[June 13, 2020] by Kathy Scott, PhD, and Bridget Sarikas
Do you feel like you are three-quarters of the way through a marathon, wondering if you can get to the finish line (or maybe even half way)? Are you worn out from all the chaos, anger and worry around you? We’ve got to admit, this has been a grueling few month and it’s not over yet. So how do we stay engaged and motivated over the long haul? How can we help each other?
Inspired by a children’s book written by best-selling author Peter H. Reynolds titled The Word Collector (2018), we decided to collect some of our favorite words like the book’s main character Jerome. Jerome is a little boy who is enthralled with the magic of words all around him. He eagerly collects words he hears, sees and reads – powerful words, simple words, sad words and dreamy words.
This is the first in our Word Collection Series where we thoughtfully select and write about words, apply them to the world of leaders, and then empty them into the wind for others to collect and share. Why? Because words matter. They are a powerful force that can be used constructively, or destructively. Words have energy and power. They can help bring healing, laughter, hurt and harm. They can bring hope!
So here are a few of our interesting words and phrases -- some are new, some have new meanings, some are worth reflecting on, and some are just marvelous to say.
Savor and savoring. To savor is to taste something and enjoy it completely – to focus on its deliciousness! (Think about the smell of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and the first bite of that soft, warm, sugary delight – warning: do not read this while hungry!). When you savor something, you attend to, appreciate and enhance the positive experiences in your life. It is the practice of conscious attention to both the experience and the pleasure (Bryant & Veroff, 2007).
Savoring is a process, not an outcome. It’s something we do and it requires active engagement. It is an important experience that helps us derive happiness and overcome our negativity bias. To fully savor an experience is to: 1) Slow down the experience as long as you can; 2) Pay full attention to the experience; 3) Use all your senses, noticing the sights, smells, textures, temperature, sounds, feelings and emotions (like watching a beautiful sunrise over the lake with a chill in the air and the aroma of that perfect roast coffee that warms your soul) ; and 4) take time to reflect on what you enjoyed (Akhtar, 2012). When we do this, we are able to assign meaning and importance to a memory and later, when we choose to recall the memory, or our memory is evoked through one or more of our senses, we are able to vividly recall as though we are reliving it. And who doesn’t need a little savory right now?
Plan a savoring event. What is something you are looking forward to? Think about how you can immerse yourself in the moment. Save this memory for a future time when you most need a boost.
Lackadaisical. According to Merriam-Websters Dictionary (2020), the adjective lackadaisical is defined as “lacking life, spirit or zest.” Synonyms include words such as limp, listless and spiritless. It started out as the expression “alack the day” in the 17th century, an expression of sorrow or disappointment, a bad day, a day that sucked (yep – we all have them). This was eventually shorted to “alack the day” and to “lackaday” and eventually transitioned to “lackadaisy” (we kind of like this one) and finally, our beloved and interesting word “lackadaisical.” Why are we writing about it? Because it’s a difficult and cool word to say. Try saying it slowly and with great expression 10 times, letting it roll off your tongue – guaranteed to make you smile. Go ahead – give it a try.
Nonsense News. “Nonsense News” is the reporting out of words or language that has no meaning, or conveys no intelligible ideas. Nonsense news is reported out in newspapers, newscasts and news periodicals on a very steady basis. As it turns out, nonsense news isn’t really news at all. This doesn’t mean it’s false or inaccurate, although it could be. Rather, it means it simply has no value – it’s irrelevant, petty and gossipy reporting that does nothing to make us smarter or better (i.e. a nonversation – which as a made-up word is pretty fantastic for a completely meaningless or useless conversation). In fact, it often drags us down into the abyss, sends us on a rant or just plain makes us crazy.
It’s so easy to binge on high-sugar fast food (or nonsense news) that is so easily accessible rather than take the painstaking time to find or create a nutrient-dense meal. (Exceptions made for a favorite once-in-a-while – like warm coffee cookies (no raisins please!) or an ice-cold mocha frappuccino). This week Hasan Minhaj shared a segment of his show Patriot Act where he talks about this being the “golden age of nonsense” and calls it “high-fructose bullshit.” We think he has a point! Rather than regularly filling ourselves up with healthy nutrients, we ingest empty calories that provide a moment or two of satisfaction and then bring us quickly down.
We can change this if we truly want to. Let’s stop giving our time, attention and emotional responses to those who are clearly wasting our time or trying to manipulate us. Let’s stop paying attention to that. It’s time to turn off the “bullshit” and search for reliable sources of information or experiences that add value.
The same is true in our workplaces. Too often we spend valuable time sharing and repeating nonsense news that churns and burns but produces nothing positive in return. Sadly, this occurs at ALL levels of an organization. A sure sign of an increase in aggression in the workplace is an escalation of vicious gossip and unsubstantiated rumor (i.e. the proverbial water-cooler chatter) – both manifestations of an increasingly unhealthy, stressed environment. Interestingly, research indicates that these informal systems of communication are accurate from 75-90% of the time. But, that 10-25% of inaccurate information can wreak havoc (Bloom, 2010). We all have a part in stopping the churn (or the swirl), and one way as leaders is through sharing the truth (not just the what, but the why as well) as often and as transparently as possible.
STEMinist. This is a newer and very exciting word to us! It was created in 2010 by a young software engineer, Ann Hoang, and it is a word that represents or focuses on women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Ann created the word with the hopes of: Increasing the visibility of women in STEM; promoting and elevating women’s perspectives in these fields where women are traditionally underrepresented; encouraging younger women and girls to pursue education and careers in STEM; and supporting women in STEM on social media. Check out her website and blog where she does just that at https://steminist.com/. Introduce your sisters, daughters, granddaughters and female friends that have an interest in the sciences as well. Even if they don’t appear to have an interest, by sharing this you just might be surprised at how it may inspire a little girl to dream big – maybe be the first woman to find a cure for Alzheimer’s or save the world from a pandemic. As leaders, reach out to STEMinists through your networks, hear their perspectives and encourage and mentor them along the way. They need strong and supportive role models to help navigate them navigate through the challenges of their careers.
Gratitude. Gratitude is something we all instinctively understand but have some difficulty defining. It is a combination of mindset, disposition, emotion and behavior. It is the quality of being thankful for something or someone and a willingness to show appreciation and kindness as a result. Gratitude is about recognizing two things – 1) that you have obtained a positive outcome (the recipient of something good), and 2) that there is an external source for this positive outcome (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). In other words, you know that this good thing was a result of something bigger than you.
Gratitude has many benefits. More grateful people experience less depression and are more resilient following traumatic events. (And we’ve all experienced plenty of trauma over the past several months and it’s not over. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting and we need a new kind of positive energy). Gratitude inspires people to be more generous, kind and helpful. It strengthens relationships. It even helps improve the climate in our workplaces resulting in better job performance, greater employee satisfaction and enhanced productivity (Allen, 2018).
While there are many influencers of gratitude -- such as culture, cognitive factors, gender and religion -- research suggests that we can improve both our individual and workplace well-being through engaging in daily practices that promote gratitude – write down something you are grateful for each day in a journal (perhaps a savoring experience); write a positive message of gratitude to someone outside your social network (perhaps a STEMinist) and to someone inside it. Begin each workday by sending out a positive message to your team. Reflect on what your life would be like without someone or something that brings you joy.
Boom Shakalaka. There’s nothing like slamming down a dunk to end the game on a high note! And Boom Shakalaka is great phrase to signal the end of a work week well done! Boom Shakalaka!!!!
Titter Time: Figureoutable
Don’t give up! Most everything is figureoutable.
Allen, S. (2018, May). The Science of Gratitude. Berkley, CA: UC Berkley Press. Retrieved from https://www.templeton.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Gratitude_whitepaper_fnl.pdf
Bloom S. (2010). Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bryant, F. B., & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997
Hoang, A. (2018, March 18). Steminist profile [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://steminist.com/
Lackadaisical. (2020). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lackadaisical
Minhaj, H. (2020, June 8). The news industry is being destroyed: Patriot act with Hasan Minhaj. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icNirsV1rLA&feature=youtu.be
Reynolds, P. (2018). The Word Collector. New York: Orchard Books.