Out the door he flew on this beautiful and bright spring morning, running at a full gallop as only a 4-year-old boy can achieve. Arms waving wildly, with smiles dancing across his face, little Ralphie could hardly wait to share the most amazing news: “I’m going to Disney World! And Daddy bought me headphones!”
The fact he’s never been to Disney World hardly matters. He has a vision of an adventure and has been up since 5 a.m. getting ready for it. While his father busily packed the car, his mother stuck her head out the front door to assess the progress, only to be met with Ralph’s own exacting expectations: “Get dressed now, Mommy!”
As a career counselor, I would love to bottle this enthusiasm so I could share it with individuals. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could create work environments where our employees were as engaged as a 4-year-old headed to Disney World for the first time? Perhaps we can’t for every day, but couldn’t we start with some days or even one day?
Perhaps we can—if we keep a few simple “Ralphisms” in our mind:
- We can bring to work a vision of a better world: one that welcomes everyone. If Walt Disney could build a kingdom around a rodent, we can use our imagination to embrace characters of all varieties, too. Pick a person at work today to make his or her world a little better. Bring someone a cup of coffee. Bring a flower from a garden or the store. Small gestures can have large consequences.
- Consciously undertake a new activity. We all start life with more openness to adventure (check out any 4-year-old). Gradually over time, however, we generally move toward more rigidity in our thinking and action. What if we looked forward to a few new adventures and reconnected with our original openness? By the way, when was the last time you hopped on a roller-coaster? Last week? Then up the ante and work on a new “bucket list.” Years into retirement and too fragile for a roller-coaster? Learn a new game, try a new recipe, or make a new friend.
- Smile! When I see Ralph running toward me with his happy heart, mine is lifted, too. When you are talking on the phone, try smiling. When you see someone coming toward you, think of Ralph and smile. If the person asks you why you’re happy, tell him or her you’re imaging what life is like when you are 4 and on the way to Disney World for the first time.
To review briefly: (1) Welcome characters, (2) cultivate openness, and (3) smile!
I am reminded of the great career theorist, John Krumboltz, author of the user-friendly book that I often recommend to people who solicit my help: Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career. John sums up his advice this way (and I paraphrase from his address to the 2012 annual meeting of the National Career Development Association): Find work that needs doing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Try to have a little fun with it.
Little 4-year-old Ralph doesn’t require this advice. His attitude toward life readily and naturally embraces this wisdom and, hopefully, will be reinforced with the positive encouragement of his family and friends.
Regrettably, our educational and vocational systems have historically failed in reinforcing this wisdom. Consequently, we find ourselves needing to be reminded of what we already knew before we were even in kindergarten: There is indeed much to be done in our world. We can (and must) overcome our fear of failure. Finally and most importantly, we all need to have a little more fun with it all.
Thanks, Ralph. We all need more of you in our lives.
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