Emotional Mindfulness

Emotional mindfulness. It’s not something that comes up in the context of work too often, unless we’re talking about work-life balance. That sort of balance is not what I’m writing about here.

Here’s the catalyst to get me thinking about emotions, actions, mindfulness, and the need to be mindful of my workplace emotional self.

It was supposed to be a pretty routine meeting with a colleague about preparing material for campus presentation on international students and academic integrity. In our search for some specifics we we found out the campus-only conference was cancelled. But it took us 2 phone calls of us reaching out to campus office to learn about it.

Then the discussion moved to a different topic – a project that had been transferred from the initial sole responsibility of the subject librarian to the department I work in (which is basically the teaching and learning department at the library). Somewhere in this discussion there came to be some huge misunderstandings of words and phrases that were not intended by the speaker but the listener certainly felt they heard it.

These feelings fed into the misunderstanding because we were each unable to communicate clearly and objectively without taking on a stance of defensiveness. It took real work to power through and figure things out together. And by the end, through my own emotional investment and an overwhelming sense of empathy (and sympathy), I had to leave through a haze of hurt feelings, a few tears, and lump in my throat. Not exactly normal – especially since I feel I do rather well to maintain a pretty level approach to most everything while at work.

These feelings, though, hung around for a couple of days, intermittently, while at work. There’s so much about mindfulness, reflective practice, and daily life at work that is focused on the cognitive and intellectual aspects of ourselves. Being mindful of my emotions took a much greater amount of work on my part. Letting go of an idea – while sometimes difficult – proved to be much easier than letting go of emotions.

My process for all of this has been: to stop dwelling on the conversation and the words and phrases that triggered my emotional response (which is to say that I’m trying not to be judgmental of both myself and the other person); to let the meeting exist in its own place in time; to accept that it is up to me to control my (re)actions – to feel slighted by a conversation with someone else is fine, to hold on to those feelings and base my actions on those feelings and perceptions is on me.

So much of our working lives (at least in the academic / instruction librarian section) focus on both our own and our students intellectual and cognitive engagement that our emotional selves can be lost or pushed out of the way.

 

Extra note: I would like to give a hat tip to the blogs Rule Number One and Librarian Burnout. They both provide perspectives about engagement, cognition, emotions, and the ‘self’ in ways that get me thinking about my own environment.

 

Failure

I hear and read a lot about innovation, creativity, organizational culture, assessment, and basically everything related to building a better library organization.

In all of this I also hear a lot about failure. That we should learn from it. That we shouldn’t be afraid to fail. That it is inevitable, especially if we are taking risks, trying new ideas or services.

But that’s it. We talk about failure as this “thing”, this concept, this idea. It’s usually so abstracted that I don’t ever really hear about actual failures. Sure, there’s always talk about “well, we tried this thing and it didn’t work (ie, it failed).” But I can’t remember the last time (or first time?) that I’ve been to a conference or a meeting and the actual failure was talked about. It’s mentioned, but it’s not discussed, as though the often-used quote or platitude is enough. We can’t get past a certain level when talking about a specific failure.

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you know, don’t worry about defining or talking about failure or success, just do it (sorry nike) image from http://successfortress.com/honda-on-failure-the-key-to-success/

Why did it fail? What were some of the issues and/or causes? Was it completely a total failure or can we change just a few things?

I don’t want to be overly pessimistic or unappreciative. Libraries (and librarians) do talk about how to improve, difficulties of implementing new ideas or services, and that’s important and helpful.

In the end, though, discussing difficulties isn’t quite the same as discussing failure. Along with the platitudes about failure – it’s inevitable, we can learn from it – the positive and encouraging leaders tell us that we should feel like it’s okay to fail. If we don’t ever talk about it, we never really get comfortable with the idea of it, and if we can’t be comfortable talking about it, I doubt we’ll be comfortable enough to actually take those risks that might lead to failure (and then, possibly, success).

 

Finding a voice

Finding a voice.
Specifically, my voice.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve published anything in this format (or any format for that matter). I looked over the very few and very general posts that I’ve made so far. I had the intent of creating a more well-rounded online personality, something that was more than facebook or random mentions or contact information listed on an employer website.

I could blame it on starting a new job – just trying to get my bearings in a new position, in a new place, in a new state, …I could blame it now on having a new addition to the family – of course I want to spend as much time with a new baby as I can, it takes more time getting things “in order” around the house, I had to change clothes before heading to work because I received an impromptu shower while changing a diaper, …

But, honestly, looking back at how I’ve worked so far, I’m not sure I know my professional voice yet. Sure, I’m comfortable in face-to-face meetings with my colleagues. I believe I could hold my own in a conversation at a conference with you. It’s that whole voice thing as it relates to finding a place at the larger professional table of the library world.

So, for those of you who have found a voice, or at least are further along in creating your own, what advice can you offer to someone looking to become more vocal in the online world? What are some of your habits to make sure you aren’t shrugging off writing? What sorts of mental exercises do you use to move beyond reading others’ blogs to interacting?

And for anyone interested, here’s a picture of the guy who has been taking up so much time lately.

Image

I hope this isn’t the electronic equivalent of shoving baby pictures in your face when you don’t ask about it.