CorporateArticles

Articles for Corporate

  • Post Featured Image

    Living Life With Meaning

    Joseph Hernandez and his wife of 47 years were preparing for retirement and discussing how they would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. At 67, Joseph was full of life and had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.

    Joseph loved people, and he devoted his life’s work to helping others build strong families. While attending a conference this past July where he was teaching on how to help families thrive, Hernandez became ill and passed away. In the blink of an eye, an undetected aneurysm took him from his bride, his family, friends and colleagues.

    In the midst of tragedy, meaningful moments can offer powerful takeaways about living life.

    When Mrs. Hernandez realized something was wrong and called the ambulance, team members and colleagues who had become friends immediately surrounded her. Some put their dinner plans on hold when they realized what was happening. Friends rushed to the hospital, orchestrated phone calls and tried to thoughtfully anticipate potential needs.  Although they had no idea what to expect, they wanted to be there and offer support.

    Joseph left this earth doing what he loved, surrounded by the people he loved. While remembering him, many felt it was amazing that he died doing what he was most passionate about. They discussed the importance of doing what you love and making the most of every day. “Life is short,” they said. “Make what you are doing count.”

    While it is hard to believe that Joseph is gone, it reminds those left behind to focus on what really matters in life – relationships.

    At the end of the day, the relationships we cultivate make life rich. Life’s pace seems to move faster and faster. Relationships are often neglected while people pursue career aspirations, take care of children and fulfill community commitments.

    Have you told your loved ones how you feel lately or taken time to catch up with a longtime friend? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? It is easy to assume there will always be tomorrow, but there is no guarantee.

    Have you ever felt the nudge to visit a sick friend or provide child care for a busy parent? Have you thought about calling someone just to check in? If so, did you talk yourself out of it because it would throw your entire schedule out of whack? Or maybe you thought you weren’t the right person, wouldn’t know what to say or that it might have been awkward somehow. Perhaps you look back and wish you had taken the time because everything else wasn’t that important. You might even understand that whether you had the words or not, your presence would have been comforting.

    During the ordeal and its aftermath, Mrs. Hernandez said it meant a lot that people came to be with her, knowing they had stepped away from important work.

    Simply being willing to show up says you care. Life is short, so make your moments count.

  • Post Featured Image

    4 Tips for Job Exits and Relationships

    Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work, so she decided it was time to leave. She totally planned to let her boss know how she felt about things on her way out. 

    There was no way to know that three years later she would be interviewing for another job - and her interviewer would be the very person she unloaded on when she left her former workplace.

    “This is not unusual,” says Pamper Garner Crangle, President of Pamper Garner and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies manage and measure “people problems.”

    “People get emotional and feel the need to vent before they leave a job. They often don’t care how they come across because they are leaving. But, I try to remind them that how they express their frustration is very important in the world of business. I tell people that your reputation often precedes you. If you handle things poorly at one company, chances are good that it will get around to other companies in the area. Like Sara, you never know when you will have to interview with someone you threw a tantrum in front of years ago.”

    Studies indicate that lack of loyalty is one reason people feel justified in leaving a company badly.

    "Years ago most people were very loyal to their place of employment,” Crangle says. “Today, many young people have seen their parents work in a loyal fashion for many years, sacrificing time for their marriage and family relationships, only to be downsized. So they have decided they don’t want to put in extra hours or put their personal ownership in the workplace.”

    Even if you don't feel a sense of loyalty to your company, there are good reasons not to leave on a sour note. Two of those reasons include future references and job possibilities.

    “I think sometimes people forget the importance of relationships,” Crangle shares. “In a day and age where broken relationships are all around us, people tend to think of leaving a job like trading in a used car for a new one or getting a new cell phone.”

    Regardless of whether you feel loyal to a company or not, attitude and presentation can make or break a conversation. Believe it or not, saying goodbye respectfully and finishing well can impact your long-term career.

    You can avoid burning bridges when you leave your job by following these tips:

    • Give a proper notice. Two weeks is generally acceptable, but in some cases more time can ensure a good transition. Offering to work out a longer notice gives the company options and allows you to leave on a good note.

    • Keep your comments positive. You may be unhappy and ready to tell your boss some ways to improve the workplace, but should you? Your best bet is to keep your comments positive - or at least balanced. You never know what the future holds.

    • Stay focused. When you know you are leaving, it is easy to let things go. Staying focused and completing any unfinished business is powerful when you are looking for references in the future.

    • Do a good job training your replacement. Help and support your replacement as much as possible. Even if they want the scoop about the workplace, keep your comments positive and respectful. If they ask why you are leaving, give an appropriate answer. Perhaps you could say it was time for a change or you need to experience a different environment. Or maybe you could say that your priorities have changed. You don’t have to go into detail.

    There are many entrances and exits in life, both personally and professionally. Your reputation hinges on the first impression and the last impression you leave. It is sometimes tempting to sever ties with others, but we live in a small world. Although it takes more effort, it will benefit you to maintain a good relationship with those for whom you worked. You never know when you will run into those people again.

    *Not her real name

  • Post Featured Image

    Developing a Workforce

    Stowers Machinery, in partnership with Caterpillar, has a scholarship program called "Think Big." It pays recipients about $13 an hour to apprentice in the shop and it reimburses tuition and other school-related costs. The student must maintain a B average to receive the scholarship.

    Workers alternate between working eight weeks at Stowers and going to school for eight weeks. After they earn an associate degree, Stowers will hire them full-time.

    "This is a fantastic opportunity for someone, yet we have the hardest time giving away the scholarship," says Rhey Houston, Stowers vice president and Chattanooga area manager. "We have a full-time recruiter who goes to every high school in the area, looking for potential scholarship recipients, and it is still almost impossible for us to fill the slots."

    One interested young man contacted Stowers about the scholarship. He was awarded the scholarship during his school's senior night. But he worked only a few days before telling his supervisor, "I'm not cut out for this kind of work every day."

    "Unfortunately, he is not the exception to the rule," Houston says. "We have had several success stories, but they are fewer and farther between. It is baffling to me that people do not want to take advantage of an opportunity to work for a well-established company that pays well and offers full benefits including a 401k."

    Houston knows he isn't alone in his frustration. He regularly talks with companies in the area who lament not being able to fill positions.

    "I recently spoke with a guy who said, 'I can't grow my business because I can't find people to hire who have driver's licenses,'" says Houston. "Another guy told me he would be able to have five additional machines running if he could just find people to drive them."

    Approximately 9,000 people are looking for jobs. It's difficult, however, to fill more than 15,000 job openings in the greater Chattanooga area. Why is that? It's partially due to lack of education, or perhaps lack of driver's licenses.

    What is wrong with this picture? Employers are complaining they can't find qualified workers and people are complaining they can't find jobs. Somewhere along the way there is a serious disconnect.

    In an article titled The New Unemployables, Aaron Renn shares a conversation with his father, a retired quarry superintendent. While the job wasn't glamorous, his dad said they offered some of the area's best wages, full benefits and profit-sharing. Still, hiring and keeping employees was hard. The overwhelming majority of applicants weren't viable enough to interview. Plus, one-third of those he hired failed to last even six months.

    Renn surmises that perhaps what we are seeing has nothing to do with job availability or wages. It may have everything to do with the basics, instead. The basics include having a high school diploma and reliably coming to work every day.

    In the book Creating an Opportunity Society, the Brookings Institution's Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill offer a solution. They say that to avoid poverty and join the middle class (at least $50,000 annual income for a family of three) U.S. citizens need to complete high school at a minimum, work full-time and marry before having children. 

    Doing all three decreases the chances of being poor from 12 percent to 2 percent. It also increases the chances of joining the middle class or above from 56 to 74 percent.

    It's possible to combat the "unemployable" problem and break the cycle. Healthy adults must model and promote the importance of education and a strong work ethic in homes and communities. Additionally, we can mentor those who have no example to follow.

  • Post Featured Image

    #MeToo and Its Effect in the Workplace

    There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is a real problem for women and men, and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to it like never before. In the midst of the conversation, though, it seems like it would be a huge mistake to view all members of the opposite sex as the enemy. 

    We can take advantage of this moment in time to individually and collectively do our part to make this world a better place - one where we teach and expect men and women to value each other. That will bring about real and lasting change in relationships.

    Believe it or not, there are still men who are respectful of women and are actively encouraging them, promoting them in organizations, and holding their opinion in high esteem. 

    While the #MeToo campaign has produced some long overdue constructive conversation and accountability for inappropriate behavior, there is a potential downside. Some experts believe the campaign has created a climate of mistrust between men and women, leaving many guys feeling fearful and anxious that a behavior with good intention could be taken out of context and come back to haunt them. Some guys are choosing to give up even trying to be in relationship with women.  

    It is unfortunate that many men who actually look out for the best interests of women say they are scared to death that something they do or say might be misconstrued. Opening a door or pulling out a chair is considered common courtesy by many, but some find it offensive. While they may not say anything, when a man other than a loved one calls a woman hon, darlin’, sweetie, kiddo and/or a pet name, it typically doesn’t go over well. In fact, many women would call it condescending.   

    Findings from a survey conducted by LeanIn.org found that since the media reports of sexual harassment emerged last fall, almost half of male managers say they are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity such as mentoring, working alone or socializing with women. Specifically, senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior level woman than with a junior level man, and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman. Almost 30 percent of male managers are uncomfortable working alone with a woman—more than twice as many as before. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5 percent to 16 percent. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman.  

    Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, along with his team, stumbled upon some troubling findings as they sought to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Of the more than 3000 young adults and high school students surveyed, at least one-third of respondents said: It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television; and that too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    Surely we can do a better job of teaching relationship skills early on to help girls and boys learn the difference between healthy, respectful behavior between sexes and sexual harassment. Here’s how to start:

    • Don’t leave it to your child’s imagination to figure out what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships.

    • Model respectful and healthy interactions with the opposite sex.

    • Talk about sexual harassment - what it is and isn’t. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is any repeated or deliberate action or behavior that is hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.

    • There is a big difference in flirtatious behavior and sexual harassment, but sometimes the line can be blurred. Discuss boundaries and why they are important.

  • Post Featured Image

    3 Ways to Be a Better Listener

    A few years ago a video, It’s Not about the Nail, went viral. Today it’s been viewed more than 16 million times. In case you haven’t seen it, it's worth the watch! 

    The video shows a husband and wife arguing about a nail in her forehead that is snagging all of her sweaters and causing her headaches. When her husband tries to tell her that the nail is causing the problem, she becomes defensive and tells him he always tries to fix things - when what she really needs is for him to listen. When he listens to her describe how awful it is to have this constant nagging pain, he responds by saying, “That sounds really hard.” Relieved that she feels like he finally understands, she says, “It is. Thank you.”

    Whether you are listening to your child, a co-worker, your spouse or you are the one wanting others to listen to you, something powerful happens when people feel like they are not only being listened to, but completely heard. 

    When people were asked, “How do you know when someone is listening to you?” they said things like, “They don’t interrupt me when I am talking. They look at me. I can tell they are 100 percent zoned in to what I am saying and not distracted by their phone or who might be walking through the door. They ask questions to make sure they are on the right track.”

    Most people believe they are good listeners, but when you get right down to it, we live in a society that is filled with noise, and most of us have a hard time slowing down enough to listen well. In fact, many have gotten so used to the chatter they literally have a hard time focusing when things get quiet. 

    One thing is for sure: You cannot seek to listen well and also be doing something else. 

    David Myers’ work as the director of the Brain Cognition Lab at the University of Michigan makes it very clear that the brain does NOT multitask. It may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision), but when engaging in distinctly different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch - jumping from one thing to another. You cannot be looking at emails and listening to someone talk about their day at the same time. It’s literally impossible.

    If you want to enhance your listening skills, consider trying some of these strategies:

    • Be attentive. If you are in a place filled with distractions, move to a different room. If timing is bad, say so and propose a different time to talk so someone can have your full attention. 
    • Ask questions. Sometimes, asking clarifying questions can help to make sure you are tracking with the conversation and not making assumptions. This also helps cut down on the temptation to start crafting your response instead of listening to the very end.
    • Pay attention to body language. Even young children will grab their parent’s face and say, “Look at me,” when they are trying to tell them about their day. We can tell when people are present without really being present by the look in their eyes. Turn toward the person who is speaking and make eye contact with them - it shows them you are not just physically present in the moment. Taking notes can help you stay focused, but it also sends a message that you are paying attention.

    Listening is a skill that takes practice. If we are honest, most of us would admit we can do a better job of listening to the people in our world, whether we agree with them or not. While listening well takes time and energy, it’s a worthwhile investment in any relationship, especially since communication involves both talking AND active listening. People know that what they say matters when you listen well. 

  • Post Featured Image

    Why Soft Skills Matter in the Workplace

    People often talk about what helps young people succeed in the job market. In the last few years, we've placed tremendous emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The question is, however, will these skills actually help young adults find and keep jobs?

    In a recent Washington Post article, Cathy Davidson cites two studies touting that workforce readiness isn’t only about the hard skills. Take Google, for instance. They analyzed hiring, firing and promotion data since the company began in 1998. The most important qualities of Google’s top employees were: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, people smarts - valuing different points of view and values, having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues, being a critical thinker and problem solver, and being able to make connections across complex ideas. Guess what came in last? STEM expertise.

    Additionally, Google found that their highest functioning teams were not necessarily the teams with the smartest team members. Instead, they were the teams with members that exhibited these traits: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, emotional intelligence and emotional safety.

    Caroline Beaton, a Forbes contributor who covers the psychology of millennials at work, asked more than 100 top HR managers, recruiters and CEOs what was important for entry-level job seekers. Nearly all of them said soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration were more important than others. The head of HR at Prezi said he looks for candidates with a solid foundation of soft skills and trusts the rest can be built upon those. 

    According to Beaton’s research, there are four additional soft skills that are under-discussed yet essential for workplace success: focus, more than a college degree, agility and humility. 

    Employers today look for workers who can concentrate, which is apparently difficult due to various things, including technology. Additionally, Beaton shared that while employers value higher education, many interviewers said college graduates often lack people skills. One CEO said that recent college graduates do not have the necessary skills, and he realizes he must hire someone who is still willing to learn after graduating from college.

    Job seekers who can adapt and adjust will have a leg up when it comes to applying for a job due to the fast pace of change in almost every workplace. One CEO said she looks for individuals who demonstrate resourcefulness, goals-driven behavior, team player mentality and relentlessness. 

    Finally, Beaton found that employers want to hire humble people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to admit when they don’t know something - in addition to willingly asking for help when they need it.

    Undoubtedly, hard skills are important. The Google research, along with others, shows that teaching soft skills will be every bit as important in preparing the next generation well for the real world of work.

  • Post Featured Image

    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

  • Post Featured Image

    Involved Fathers are Good for the Workplace

    Most CEOs know that a satisfied workforce yields higher productivity. They also know that retaining employees is better and more cost-effective than dealing with turnover issues like recruitment and training. But do they know that many employees are conflicted about the time they spend at work versus with family?

    When a national survey by the Families and Work Institute asked what factors were very important in taking a job, 60 percent of respondents cited “effect on personal/family life.”

    Yet the big question still looms: “If we become more family-friendly, will it hurt the bottom line?” Perhaps the better question is, “How does not being family-friendly affect the bottom line?”

    CEOs and upper level managers may want to explore these findings from the survey of almost 1,000 working fathers. Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace was published in the February 2015 Academy of Management Perspectives. It found that fathers who spend more time with their children on a typical day are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to want to leave their organizations. These men also experience less work-family conflict and greater work-family enrichment.

    The survey also revealed that the more hours men devote to their children, the less central their careers are to their identities. This might create some anxiety for management.  However, the study's authors found that involved fathering is not just good for workers. It's also good for the companies via its positive association with a fathers’ job satisfaction, commitment to their work and lowered intentions to quit.

    Previous work/life balance studies show that women experience more on-the-job conflict when they devote more time to their children. Why does spending time with their children equate with good job results for men, but increased conflict for women? The authors surmise that working fathers experience ambiguity around their fathering identity. However, they do not seem to experience threat to their work identities in the same way that mothers do. Perhaps men don’t experience the same level of guilt that working mothers feel. And it's possible that men don’t view caring for children as a source of stress.

    Additionally, on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important), study participants rated the most important aspects of being a good father this way:

    • Providing love and emotional support received an average rating of 4.6.

    • Providing discipline and financial security each received a 4.0.

    • Participating in day-to-day childcare tasks received an average rating of 3.9.

    The study’s authors challenge employers to recognize the changes in how men view their roles. Many of today’s fathers desire to be more than the traditional organization men. As men transition from a narrow definition of fatherhood to one that embraces work and family, they must find a happy medium between the two. Doing meaningful work and living meaningful lives enhances their effectiveness, both as workers and caregivers.

    It's encouraging to see from this study that fathers truly see the benefits of being there. Plus, when a company’s bottom line is stronger, imagine the positive impact this has on a man’s family.

  • Post Featured Image

    How to Be a Family-Friendly Workplace

    If you were a CEO or business owner, how could you help increase productivity, improve your bottom line and decrease employee turnover?

    You might think it all boils down to money. But what if the answer was to simply help your employees lead more fulfilling lives and be better family members?

    In 2009, the Sloan Center for Aging at Boston College studied this topic. Ninety percent of workers said that workplace flexibility moderately or greatly contributes to their quality of life. And, a 2010 study of IBM employees suggests that telecommuting workers find it easier to balance work and family life.

    Studies consistently indicate that a family-friendly workplace is the key to higher productivity and a better bottom line. In October 2016, Working Mother magazine released its annual 100 Best Companies list. The magazine asked these companies why they invested in work-life benefits such as on-site child care, flex time, job sharing and telecommuting. The unanimous answer was, “It benefits the bottom line.”

    More companies are seeing the advantage in adopting these practices. However, only a small percentage of U.S. companies have included family-friendly policies into their benefits package. Some companies cite cost as a reason for not doing so.

    Professors from Stanford, the University of Munich and the London School of Economics conducted extensive research to see if family-friendly workplace practices are worth the money. The result? Family-friendly firms saw an impact in areas such as employee retention, improved attitudes and behaviors. Interestingly, the amount of money spent equaled the financial benefit derived from these policies. According to the researchers, family-friendly workplace practices may not increase profits, but they at least pay for themselves.

    There is a downside to not adopting family-friendly workplace policies. The Business Case for Work-Family Programs reports that employees who experience work-family conflict are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs than those who do not have that conflict. And according to Working Mother magazine, turnover from work-family issues costs companies about three times the job’s annual salary for an executive or managerial position. The cost is one and a half times the salary for line positions. Hidden expenses such as delays and training time also affect the bottom line.

    You can take steps to make your company more family-friendly. When implementing these policies, make sure you communicate with and include workers at all business levels.

    • Offer child care in the workplace and encourage both parents to utilize it. Employee child care centers allow workers to be near their children during the day.
    • Offer flex-scheduling so parents can participate more in their child’s schooling, doctor appointments, social activities, etc. Giving employees more control over when and where they do their jobs is an important element of reducing the work-family conflict. It allows the employee to feel better about his or her job because it is not taking away from family time.
    • Develop family-friendly policies for both parents that cover arrangements for the birth of children or a family illness.
    • Survey employees to assess their needs. This provides a clearer picture of what families need and cuts down on wasted time and energy establishing unnecessary programs.

    October is National Work and Family Month. It's a month nationally recognized by businesses, academic institutions, federal agencies, members of Congress, work-life advocacy groups and individuals who want to make it easier for employees to succeed at work and at home. How is your organization’s work-life effectiveness?

  • Post Featured Image

    How to Score Those Life Goals

    When University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling coach Heath Eslinger spoke to Chattanooga's Downtown Rotary Club in February 2017, he shared a story about watching his daughters play basketball on their second and third grade team.

    “It was late in the fourth quarter and the score was tied. With about 10 seconds to go, our team was throwing it in. The coach called a play, the girls scattered, we passed it in, took the shot and missed," said Eslinger.

    "The best player on the opposing team, who was possibly the best player in the age division in the entire league, gets the rebound, takes one dribble and goes right back up - putting the ball perfectly off the square - makes a layup and the ball goes in.”

    The young lady put forth great effort. She spent energy to make it happen. And, her technique was the best on the floor. Unfortunately, she put the ball in the wrong basket and won the game for the opposing team.

    Eslinger asked Rotary members a to consider a question.

    In all of the places where you spend your time – home, workplace, places of faith, schools, etc., are you shooting in the right basket?

    "I work in the world of athletics where we may be missing the mark as much or more than any other,” Eslinger shared. “We have great intentions, spend lots of energy and give great effort. But often times, we are shooting in the wrong basket.”

    Eslinger embraces two guiding principles in all that he does:

    • Put focus on the good AND the great.
    • We must teach both global and stable attributes.

    “Jim Collins wrote Good to Great,” Eslinger said. “It is a phenomenal book, but I believe we must have a priority on the good as well. Great is the evaluation of what we do – wins and losses, GPA, test scores, etc. Good is the essence of what we do – providing hope, instilling a moral compass and teaching someone how to build meaningful relationships.”

    When it comes to global and stable attributes, Eslinger quipped that it had been a long time since he had used a wrestling move to get something he needed in life.

    “Qualities such as empathy, teamwork, resilience, discipline, self-control - these traits cross boundaries and will stand the test of time.”

    What about you? When you catch a pass, get a rebound, or go to the free throw line in life's journey, do you consider what basket really matters?

    According to Eslinger, if we want our education system to improve, we have to determine what basket really matters.

    “If we want our teams to excel, we must invest in the right basket. If we want our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to survive in this world that often seems chaotic, then we must make a decision to invest in the right basket,” he said.

    Finally, Eslinger cited Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path.

    “The principle of the path is simple. Direction will always determine destination,” Eslinger said. “I challenge all of us to run in a direction that matters and shoot in a basket that counts.”

  • Post Featured Image

    The Key to Finding Your Purpose

    People who serve in leadership positions are often the ones in the spotlight. They also usually receive accolades for changing people’s lives. When it comes to finding your significance though, Dr. Kathleen Patterson contends that it isn’t all about the spotlight.

    “During my childhood, I lived in an orphanage,” says Patterson, who directs Regent University’s Doctor of Strategic Leadership Program. “When I was in the second grade, I did not know how to read. I remember my teacher taking me home and patiently working with me to help me learn how to read. She had no idea I would go on to get a college degree and a doctoral degree. She wasn’t in the spotlight, but she made a difference in my life.”

    When people were asked, “If you could ask God or your supreme being any question and get an answer, what would you ask?” They most frequently asked, “What is my purpose?” Or, “Why am I here?”

    “In many instances, people struggle to find their purpose and they believe if they aren’t doing something significant in the world’s eyes, they can’t really make a difference,” Patterson says. “The reality is, that’s just faulty thinking. Just like my teacher, there are many men and women who aren’t in the spotlight, yet they are leading from the seat they are in and making a difference in people’s lives.”

    Patterson contends that the world’s definition of significance may not necessarily be where people truly experience it. In fact, many believe that being the ‘top dog’ will create significance.

    “The world tells us you have to take charge in order to be significant,” Patterson shares.

    “However, many have found significance in quietly serving others. According to the world, money, fame, beauty, intellect, power and accolades make people significant. If that is true, why do so many people at the time they are preparing to leave this world lament the time they spent pursuing these things at the expense of the relationships that mattered most to them?

    “A friend of mine who served as dean of a college was giving a ride home to one of the housekeepers for the men’s dorm,” Patterson says. “He asked her how her job was going. She said, ‘I never graduated high school. I don’t have a degree, but I love my job. I won’t be the one to find a cure for cancer, but I might be cleaning the room of someone who will. My goal is to do my job to the best of my ability every day.’ This reminded me once again that you clearly do not have to be leading the pack to make a difference.”

    Finally, Patterson says that although the world tells people to seek comfort, we often find our significance in the midst of difficult things.

    Fifty years ago, while in high school, a diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic. At first she spent a lot of time asking, “Why me?” She eventually asked, “Why not me?” She went on to create camps to help quadriplegic adults and children adjust and deal with their unique challenges. Through the biggest challenge she had ever faced, she ultimately found her purpose and significance.

    “The truth is, we don’t have to wait until we accomplish great things. And the spotlight is shining on us to impact the lives of people around us,” Patterson says.

    Most of us can probably look back and remember those who shaped, supported or challenged us in some way. They may never have known it, but their actions somehow affected us. Perhaps the key to finding significance is to live in the moment and do the next right thing, one step at a time. 

  • Post Featured Image

    Relationships are Key to Happiness

    What's the secret to a happy life? Many might say that money is a big part of the equation. But intrigued with discovering the secrets to a meaningful and happy life, a group of Harvard researchers launched a study in 1938. Then, they followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates - for 75 years.

    The unique Harvard Grant Study collected data on the men’s lives through surveys and interviews. They looked at all aspects, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies and alcohol use. What they found may surprise you.

    Perhaps one of the biggest revelations was that love really does matter when it comes to living a fulfilled life.

    In his book about the study, Triumphs of Experience, Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, study director from 1972 to 2004, writes: “There are two pillars of happiness. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

    The study’s most important finding? Relationships are the only things that matter in life. You could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, you'd be unhappy. The ability to take in love is a great human skill.

    Interestingly, Vaillant says that so many of the things people thought mattered when it comes to happiness don’t. For example, many believe money and social class are vital to success. These two things were at the bottom of the list.

    Even our earliest relationships are important to long-term happiness, especially the mother-child relationship. Men who had a warm mother-child bond were less likely to develop dementia later in life. They were also more likely to have professional success.

    Avoiding smoking and not abusing alcohol were by far the most important things to increase longevity. The study found that alcohol abuse was the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was the leading cause of divorce among the 268 men and their wives. Plus, a strong correlation existed between alcohol abuse, neurosis and depression. Interestingly, the mental illness followed the alcohol abuse rather than preceding it.

    Another interesting finding: More money, power and intelligence do not mean more happiness. Vaillant found that men with IQs between 110 and 115 were no more or less happy than men with IQs higher than 150. Furthermore, the only thing that really matters when it comes to achievement is contentment at work. Having a meaningful connection to our work is more important than achieving traditional success.

    Additionally, Vaillant found that early success did not necessarily mean future success. Conversely, failure early in life did not necessarily mean ultimate failure. In fact, some who seemed they would not end up doing well actually became successful. Vaillant shares that the journey from immaturity to maturity is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection. Moreover, a big part of this shift has to do with the way challenges are handled.

    In the end, it all comes back to relationships, connection and love. Are you on a pathway to happiness and a meaningful life or a dead-end road?

RSS Feed