Sunday, February 19

Confessions of a Fixed Mindset Addict

Change Is...

Growth Is...

Effort Is...

"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
- Carol Dweck author of Mindset

Things have not been going well at work.  When I started this part-time job five months ago, I thought it would be easy.  Within days, I realized that nothing in my past had prepared me for being a cashier in a busy, organic grocery store.

My most recent experience was as a "sales associate" in an upscale thrift store, which included cashiering.  On a good day, the entire store might produce $2,000 to $3,000 in sales.  Much of the time, I worked "in the back" sorting, pricing and displaying merchandise because handling sales at the cash register was sporadic and easily handled by elderly volunteers with limited physical abilities.  In other words, it was a slow, casual and rather undemanding job.

My current job is the polar opposite.  It requires memorizing over five hundred, 4-digit codes; learning numerous policies and procedures for deli, bulk, meat, produce, gift card, food stamp, etc., purchases; re-learning how to calculate and count back correct change while being constantly distracted; learning how to use different equipment (e.g., check readers, card readers, cash registers, conveyor belts, scales); and last but not least, learning how to deal with customers, many of whom are eccentric locals and confused tourists.  I've had lots of help from co-workers who have patiently guided me over the past five months, and I still have a lot to learn.  But, the "newbie" honeymoon is over.

I have figured out that management expects front end employees to be friendly, accurate, fast, and consistent.  

Last Thursday, my register rang up over $7,000 in the space of five and a half hours.  There is a way to find out the number of customers and the average order amount, but I was too tired to figure it out.  My bottom line is whether or not my drawer is over or under, and it was over twenty-four cents.  I would consider this a pretty good day at the cash register, except for a mistake I made in good customer relations which was pointed out to me by the Manager on Duty while I was getting ready to close my register.  In other words, my error was made public, while customers were trying to ignore my red face and defensive excuses.  I thought I was pretty good at customer relations and rather than take responsibility for making mistakes, I focused on how the MOD brought them to my attention.  

I also thought I was getting the hang of the accurate part of the job.  The "acceptable" over/under is $1 per thousand but there is an unwritten mandate that cashiers have "0" balances.  Balances are displayed on "scorecards" posted where cashiers get their drawers each shift, so everyone gets to compare their results with each other.  I am at the bottom of the "accuracy" list - no gold stars this month, so far, and a humiliating short of -$19.90 at the beginning of February.  To make matters worse, the person who counted this drawer is the one who routinely gives me the worst drawer counts and rather than take responsibility for mistakes, I began to wonder if this person was skimming and blaming me.

Today is a "Front End" store meeting where the stellar cashiers/clerks will be recognized.  I fear that in comparison to them, I'll be embarrassed and humiliated because of the recent criticism about customer relations and because I'm on the bottom of the accuracy list.  So, rather than view this meeting as an opportunity to find ways to improve my accuracy and customer relations, I fear it.  Not good.

Somehow, I have allowed myself to be trapped in a mental hell - a paranoid downward spiral.  I recognize this space and while it is stuffy and uncomfortable, it's familiar to me.  It's the mental space I occupy where I tell myself that I'm just not good at (fill in the blank) math, not good at (fill in the blank) cashiering, not good at (fill in the blank) public relations....  not good enough, not comfortable enough, so I should quit.

Unless I have to "stay the course" because my life or the life of people I love depended on it, I usually bail.  This means that while I've done a lot in my life, I often wonder if there is anything that I've done really well.  This morning, I found (or was guided toward - !!) Dumb Little Man, and an article titled Is Your Mindset Secretly Making You Miserable.  This brief article references the book, Mindset, written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.  The book explores the concept of traditional negative and positive thinking in a way that I think I can grasp:  fixed mindset and growth mindset.

I am familiar with the concept and have used it to help me overcome some tough personal hurdles in life.  Through self help programs, especially the 12 Step program and Course of Miracles, I have learned to consider my harshest critics and/or most uncomfortable criticisms as "teachers" rather than adversaries.  I recall friends and coworkers who assumed that I could see the "errors" and mistakes I was making, and lifted me out of my victimhood.  They weren't shocked that I wasn't perfect, nor where they shocked or disappointed in the denial process I went through.  Some things can't be denied for long, like an angry customer, or a drawer that doesn't balance.  Today's article is a reminder that denial and resistance is futile.  It wastes time and causes needless anxiety.  Learning, growth, effort is not easy and comfortable.  It's not supposed to be, and comparing oneself to others is a good guideline, but misses the point in life.  I need to put forth my best effort.  That effort includes learning through mistakes.

So....  I've ordered the book.  I now recognize the downward spiral for what it is: a learning opportunity not to be missed.  I am grateful for this opportunity and no matter how painful, embarrassing, negative, these lessons may appear on the surface, in reality, I can be good at whatever I choose in life, if I am willing and committed to work at it.

Thursday, February 2


$30 Hearts - Jerome, Arizona

Kaleidoscopes - Jerome, AZ

Sister Cities (?!) - Jerome, AZ

 Meditating Cat - Jerome, AZ
No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.
Ansel Adams

What does a Church do when no one attends services?  This was the question my Mother-in-law and I discussed yesterday morning.  We both determined that the concept of "church" is subjective, but that there are elements in every religion that are universal and embedded in human consciousness. 

Prayer and human interaction are essential components in most spiritual endeavors. The right balance of these ingredients is critical and creates an expected outcome.  For some, the expected outcome is clarity.  For some, the expected outcome is repentance and forgiveness.  For some, the expected outcome is inspiration and transcendence.  Everyone who attends church or any spiritual gathering perceives that doing so will improve their lives by its structure and ritual, and its common purpose for good.

The feeling of a large group of people, focused on a positive thought is powerful.  To me, the essence of "church" is this focus, this unity.  It feels like the calm center in the middle of a storm:  I know I'll have to step outside the center, but I gain strength within it to endure and find my way back.  This feeling is real and, for most people, a necessary part of life.  It fuels the creative spirit that allows our imaginations to conceive of a higher power for good.

Religions, churches, teachings, provide the opportunities to be exposed to the abstract idea of god, spirit, higher power, and are necessary and beneficial to society.  However, I believe that each individual develops their own perceptions of god.  Each of us decides how to focus on good in our lives and how to pursue goodness, even while participating in organized religion.  Religions and any spirit centered gathering is challenged to attract and retain people in large enough groups to produce a common good while being self sustaining.  Where religions go wrong is in their attempts to market god and godliness instead of having a clear purpose for that good which is inherently attractive.

The church we were talking about has an unclear and confusing purpose.  It has more human interaction in the form of entertainment than it has prayer.  The minister and her spiritual messages seem to support the music instead of having the music support the message. For me, five minutes of meditation, especially with others, is a more effective way to focus on a clear spiritual message and gain inner peace and strength.  Someone else may need singing and dancing to focus.  The tricky part is to find the balance that allows each of us to focus on our spiritual and creative needs and the needs of others within an effective structure.  We are so lucky to have so many choices for good.

May all beings know love and peace and unity.