Communications Team author Kymberly Dakin
When’s the last time you had a “meaningful” day?
Would you recognize one if you experienced it?
The way you might react to this question makes complete sense to me. “Another THING I have to shoehorn into my day??? I’m already overextended by work and kids and aging parents and everything going on in our country now…
"Why should I care about having a meaningful day???”
A lack of meaning and purpose is often directly related to depression.
Rates of depression and anxiety are skyrocketing in the young adult population in our country. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3.
And in the workplace….
Currently, only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work. And that’s at 20% globally.
Only 13% of Americans consider their work to be truly meaningful.
But before we tackle big overwhelming questions...
...about whether our LIVES are meaningful, let’s just start with a day or two of something that resembles meaning.
A year or so ago - during the pandemic of course, with all its many lessons and realizations, I came across a piece by Maria Shriver in her Sunday Paper weekly newsletter. She relayed the story of a friend who had arrived at her house for their daily walk with a large glass jar and a bag of marbles.
He asked her how many days she thought she had left on the earth plane. And how many of them would she consider, at the end of her life, to be “Meaningful” days?
He then invited her, at the end of each day, to consider whether the day had been meaningful, and if it was, she got to put a marble into the jar. He also encouraged her to consider exactly whatmade the day meaningful.
That’s an interesting question...
What makes a meaningful day for you? Is it the same as a good day? Maybe, but in my estimation, not really.
Getting back my "Marbles"...
I was inspired to fill my own glass jar with meaningful marbles. (I enjoy the metaphor of getting back any “marbles” that I may have lost along Life’s way!) I chose a vase that had belonged to my mother. This felt important. At the end of her life, my mom was filling her days with ever smaller loads of laundry, just so that she could feel like she was accomplishing something. It’s a sad recollection and I would like to transform it.
Now how does this odd marble ritual relate to adult learning?
If we look at the TD Capability Model, the second Knowledge & Skill statement is as follows:
Knowledge of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, techniques, and tools, for example observations, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and/or assessments.
And I would add…Marble Jars. The qualitative assessment of whether the day was meaningful, and the quantitative assessment of the actual number of marbles that have hopefully built up, over time.
I’ll ask again, "what makes your day meaningful?"
I’ve discovered that for me, if I’ve learned something new, if I’ve captured a story to include in the book I’m writing, if I’ve taken the time to have an in-depth conversation with a loved one or a friend or an off-the-surface interaction with a stranger, if I've had a particularly revealing coaching session with a client, then I’ve had a meaningful day.
Do you remember that video...
...that came out maybe a decade ago about having to fill a glass bowl with rocks as a demonstration in choosing priorities? The marble jar reminds me of that video - the discovery there being that if you fill up the bowl with the large rocks first, then the small stuff can fill in along the edges. But if you put in the small rocks first - representing all those tiny tasks we try to get out of the way before tackling the big stuff - then we have no room left for our real priorities.
And the question then extends to those priorities…will any of them, at the end of our lives, be considered truly meaningful?
In the Positive Intelligence coach program...
...we talk about the five Sage qualities - one of which, and, as it happens, the one I struggle with most, is The Navigator. The essence of The Navigator is the question in the previous paragraph
“At the end of my life, will this project/task/relationship/obstacle be truly important?
It’s way easier just to ignore that question and let my Hyper-Achiever saboteur stay in charge, convincing me that the more tasks I can check off my list in a day, the more accomplishments I can claim, then the more successful/important/worthy of love I will be.
It’s summertime people!
If we can’t slow down enough to insert some meaning into our days during this season, then maybe its time for some “To-Do’s to fall off the list.
In these precious summer months, may you discover, along with the beach reads and the BBQ’s, the satisfying delights of getting back some of your "marbles" with a few meaningful days.
This summer, as we take time to reflect and refresh and rejuvenate, the ATD Maine Chapter Blog is going to look at meaning.
What gives you meaning? How do you know if your life is meaningful? If you've had a meaningful year? or month? week? or day?
Emily Esfahani Smith's 2017 book, the Power of Meaning, suggests one needs these four factors:
Starting with Belonging, she places a lot on our relationships: “Each of us has a circle of people—in our families, in our communities, and at work—whose lives we can improve,” she writes. “That’s a legacy everyone can leave behind.”
Is that where you start in your search for meaning? Or do you recognize your path in Logotherapy, finding value in human life or Terror management theory (<--that's a name!) studying meaningfulness and its relationship to culture or does your meaning manifest through something else all together?
We hope you'll take time this summer to read each week's blog post and interact with it--what does it bring up for you? What do you resist? What do you adopt? What do you simply abide?
I'm looking forward to reading posts from other Communications Team members for perspective and insight, as well as your responses on LinkedIn for more!
That Memorial Day is the social/mental launch of summer is really interesting. It's a time to reflect on the past, on sacrifice, of difficulty and also a time to decorate (Remember it started as Decoration Day?) and to look forward to a summer of life--good weather, hardy plants, fresh local produce, animals out and about, vacations to recharge and refresh, and so much more!
What are you reflecting on, decorating, and looking forward to today?
This year, we've made it a priority in our chapter to hold Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Cultural Awareness in our chapter's planning process. We've had some really great programs with Halima McWilliams and the panel of Idella Glenn, Ryan Polly, and David Pease during which we were able to look at how we can approach DEI individually and within our organizations.
Last week at the international conference, Talent Development professionals from around the country offered a number of workshops and resources you can find here.
What are you doing in your journey?
When do you feel not included? How can you include someone else?
What diversity do you bring to a group? How can you make your groups more diverse--or recognize the diversity there?
How does equity figure into your life and your groups? When do you feel it?
When have you had accessibility challenges? How can you make something you do more accessible?
How do you notice cultural awareness?
What are your IDEAs?
This week, I was able to attend the #ATD2022 International Conference & Expo in Orlando FL with about 5,000 talent development colleagues!! Organizations from every imaginable field from across the US and many other countries were represented, allowing all of us there to focus in on what we share across industries from the perspective of talent development, and even more specifically to roles and responsibilities within talent development--instructional design vs managing metrics vs virtual/blended/hybrid development vs internal & external marketing of TD vs managing within TD, and on and on!
It was fascinating to look at with a 30,000 foot lens and great fun to be in it at the ground level, connecting with people I've met through other conferences and national volunteering or who I follow on LinkedIn.
The keynote speakers were Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, Jay Shetty, former monk, author, and (really good) motivational speaker, and Bert Jacobs, Chief Executive Optimist at Life is Good! Each was engaging and interesting and generous with insights in her or his own way. Sara made us laugh with her confessions of gaffs and self-deprecation to "lift" Spanx to its position of top undergarment company. Jay shared beautifully accessible habits in TIMES--Thankfulness that is expressed, specific, and personalized; Inspiration expressed in our first and last thoughts of the day; Meditation and Mindfulness to be here now; Exercise to take care of these bodies that are carrying us around, ; and Sleep, same. And Bert closed us out in his Grateful Dude T-shirt, shorts, and bare feet, checking to see how TD professionals fare at Frisbee (we had a 0.500 average--pretty good for baseball) as he shared how he and his brother came to celebrate Playmakers--people who lift others up to make the world a better place.
Then, there were professional development workshops over the course of the conference and a huge expo with so many vendors with products to help our organizations and us. That was a lot coming out of the pandemic, but I survived!! :D Now, to process all that I've learned and sort to see what I can use most with my professional work and my volunteer work. #HowExciting!!
Next year, the conference will be in San Diego CA May 21-24, so mark your calendar as something to consider for your own professional development or maybe you'd like to present!
How are you right now?
How do you manage with variation--imposed variation rather than self-initiated variation?
In the last four months, we've seen the highest infection rates and hospitalizations from the pandemic and the steepest declines and then another significant increase AND (BUT) we're all tired from two years of "it won't be much longer..."
So many of us want to be done with this--either to "get back to normal" or to move on to whatever the new normal is (which may look weirdly like the old normal...), but to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
Brené Brown says "Clear is Kind and Unclear is Unkind"--Come on Universe: don't be unkind!! :D
How are you? --with all of that? outside of all of that?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is an awareness I think we in Talent Development try to have year 'round, but with everyone else paying attention right now, perhaps we can give a look in the mirror on this, too.
And then what do we do with what we see? What do you do? How do you take care of yourself and stay open and available to your clients, whether they are internal or external to your organization? Have you looked at taking time? scheduled a vacation? found a good book to immerse yourself in? taken time to celebrate your personal and your team successes?
What would you encourage your best friend to do if you knew that s/he felt like you feel right now? Will you please share your thoughts in our LinkedIn Group? It feels good to see people's ideas! Thanks!
By Kym Dakin
After my third Zoom interaction today, I’m experiencing an all too familiar feeling… I’m “Zoomed”. I’ll go out for a walk, or grab yet another coffee, or maybe just eat something I shouldn’t, but that won’t help much. Zoom and online platforms like it are convenient and all, but I’m not alone in aching for some kind of more satisfying connection with my Zoom-mates.
Luckily, the May 17th ATD program has an intriguing topic on offer: “How to Use Visual Image Cards to Create Deeper Connection.” Yippee! It sounds like just what I need, but I have to wait a whole month for that session.
In the meantime, I did some googling on these cards, and two other options: this may be just what we need to perk up these online meetings going forward.
Compatibility Communication System Cards
CCS Cards were first developed in the 90’s at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney Australia as a series of images to gauge people’s reactions to new museum installations. From there it became a board game introduced at the 1996 World’s Fair, and eventually became the virtual training tool that Leonie Cutts, founder of the CCs Corporation, and Nancy Ancheles of Catalyst & Co. will introduce us to in their May 17th zoom presentation.
Ancheles and Cutts promise that “When used well, these deceptively simple tools can improve participation, stimulate discovery, encourage mutual disclosure and equality of voice, speed up agreement across groups and inspire collaboration and action.” Sounds like just the antidote to zoom fatigue.
But hang on, there’s more….
Data Stories: Suddenly, the Numbers Come to Life…
Finally, let’s look at tools that can create data stories - which I’ve always considered a contradiction in terms, but I’m about to be educated.
BTW, if you don’t have the tech bandwidth of a large corporation, there are services such as The DataFace or Soak or Juice Analytics who can help.
In fact, for some inspiration, Juice Analytics has come up with an intriguing list of the “20 Best Data Storytelling Examples” I’m going to highlight three of these. Warning: the topics may be depressing, but once you click on the links, you’ll see how the data comes to life by compiling numbers, language and statistics over a given span of time, exemplifying the secret sauce of a successful Data Story: data visualization, interactivity, and classic storytelling.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have put together a startlingly vivid data story pictograph for their “Goalkeepers” mission, titled Examining Inequality: How Geography and Gender Stack the Deck For or Against You.
You’ll notice three timelines with the peaks indicating the amount of obstacle present in the progression towards a healthy, productive life of Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and a small girl born in Africa. The difference is absolutely startling. anyone looking at this gets the strong visceral message in the verbal description: “Goalkeepers is our annual report card on the world’s progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 ambitious goals the member states of the United Nations committed to reaching by 2030. As we write, billions of people are projected to miss the targets that we all agreed represent a decent life. If we hope to accelerate progress, we must address the inequality that separates the lucky from the unlucky.”
Gun Deaths in the Periscope
Another top data story comes to us from Periscopic, and it amplifies, in a sobering build of visual data, what millions of lives taken by guns cost in years unlived. As Juice describes it “This visualization shows “stolen years” due to gun deaths. It is a masterclass in connecting your audience with the emotional message by gradually revealing the data.” We are, as a culture, becoming numb to yet another mass shooting. But there is something staggering about seeing numbers displayed this way that is hard to ignore. And that’s the point.
And You Thought it was Just You....
No wonder Americans are anxious. And The Pudding’s entry spells this out in “30 Years of American Anxieties” by compiling “Dear Abby” letters over a 3 decade span of time. This entry creates, by analyzing the questions and emotions in over 20,000 letters, a visual story of the internal worries of Americans over time. Clicking on the link will give you a deep dive into some of the top sources of stress: sex, religion, and LBGTQ issues.
Now that we’re all stressed and anxious - it’s time for a treat, and this just could be better than chocolate! (But speaking of chocolate - this link will get you to a delicious - and PRETTY source: Chocolats Passion on Brackett Street in Portland, Maine. Not a Mainer? No worries - they send these babies across the globe!)
Artificial Intelligence with Soul!
Clive Thompson, a tech writer for LinkedIn’s Creator’s Hub shared a fascinating piece last month that’s been lurking in my memory ever since.
The image at the top of this post was created using AI to produce visuals to Emily Dickinson’s Poem “Because I could not Stop for Death”. After choosing an assortment of particular style of visuals, Thompson fed the poem line by line into the "Dream" generative tool, And out popped those stunning images. As Thompson explains, “The AI’s try earnestly to depict what you described, but they filter it through an inhumanly vectorized form of machine perception that has no clue how the world actually works.” So out pops the amazingly weird visual responses.
In fairness, Dickinson’s poetry can also be considered strangely hallucinating - “tell the truth, but at a slant”, after all. And there’s some serious “slantage” happening with the Dream tool!
How could you use this particular tool in a meeting? You might have to take a bit of time experimenting, but you could get imagery by feeding specific problems, and the emotions they generate into “Dream” - for example, feed in a sentence like: Our supply chain issues are STILL not improving! Or “Our team brought their A Game to the marketing plan for ACE Bioenergetics. Another Contract Coup!
For me, I don’t really have the budget for the higher tech options, stunning as they are. This means I’m really looking forward to the ATD topic: “Working Across the Table or the Globe: How to Use Visual Image Cards to Create Deeper Connection” on May 17th. Sign up here, and I hope to see you there!
At the end of this week, we'll be one-third of the way through this year 2022.
OK, first of all it is 2022--twenty-twenty-two--two thousand, twenty-two--WHAT?!
AND. We're one-third of the way through it. Wild.
What an opportunity for appreciation!!
Time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will.
Time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will.
What are you doing with your time? (no pressure)
I hope you are celebrating your time--recognizing that it is not a dress rehearsal--making it what you want it to be, need it to be, wish it to be, appreciating it and giving yourself grace in it.
Enjoy the blooming spring and celebrate your day!
(And remember to check out the great deals from ATD in this final week of Member Appreciation Month 2022!! We'll have to look at all of the great benefits of membership in this blog!!)
Guest Blogger: Kathleen Kerr
As a facilitator and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) I strive to practice the ACT model – Acknowledge my biases, Challenge my own thinking, and Train my brain to see other options so I can act in ways congruent with my values. And this is still hard. And I am still learning. Here is an example of what I mean.
On a recent trip to Nashville, while in the Washington, DC airport, I am in the TSA security line, or in one of five queues, which lead up to three TSA desks.
While my attention was not fully on the line and who was next, I had done a quick mental count to see when it would be my turn – before I knew it, the TSA agent was calling out, “Next!” and she was looking directly at me. In that split second, behavioral conditioning drove me forward as I did not want to hold up the line. But as the TSA agent was checking my ID against my ticket and ushering me through the line, I realized that a Black woman in the line next to me had been waiting longer than me. If the agents followed the process, i.e., line 1, person one, line 2, person one, line 1, person two, line 2 person two…, she would have her turn, her ID checked, and she would have been on her way through security before me.
It was in that moment I realized how frequently this kind of inadvertent but real occurrence happens and how those of us not suffering in the experience can easily not notice, but for those on the losing end repeatedly, it feels like death by a thousand paper cuts.
The moment passed too quickly, and a few people later, it was her turn. By then, I was through the line and into the x-ray machine. When I had my wits about me to find her and let her know that I saw what happened, she was still on the other side of the x-ray machine. I was unable to catch her eye, and even if I did, how could I convey my thoughts with just a look and no words? That experience bothered me all the way to Nashville and beyond.
Luckily, life has a way of creating endless learning opportunities if only we recognize them and act on the learning opportunity. In an Unconscious Bias training I facilitated recently, I shared this story to illustrate how bias in action affects others and our complicity in the act. It is not enough to be aware of our biases, we must behave differently to create real and sustained change. While I was unable to behave differently in that moment, as one of my girlfriends told me when I shared this story, now, I will be on the lookout for this and next time I will act. And yes, it will be hard, even scary sometimes. Learning is often painful. For now, my job is to lean into the pain and trust that the payoff benefits everyone.
Have you read the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White? It looks at the power of expressing appreciation within organizations (and the world), how each of us of has a preferred way of receiving appreciation, how powerful it can be in creating community and wellness, and how meaningful that is both to the individual and the larger community.
How do you express appreciation? Is that the same way you prefer to receive it? Does it vary by situation? or by the person to whom or from whom the appreciation is expressed?
Do you feel appreciated in your workplace? Do you receive appreciation from supervisors? from peers? from customers/clients--either internal or external?
What makes appreciation meaningful to you?