Thursday, June 2, 2011

Work-Life in Japan After the Earthquake- An Interview

Joanna Park is a work-life consultant and the author of a new book on the need for globalization and diversity in Japan. She has been my client for over seven years designing flexible work options for Japan. Here is her interview:

1. Tell me how the lives of you, your family and friends have changed since the eqrthquake.

We became much more aware of the power of earthquakes and tsunamis, although earthquakes have been common in Japan. We realize that we have no control over natural disasters and we just need to accept them. We also have started to think abut our priorities more seriously and how to use our time better to live more fruitfull while we are alive. We appreciate life more.

2. Has anything changed in the workplace--such as more open dialogue, compassion, flexibility, gratefulness, etc.

I think Japanese workplace has changed quite a bit with more compassion, appreciation and caring. Since we will be lacking massive electricity in the summer, companies are planning to introduce different types of flexible work arrangements, such a telework, summertime, and longer summer vacations that they have never thought of trying if this hadn't happened. It is expected that workers will have more time in the evening for personal activities which in turn could change not only the lifestyle but also the personal values of each individual.

3. How are young people reacting to all the changes since the earthquake?

They appreciate and care for family more. They also became more interested in volunteer work and contributing to others. More and more young workers take volunteer work vacation when their company offers, conduct charity events, help fund raising and many more.

4. What do you foresee in the future of Japan--individual lives and work lives?

The disaster has really impacted Japan in so many ways. It is very hard to foresee the future, but I truly believe that we will be seeing a lot of changes in the society, companies and people here in a positive way.

5. Can you see any upsides from the recent events?

People appreciate simple things and ordinary life more and realize the importance of relationships. Companies became more understanding of employees' personal lives and also it has forced companies to think about ways of working flexibly.

I think it has become a great "chance" for Japanese to change. Japanese dislike and have been avoiding change but the events have given Japanese a sense of emergency and a good reason to change.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Upside of Mindfulness

I was in my car and on my way to discuss mindfulness to a group of unempoyed professionals when I started thinking about new points to add to the presentation. Ten minutes later I realized I had driven past my stop. This is a perfect example of not being mindful!

Mindfulness is an elusive and often misunderstood word. Mindfulness is simply being in the present moment. It requires that you discipline the mind and practice.

Why should you be mindful? When your life goes south, being mindful can help you get on track again. Mindfulness requires that you move away from busy behaviour. This is a problem for many individuals who feel they need to be productive all day. When you lost a job or have other losses in your life (money, home, partner), the tendency is to keep busy.

The practice of being mindful can lead to opportunitiies not yet uncovered. When you quiet the mind and are in the present, you are more able to see things clerly. When the mind is open you are allowing creative thought to take place.

Consider taking time out in small increments; even five to ten minutes a day. Small change over time can make a big impact. Your life might be different if you invested more time to developing a clear focus through mindfulness.

See our book, Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags, for more information.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gratitude--Find the Upside at Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, families are struggling financially and emotionally to make ends meet. During a time when traditionally we give thanks, many individuals feel lost and hopeless. To negate these feelings of despair, it is important to focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t, and to count and celebrate our blessings, both large and small.

Gratitude excerpt from the book, Upside, How to Zig When Life Zags:
One of the most powerful attitude adjusters is to give thanks for all aspects of your life—the good, the bad and the ugly. Acknowledge the support of loved ones and newfound freedom. Continue by expressing gratitude for the not-so-happy circumstances, which is an extremely powerful way to develop a positive outline regardless of your situation. You can’t be depressed if you are feeling thankful.

Begin today by listing all the people, relationships and aspects of your life for which you are grateful.

The holiday season is also an opportunity to begin new family traditions to mesh with the stubborn reality of today’s tough economic times. Find ways to economize on an elaborate family dinner by each person bringing his or her favorite holiday dish in potluck fashion. Discuss the upcoming holidays by suggesting gifts in line with affordability or drawing names for a gift swap to reduce the amount spent by each family. Be mindful with a gift from the heart, providing needed services such as home repairs, babysitting, tickets to a movie or doing something for an individual that he or she would not or can not normally do for themselves. Your thoughtfulness can create meaningful memories while being practical during these times.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Politics and the American Dream

The American dream has been brought up frequently in political campaigns and in news articles. In "Fantasy Politics” by Christopher Caldwell, (New York Times November 7, 2010), he says, “If the American dream has appeared endangered since the housing bubble brought the financial systems to the brink of ruin, that is with good reason.”

In UPSIDE, Allison and I discuss the need to reevaluate the American Dream in light of the changing times. “What was materially achievable and available for the previous generation is now difficult to accomplish. It will be even more difficult for subsequent generations. While the concept of prosperity and living a full life is still a part of culture, a shift is required to clarify personal expectations and dreams.”

Whether or not we want to admit it, we all have an underlying vision of what our lives should look like. Many of our career and personal life decisions are based on that vision of the American Dream. Now it is time to look at our goals, hopes and dreams and put some reality into it. It is time to build a new dream and reevaluate what is really meaningful to be working toward.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Possibilities: An Upside of Changing Times

I recently attended a yoga class where the teacher began the session with a discussion on the consideration of possibilities. He asked us to keep this word in our minds throughout the class. As we began our poses, he pushed us to hold the positions for a long period and continue to improve them. While doing so, he kept encouraging us by saying “possibilities.” At first I was really annoyed. I simply wanted to focus on the positions and get on with the class. Then, I had difficulty with my right leg due to an old injury. Every time I lunged, I could feel the pain in the thigh and up through the back of the leg. My tendency in the past was to back off and not do the pose on the right side. I tentatively moved the leg in the position and it felt very uncomfortable. But the teacher kept saying the word possibilities. My annoyance gave way to his mantra and I pushed myself further in each pose. I’m not saying it was great but, by the end of class, I had gone much further and worked through my pain to a stronger place. I was actually feeling more flexible and less stiff. At the end of class, he asked us to see how long we could hold the promise of possibilities in our daily lives. Throughout the day, as issues came up, I stopped to think about the possibilities instead of the problems.

It is easy to get discouraged in our daily lives with the ongoing recession and pessimism in our country. Yet, if we can refocus the negative energy into possibilities, we might push through the difficulties to another place where there is more light and hope. Think possibilities!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Surviving in the Wilderness of Life

I just returned from a two week trip to the northern part of Australia, known as the Kimberly. It is an area of wilderness that is pristine, spiritual and can be dangerous. There are no roads, towns, or communication. Very few people live there. I was struck by the beauty as well as the potential danger because of wildlife (crocodiles, snakes) lack of water resources, and potential flooding. (It floods six months of the year and is closed to visitors.)

During my trip, I learned about survival and sustainability. The aborigines lived there 30, 000 years and survived without shelter, clothes, or easily accessible food. Many of the pioneers came in the early 1900’s and perished and many left because of the harshness.

I reflected about what it would mean to survive in this wilderness. What skills would I need? What new ways of working and living would I have to adapt? How would I cope without the usual communication vehicles (phone/internet). How would I find happiness within a harsh environment? There is a woman who manages a cattle station and she stays in the area during the six “wet” months when the territory is closed down. Her stamina, creativity, skills and tenacity to survive are admirable. I also came across a recent article by Margaret Wheatley which discusses the wilderness in relation to our lives.

People who are lost in the mountains or wilderness, who either survive or die by the choices they make, at first fight to make their old maps work. They do everything possible to make the old maps fit the present circumstance-but they never can. In wilderness situations, this grasping goes on until the person is confronted with the fact that they're about to die. They will survive only if they acknowledge that there's no way out of their present peril; they must give up their old maps and acknowledge that they're truly lost. Once they recognize this, they begin to notice where they really are, what's going on, what's useful information available here and now. They make new maps and find their way home.

My questions to you: Do your current life maps work in today’s world or do you need to make new ones? Can you acknowledge that you might be truly lost in your search for a meaningful career and personal life? Can you recognize that it is time to start over and analyze where you are, what’s going on in the world and yourself and how you can evaluate and use the “reality of your here and now” to help you move forward? What do you need to change?

In our book, Upside, we discuss the new reality and the need to adapt to a rapidly changing economy and physical environment.

Share with us your comments and stories on this topic. We look forward to hearing from you.

Bonnie Michaels

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sustainable Success--Introduction

Dear Readers,

It has taken me awhile to begin a blog. I realize that for several years been I’ve been trying to understand the challenging predicaments my family, friends, the country and others around the globe are up against. The recession has taken its toll on everyone in some way. It is a time of great change and confusion.

My professional work in the last 23 years has been helping individuals with work-life balance and consulting for companies to provide their employees with worker-friendly benefits and programs. With all that has happened in the last several years, it seems more important to provide strategies to survive and create a sustainable life. I felt like many others—that advice given was inadequate. I am clearer now and wish to make this blog one that provides information and sharing ideas about how to create a sustainable career and personal life in a world that is constantly changing.

This blog coincides with many other events in my life. The book, Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags, is being released in June. The book will provide a basis for on-going discussion and a vehicle for you to develop Upside networking and meet-ups.

Three years ago I was laid up with a stress fracture. I was physically restricted for many months. I had time to reflect, read and research. Eventually I found the upside of my crisis. The end result was a idea for a book that helps others with all the current changes and the “not knowns” of the future. The journey of the book development has had many upsides—a partnership with Allison Blankenship, hearing stories of courage and success and feeling physically strong again.

The next phase of my journey with sustainable success is to take an adventure vacation—one that I have desired for many years. Now that I am physically strong, I am going to the outback in the northern territory in Western Australia, the Kimberley’s. When I return, I will be traveling and speaking about “creating a sustainable life.” I would like to meet individuals who have stories to share. The internet is great but I prefer face to face contact. I will be in Chicago from June 24-July 15 and all of September. I will be driving to Seattle from Denver, July 15-August 8. From Seattle to San Franciso, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Denver between August 9-27. Please contact me if you wish to share a story or include me in a meet-up group.

Bonnie Michaels