Thursday, April 30, 2015


By: Jennifer Quarrie

Living to Work
We are modern.  Fast, sleek, streamlined.  We are edgy.  Steel?  Try titanium.  We are competitors.  Giving yesterday a run for its money, leaving last month knocked out cold.  We are machines.  Producing, churning, calculating in nanoseconds.  You can keep up, cant you?  Its sink or swim.  Run or die.  Sprint.  Faster.  FASTER.  Anyone who believes this is a marathon might as well leave now.

Sound familiar?  Pervasive modern messaging beaming through Western media is now permeating global culture.  If it hasnt already taken over your company, dont worry; its coming to a supervisor near you.  And if youre not willing to work 24/7, there is a long line of folks waiting for your job who will. 

What does it feel like to move at the speed of terabytes per second?  Even the hardiest among us struggle to breathe when this much G-force bears down.  For most of us its an unending dance, trying to maintain some semblance of balance between the breakneck world pace and our own private needs.  When things begin to feel unstable we kick it into emergency gear to ensure things dont spin out of control.  Problem solving at this point is pure triage.  There is no time to think.  Just stop the bleeding.  Re-stabilize and keep moving forward.  No time for retrospection to truly decipher what got us into that jam, we think we know and thats good enough.  Just keep moving.  Health?  Sure, its steadily decreasing, but Im fine for now.  I can take it.  Happiness?  No one has that anymore, why would I delude myself into expecting anything else?  Focus?  What did you say?  Oh, yeah, sure just a minute

Facing Karōshi  
Then from somewhere in the chaos comes silence.  The realization that makes your world upend.  Thudding so hard it knocks the wind out of you.  You find yourself alone amongst archaic digital devices, drained of battery, and a flurry of papers.  What happened?  No matter what it was that knocked you out of orbit, its a game-changer.  There really was a limit and you tumbled past.  It will be a long journey back. 

Yet after the shock passes, as you survey the damage and look at things anew, you feel that pang you dont want to go back to living that way.  Does that mean youve lost your edge?  Lost your guts?  The machine may continue to tell you that.  Yet you know that it means just the opposite there is a difference between giving up and saying thats enough this is a new level of courage.  Many others in your position limp back into the fray to take hit after hit.  But youve realized the truth.  The better you are, the better your work will be.  And while youre at it, why not make your work YOUR work?  Why give up so much of your time pursuing someone elses dreams?  You need to pursue your own purpose.  You need a change.  But what are the right changes?  And how might you make those changes in the face of so many others going another direction? 

Working to Live
Time to muster your courage and begin building a richer, more balanced life.  The first step?  Prepare for the journey by healing.  Wellness is a baseline from which all other functions come.  To pursue wellness is to pursue the foundation of self-actualization, upon which creativity and other human needs rely.  Without wellness, other pursuits quickly falter. 

The tough question becomes how to achieve wellness when old habits are entrenched, social convention directly opposes your personal needs and support is scarce.  If wellness were easy, we would certainly have achieved it by now.  The answer?  Creativity.

Wellness, like creativity, is highly personalized.  Just as there is no single sleep schedule or menu that fits everyone, each individuals path toward understanding and utilizing their own creativity is also unique.  What is right for you may not be right for others.  This empowers you to customize your life to your personal needs with the ultimate understanding that when you are at your best you are able to contribute far more. 

Approaching wellness with a creative mindset helps convert the work of achieving wellness from a should (meeting the expectations/ideals of others) to a want (fulfilling your own fundamental needs).  Applying creativity tools and processes such as those in Creative Problem Solving (CPS) can be very effective at pinpointing the most critical challenges to personal wellness, as well as working towards more novel, personalized solutions.  On a larger scale, approaching wellness from a creative mindset of openness to novelty, ability to build on others solutions, willingness to defer judgment, mindfulness, and commitment to investing resources greatly improves the likelihood of uncovering an enjoyable and permanent set of changes.
In essence, applying creative thinking fosters wellness, and in turn, a state of wellness promotes the strength and impact of personal creativity. 

Both creativity and wellness are cornerstones to self-actualization, fulfilling ones potential and becoming the best possible version of ones self.  Both creativity and wellness also act as optimizers to set you into more ideal conditions for success in other pursuits.

Whether work is overshadowing the finer aspects of life, or another form of imbalance currently drains your resources, wellness is achievable right now in small steps.  Using creativity, you can design a holistic approach to wellness that is manageable yet effective.  You are worth your time.  No one else will do it for you.  This isnt a sprint.  And it doesnt have to be a marathon.  Call it a hike in the woods or a frolic in the meadow - either way, dont forget to stop and smell the roses.

* Karōshi is translated from Japanese as "death from overwork
** Kaizen is translated from Japanese as continuous improvement

Kashdan, T. B., & Ciarrochi, J. (Eds.). (2013). Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The seven foundations of well-being. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
University of California Davis. (2015). What is wellness?  Retrieved from

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization.

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