Empowered by Laughter

“Laughter is fireworks for the soul”, they say. Enlightening this powerful resource at work, will make your day easier.

London. I am in a pub with colleagues. One of them just shares a hilarious story. Everybody laughs. A good laugh. A freeing one. Times flies, stories being shared and as soon as I am inhaling the rainy fresh air of the night, I am feeling energized and reloaded.

What a good laughter is capable of. Its amazing.

I should laugh more. Especially at work. This thought creeps slowly through my mind and I am realizing what has been missing the past weeks. A strengthening, energizing laugh. Running from meeting to meeting, creating tons of slides, squeezing in emails and calls just took too much attention and power.

But actually, when is it easy to laugh at work?

Recalling from experience it is easiest when I know “why” I am there. Working with purpose, knowing there is a goal I am heading to and I am enjoying the ride – with colleagues having a similar mindset.

Let’s take a closer look.

Laughing because you have purpose

I sit in a room full of inspiring motivated people. Everyone is sharing one’s story. Everyone is quite honest. Even with hopes and fears. One cite of a well-situated woman strucks me at heart. She seems to have everything. Being healthy, living in a wealthy environment in a spectacular scenery, having time and money for travelling … the whole package – but she admits the absence of meaningful work and purpose in her life leaves her desperate and empty. And hence, with less laughter than she’d like to have.

My life is nice. But nice isn’t enough.

A lady

Her statement resonates within me. I’m a big fan of living my life outside the comfort zone. Only in a stretch situation I am one step closer to my goal. Although this stretchy moment can cause some fear, the joy that rushes in when I have grown, mastered an obstacle and overcame fear leads to a massive smile and satisfaction.

Where are you just playing „nice“? Remember: you are missing out on a good hero’s laugh.

Laughing because you have people to laugh with

Is it just me or is a day easier when you are with the right pack!?

Luckily I get to work with great colleagues a lot – some becoming friends over time. And I see there is a certain dynamic when a good mix of people is together. Even if a task is hard to manage, a tight timeline needs to be met or a client is getting crazy – with the right team you can handle everything and feeling energized despite stress.

If you haven’t found your tribe yet, continue searching. Some people are meant to work together. In the meantime invest in your mindset and become the best colleague you want to work with. [You might get some inspiration in this classic book from Dale Carnegie (1936) which is used in all US elite universities in the general curriculum: How to win friends & influence people]

Colleagues are key. Make yours laugh today.

Thanks at this point to all my colleagues who are laughing with me. I feel blessed and privileged to have you in my life. 

Rewind your mind

Burnout doesn’t hunt you down overnight. With the right routine for your mind you stay mentally strong even through tough times.

Would you leave your phone uncharged for a day? Would you miss a session of brushing your teeth? Some things are so implemented in your routines that you even feel unhappy when you are not able to follow them.

And those routines are good. They keep you physically healthy and able to perform.

You have routines for your technical equipment, your car and apartment. You know how to take care of your body. But did you ever think of routines necessary for your soul and mind?

You might get some inspiration in the next lines for selected routines.

Daily

Every evening you take off the dirt of your daily hustle by following your beauty routines. But what happens to your soul? What happens with all the stress, joy, unfairness, decisions etc. you endured during the day? You need to care for it and deal with it, too.

In the western hemisphere, many children are raised with the evening prayer – your parents sit down at your bed and you tell each other the highs and lows of the day and thank God for his goodness. But when growing up you often leave this “childish” evening ritual. What if this evening moment is as useful for your mind as brushing your teeth for your body!?

As an adult you could get back to this daily routine. By writing down three situations, you are thankful for or list the situations that have been unfair but which you want to forgive, you rewind your mind.

For sure, this daily routine doesn’t have to be in the evening. Using 10 minutes of meditation in the morning also cleanses your mind and you are ready to start the new day. It does not particularly matter when during the day to reset, but rather the consistency in doing so. This daily routine will help you gaining a crisp and clear focus to what is important to you by cleaning up the ‘noise’ which is subconsciously going on in the background in your head and keeping you distracted.

For more inspiration on daily routines a separate article is coming out soon.

Weekly

Remember the lines in the song Manic Monday!?

It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day

The Bangles

A lot of people feel this way. On Monday, we talk about what was going on at the weekend and latest by Wednesday, the first colleagues ask what is planned for the upcoming two days off. So in terms of work and leisure time you are aware that there is a certain structure. How can you use this structure to become mentally strong?

Once a week you should try to see the world from a different angle – from a mountain top, off a horse’ back, reading a book or in deep conversation with someone having a different worldview to regain creativity and views of differing perspectives. Put your mind in an uncommon environment and challenge your mind to get out of the routines’ thinking. Also put your body in a different motion – if you sit a lot during the week, go outside and move yourself.

Having problems in leaving the week behind, get some inspiration in a separate article that is coming soon.

Monthly/Quarterly

Depending on your own flavor, take ½ day each month or a weekend per quarter to get out of your routine life. Especially when you are overwhelmed with stress and sorrows you need to put a “stop” to that and walk away! Even if it is only a few hours in your local sauna or a long walk in the woods. Get away! Physically – and step by step mentally. You weren’t made to continuously live in anxiety and stress. Give yourself a break and just be yourself.

Visit a new city. Go to that museum. Watch an opera or concert you’ve never did before. Challenge yourself and get into adventure. Your brain will love it! You won’t be able to even think of your life back home.

At the same time your mind will be very thankful for this offsite. Your brain will show gratitude by recharging power, and hence, overflowing with creativity, joy and new ideas.

Further ideas on how to unwind on a regular basis will be posted shortly.

Yearly

Are you happy? Is your life worth living? Do you do what you want to do? Very often, these questions arise at the natural break of New Year’s Eve. Or they hunt you down at your birthday. And even if you put this inner need of reflection aside, latest on the next full decade of your age, you will have to reconsider. So, what can be done?  

Here are two thoughts:

It is good and healthy to evaluate your life once a year. 

But what if you chose proactively a dedicated time in the year to evaluate your choices, wishes, friendships etc. shaping your journey instead of being overwhelmed at certain dates? It will give you more freedom to celebrate the annual anniversaries and you have a clearer view on your priorities in life since it is not connected to an emotional filled date.

The evaluation will be shorter if you took care of your mind and soul during the year. 

If you live your life with a daily routine of thankfulness, forgiveness and positivity, you will not have to readjust too intense on your annual mind-stop. You might even be thankful for all the positive choices you took and regret will diminish.

Inspiration on how your annual mind-stop could look like can be found in an article soon to be released.

Putting values on laptop screens is bullshit

Let’s take the challenge to define your very own set of values and how you want to act upon them. Then find a company you want to influence. And if this company writes the values on screens, be the one example that is living the words.

„Putting values on laptop screens is bullshit“, my colleague explodes. We are in the middle of a heated discussion whether a company should communicate its values or not. While he is convinced that managers do “business as usual” without considering values at all – and hence, values don’t need to be listed – , I am arguing that the transparency about values is needed in order to get into this valuable conversations. Especially when there is a discrepancy between words and action.

I guess, you have been part in such a discussion as well – or at least bystander. Let me share some thoughts with you.

Leaders need to act first

I am convinced that leaders need to take the first step. They are the ones forming and building the culture for the whole team. Therefore, if you are a leader already, be aware that you are an example. Accept it.

I have heard many bosses say that they don’t consider their behavior and opinion as important – but this is a wrong perception. As a boss – even if you haven’t chosen that position by yourself – you are watched by your team. And they will check on your values. If you model a law-and-order-mentality, they will use it on their subordinates. If it’s fine in your team to talk behind people’s backs, this behavior will spread. If you are leading by sarcasm, don’t be surprised if your team doesn’t take you seriously.

In turn, I have seen positive values spread as well. Integrity, honesty and appreciation are forceful values that will lead your team to success and prosperity.

Since we are all human beings, we will make mistakes. We are not perfect. And we don’t have to be. If you have failed, admit it. Be open and ask for forgiveness when needed. This will also model your team in a positive way.

Follow your leader

If your leaders act upon their values, follow them. Copy their behavior and see if it works for you as well. By doing so, you are modeled and you will find your own emphasizes and core principles.

Also get into discussion with them and your team mates. What should be part of your culture and what can be adjusted? Use your time as a team mate as a “leader-in-the-making”-phase and define gradually what should be part of your personal value card.

Act as a leader – even when your boss doesn’t

“My boss isn’t a good role model”, is an argument I love to discuss about. Let me ask you this: “Do you believe, that you are (or: will be) a leader?”

Do you believe, that you are (or: will be) a leader?

If so, find your own values and act upon them. You can model a culture around you even if no one else does. This is the very core of a leader: good self-leadership. And it is independent from your current position in the company. You have to find your own way to express your values.

Getting back to the argument with the colleague about putting values on screens. We found common ground in the inner longing for alignment of words and action. And this includes our very own behavior. Instead of complaining about other not following certain values, let us be the ones led by inner principles.

Therefore, let’s take the challenge to define your very own set of values and how you want to act upon them. Then find a company you want to influence. And if this company writes the values on screens, be the one example that is living the words.

Make appreciation stick

Giving a handwritten note to a colleague emphasis the content and creates a memory.

Recently I received a card saying “thanks for being my friend, it’s good to know you and have you in my life”. It feels good. What an honor if people value your friendship and enjoy spending time with you.

The other way around is also true: I love writing paper based notes to family, friends and also colleagues – letting them know what I appreciate about them, what makes them special and why I like spending time with them.

If you wince when reading “colleagues” I will share a few thoughts on why writing small notes of appreciation could actually be a good idea.

The format emphasizes the content

In our digital age we are not used to paper based communication anymore. Therefore, a real note of appreciation stands out – whether it is a sticky note on the screen or a well-chosen postcard. It can be touched and even smelled. The paper has a certain sound. All those elements create a more intense sensation and add to the value of the written content.

The writer learns to choose words precisely

A piece of paper limits the words, condensing the content to the mere core. Knowing that those words will last, they must be chosen well. It gives the writer the chance to think about the person who will receive the note and wrap the thoughts in words.

A physical note can be kept and re-read

The human brain tends to forget. Quickly. Even positive feedbacks only last a few days and are soon overwritten by stress, failure and bad self talk. But a written appreciation can be re-read, reminding the receiver of his/her strengths, positive impact and successes.

I will never forget the postcard I got from the client on my first project – a reorganization of a department with all the stress change brings along. Two ladies of the department wrote “it’s the people you meet you remember”. Despite an unpleasant project it was possible to connect on a human basis and touch people’s hearts. Over 10 years later I still have that card and like to think back.

Who gets your next card?

Trick your brain

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

The human brain is amazing. Even in the midst of adversity the brain is capable of recalling pleasant pictures. And while riding the emotional rollercoaster we can get to ease just by envisioning a calm and uplifting episode of our past.

I am convinced this knowledge makes a difference in your daily routines. And if you use it for your own good, you will become more successful in life. Join me in this thought experiment.

Just pick any stressful situation: an unpleasant feedback of your boss, that furious call of a customer, your child screaming down the neighbourhood for no reason. Immediately your brain switches to stress-mode – you can only focus on the bad, your creativity is limited, you want to run away. All those reactions are totally normal. The human brain is programmed like this. If we get into stress, we want to get out of it. Quickly.

Unluckily running off isn’t possible most of the times. So we suffer in the situation. And even if the stressor is gone, we ponder on the bad feeling; replaying the stress situation again and again.

Interestingly we can keep the bad feeling for quite a long time although the situation has passed. While hitting replay in our minds again and again, we also revive the bad mood attached.

If that is true for stressful memories, why not using it for good!?

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

Norman Vincent Peale – Pastor & Author

Pastor Peale nails it down quite precise: instead of rerunning the same hurtful thoughts, the human brain is capable of activating positive recollections. And while thinking of the good old day(s) the emotion slowly follow.

How does it look like to put this into practice?

Keep an assorted collection of your finest memories. Maybe that marvelous sunset at the beach while your feet sunk into soft sand? Perhaps that good laughter with your closest friends over dinner the other night?

Whatever it is, make sure it is easy to recall. Whenever you get into the stressful situation, set yourself an inner “stop!”, relaunch your memory and take a moment to regrow the positive feeling.

Remember: you are not a victim of your (bad) environment and the emotions attached to hard situations. You can keep your inner peace. And by staying calm, be able to think creatively, find new solutions and make good decisions.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4, 23

I wonder whether Pastor Peale is referencing to this bible verse when he is writing about positive thinking. Only a sound mind and a peaceful heart are able to make solid decisions. Decisions that influence our lives.

I encourage you to take care of your emotions. Be the guard of your heart and stop negative thoughts early. Instead turn to powerful memories and refill your emotional reservoir during the day.

Will your tombstone inspire others?

Make sure your name is associated with positive attributes that people love to remember.

Lately I had a chat with a colleague coming from another continent – consequently having an unfamiliar name to an European ear. Immediately he was offering a German name as substitute. Since the name was so special – lets say old-school – I asked him laughing why he had chosen it. “Easy”, he said, “I went jogging on the graveyard regularly and I saw that particular name so often on tombstones that I got inspired to pick it for myself.” 

“Wow. Inspired by a tombstone”, I thought – not sure whether to be impressed or awkwardly moved. 

And then my thoughts began to wander… what will be written on my tombstone when the day of tombstone-necessity comes? Will it be inspiring? With what characteristics do I want to be remembered? 

While I continued thinking, I realized that positive remembrance is not limited to death – actually I can recall several leaders in my life whose major attributes I easily can determine and whose attitude impressed me in a way that I wanted to be like them in that particular behavior. If I had to sum up what made them special, most certainly I put on the list: authentic behavior, a trustworthy charisma and interest in people. 

Authentic Behavior 

Despite the fact that I didn’t like all facets of my leaders, I could always rely on their authenticity. The mixture of strengths and flaws made them unique, approachable and – simply put – human. They used to communicate when they were having a bad day. So it was easy to know that a more quiet behavior didn’t mean that there is a problem around. 

In addition, all of them had a basic set of behaviour you could rely on. They were approachable for team members, always open-minded and friendly. One leader put it this simple: don’t scream at people and don’t throw stuff. 

Don’t scream at people and don’t throw stuff. 

A Leader

Trustworthy Charisma 

People I can recall as influential leaders in my life all had a certain charisma. I don’t think of an unspecific atmosphere or esoteric type of feeling, but rather a respect that rose in people who have worked with these people over a longer period of time. Foremost this respect was fueled by a predictability of the leaders behaviour. Everyone knew how this person would react to a specific situation (mainly calm, well-thought-through but clear), and this predictability would allow team members to take decisions. Team members could predict whether they will have the backing of their boss – and this led to freedom, respect and trust. 

Interest in people

Last but not least, leaders I recall as inspiring always had an interest in me. And in others. They “saw” their team and spoke to people on an individual level. It’s probably one of the hardest parts – having an intense job with extreme responsibilities and still take time to show interest in people. To stop at the coffee kitchen for 30 seconds just to ask how it is going or to pad someone shoulder for great work the day before. 

But if you think back – you remember the names of exactly those people. People who saw you. People who were interested in you and your well-being. 

And even when their names will be written on a tombstone, they will be remembered.

Deal with your pain to become a more successful leader

Walk through the storms of the aftermath to become a restored person with more depth

Are you familiar with the ice cold grip that surrounds your heart the moment a hope or dream comes to an end? 

Do you know the darkness that clouds your vision leaving you clueless how to survive until the next day? 

It happens in an instant. You get that call. You read that note. One little information and your world falls apart. 

In the first days and weeks your brain goes on autopilot – somehow. You manage not to stink too much, to change your cloth regularly, sleep every once in a while and maybe nourish your body. You are in a tunnel, trying to survive, trying to get away from that painful information. Your reality is changed to a new setting that you neither invited nor created. 

Eventually you come to the moment when the first shock decreases and you realize you have to do something to get out of the pit that you have been thrown into. If you are at that point, most likely you want to change your life immediately! Now! Pronto!

And this is a very critical stage where you have to make a decision whether you just want to cover the pain with better feelings or if you want to heal and be fully restored.  

I encourage you to take the longer and more painful way to walk through your emotions, give yourself a chance to heal and become a restored person. Most likely you will find some sort of purpose of the painful experience at the end of your journey. At least this is what I have experienced and seen in lives of people facing the storm of their emotions. 

How do I walk through the storm? 

This is where the romance is put aside and the uncool stuff is settling in. A mentor told me, it will require 3 things: Talk, Tears and Time. This is when you cannot buy a quick fix or take the shortcut. This is when you need to decide walking. Walk with me. 

Talk

Wrap your emotions in words. Speak about your scattered hopes, your unfulfilled expectations, the unbearable sadness. Talk to people who you trust – maybe even a professional – and speak about your feelings. I emphasize: speak. about. your. feelings. 

This is not some lullaby-talk of a emotional-driven Johnny head-in-the-air. This is the real stuff. The hard way to get your scattered heart healed. Find words that describe what you feel. Anger? Hate? Sadness? Desperation? Take the effort and talk. Off limits. Everything can be said. 

Every time you talk about your situation, your brain is forced to concentrate and to put the spinning mind into proper sentences with subject verb object. This structure helps. It sets a stop to the chaos in your head.

Same is true for writing: pin your thoughts to paper. Every time you feel overwhelmed, get a pen and start writing. Maybe a letter to an imaginary friend, to a loved one or even to God. The addressee doesn’t matter – it is a vehicle to get you into structuring your thoughts. Shortly after starting to write you will experience a calmness, because your thoughts cannot go quicker than your pen on paper. 

Tears

Get ready to cry! If you think, you already cried more than enough for a lifetime during the first days of shock … get ready to experience another level. Same is true, if you didn’t cry at all during the shock phase. The road ahead runs by a river. 

It is quite interesting that to the brain any type of pain is processed the same. Hence, it doesn’t matter whether your leg or your heart is broken – for your brain the signals regarding severe pain will be the same. This is why we actually can feel loss and heartbreak. There is actual pain. 

In consequence, there are actual tears. If you break your leg while skiing, you probably cry due to intense pain. Same is true for emotional pain. Hence, crying is not a sign of weakness, but a scientific proven human reaction. It doesn’t have to be avoided. It actually is part of the healing process. 

Fun Fact: Psychic tears even contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin – perhaps, part of the reason why you might feel better after a good cry!

Dr. Nick Knight

Once you get used to crying, you will be more open and bold to talk about your life and feelings – even if that releases tears. And this is where the magic happens: while talking and crying over and over the same hurtful incident, the emotions are being processed. And all of a sudden you share a part of your painful past and you don’t have to cry anymore. The emotion is worked through, you made your way. The river dried. 

Time

If you didn’t like the first two advises, get ready for even worse news: you don’t know how long you will have to talk and cry until you are through.

There might be some well-meaning individuals that like to share their view on timing unasked … but don’t listen to them. Instead of thinking whether they might be right or wrong, start walking the road ahead and don’t lose time to get towards your full restoration. 

Find yourself people and situations in which you can speak openly. Have your handkerchiefs ready [take the soft ones to be nice to your skin ;)] and off you go! In addition, get into journaling daily. Each feeling, each new view, every thought needs to be written. It is like medicine to your soul. Take it daily. 

Personally, unknown timing was the toughest part for me. I like things to work my way in my timing. But this road is different. There is no sign that signals the distance ahead. You just have to walk and trust the process to work. And it works. Promised. 

What are your thoughts right now? Have you ever walked that road and want to add/emphasis/contradict anything? Or are you just somewhere on that path and need some encouragement? Leave a note – or get in contact with me.