of its victims.