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Applying Life Wisdom from Our Elders in the Workplace

3 min read

Express your curiosity with frequency. “Tell me more” is a great way to continue —and deepen — a conversation.

Just as we were about to rip December 2015 from the wall and greet the new year, I saw an article and accompanying video in the New York Times called “The Wisdom of the Aged,” which contained advice on leading a good life by those over 85. It occurred to me that many of the lessons had applications in the business world.

Let us know what these thoughts do to stimulate your own thinking as we set sail into 2016. The quotes are from the article, the paragraphs are mine.


“Stay engaged.”

The more we allow ourselves to be “fully present” and engaged at work, the more likely we are to make our best contribution and have our best experience of work. When we “phone it in,” or are distant, or barely present at all, there’s very little we can expect that will be rewarding and satisfying.

“Try to be happy.”

Are you a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full kind of person? Wherever you are on the continuum, see what you can do to slide yourself toward the end of optimism.

Remember: focusing on the negative begins a downward spiral and focusing on the positive tends to lift us up.

“Have a curious mind.”

I think not only does curiosity keep us youthful in spirit, it also expands our horizons and allows us to “jump across” silos in the workplace.

Express your curiosity with frequency. “Tell me more” is a great way to continue — and deepen — a conversation.

As deep and probing questions, to build relationships and solve problems.

There’s a Stephen R. Covey quote I like connected to this notion, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

“Find pleasure and reward in doing for others.”

Yes, I know, we all have more to do than we think we can possibly do on our own “to do” lists. Please meet your deadlines and deliverables; do what you say you will do (perhaps the most basic foundation on which trust is built).

AND . . . if time allows and the desire to build relationships grows, see how you can be helpful to others. This might take the form of “just listening” or offering some informal coaching or actually sharing someone’s load to free them of some stress in the completion of a task.

“Don’t give in or give up.”

Sometimes work can feel overwhelming. To the degree possible, see if you can “hang in there” with it.

Don’t sabotage yourself with negative thinking. (“I can’t do this.” “I’m not smart/creative/competent enough.” “Why do I even try?” etc.)

Instead, take that proverbial deep breath, take a short walk or move away from your computer and stretch that body to get some blood flowing. After, take another approach to what’s at hand.

Ask for help if you need it and exercise that “stick-to-it-ive-ness” muscle, perhaps approaching the current dilemma from a different approach or perspective.

“Don’t waste time on anger or worry.”

Things are not always fair and just and sometimes, we’re completely entitled to be angry.

If you notice a great deal of energy is expended on being angry, see what you can do to turn that around. Can you reasonably work to change something in the system that’s creating this anger? Can you “let it go” and use that energy directed in another way?

Similarly, imagine the time we’d save if we relinquished worry! There are some things we just can’t control – they’ll either happen or not. Worrying about those things doesn’t help much. And for the things that are in our control, perhaps that expenditure of energy spent on worrying could be better applied to preparation or influencing or solving a problem.

“Accept the mixture of happiness and sadness.”

Think about its meaning in your own life, right now, whatever age you are.

Can we, indeed, accept the ebb and flow of happiness and sadness, or the paradoxical experience of them being present in our life simultaneously? Can we accept what is, as it is?

Yes, of course, we’ll have goals and ambitions and ways in which we want to grow and stretch and develop, and be challenged and rewarded . . . and even be happier than we are now.

Offer appreciation and gratitude for things as they are in their complicated mix. Name them as “trying.” Accept the ebb.


What life wisdom do you apply at work? What New Year’s resolutions do you hope to apply in 2016?



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