A Scandinavian Dream: My Winter Reading List

winter sunset

Mosier, OR

I’m determined to fight the winter blues this year and to help me follow through on my  ideas for staying happy, I’ve added a few things to my winter reading list:

           

Denmark is often cited as the world’s happiest nation, but “though we wear their sweaters and read their thrillers, how much do we really know about the Danes themselves?”  I’m about halfway through How To Be Danish and am finding this quick introduction pretty fascinating.

Walking is my outdoor activity of choice but I need a lot of motivation in the winter.  So I’ve added two books on the subject that will hopefully inspire me:

In On Looking, the author takes a series of eleven walks around her neighborhood, each with a different expert, to see how her perspective changes with each.

The Joys of Walking is an anthology of twelve essays from a variety of distinguished writers, including Dickens and Thoreau.  (Thoreau’s essay is currently a free Kindle book on Amazon.)

                 

I love browsing through a beautifully illustrated cookbook and the Scandilicious books from food anthropologist Signe Johansen should set just the right mood this winter.

In her follow-up to The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin focuses on “feeling more at home, at home”.  With monthly projects for making the home more warm, comfortable and loving, I think I’ll dip back into Happier at Home throughout the winter.

And finally, I love a good slow-burn crime thriller, so I’m adding the first of the famous Kurt Wallander mysteries to my list.

 

Books aside, I think winter is the best time for curling up in front of the television for a good series binge.  I’m a big fan of the American versions of The Killing and The Bridge, so I’m looking forward to watching the Nordic originals, Forbrydelsen and Bron/Broen.

And, for a quick pick-me-up, I recently stumbled upon the design blog Design Attractor.  So lovely on a dreary day.

 

How about you?  Any Scandinavian-themed reading recommendations?

 

(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)

 

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A Scandinavian Dream: Ideas For Staying Happy This Winter

Ideas for staying happy this winter

Mosier, OR

It has honestly been a winter wonderland around here this week, with bright sun, glittering snow and afternoons spent sledding on the driveway.  But I know the harsh reality of winter will eventually set in, with prolonged stretches of the cold, gray and gloomy.  The mood around here tends to drop with the temperature, so I’ve always wondered how the Nordic countries, with their ridiculously short days and icy temps, always seem to top the World Happiness Report.  So I turned to the Interwebs to figure out why.

Not surprisingly, things like a high GDP per capita, universal healthcare, generous parental leave and gender equality play a big role.  While it’s interesting to consider how these ideas might apply to organizational management, I was really looking for tangible things I could implement to boost my family’s happiness this winter.  Here’s what I found:

Maximize natural light.  Scandinavian interior design is known for its clean lines, white-washed woods and large, curtain-free windows.  The reason?  Light.  We’re generally more alert, productive and happy when our indoor time allows for ample natural light.

Get outside.  Scandinavians don’t let the cold trap them inside.  They just bundle up and get out there.  Kids are encouraged to play outside every day and even babies are left outside to nap in their prams at surprisingly low temperatures.  Biking to school or work is common in cities like Copenhagen and the vast majority of bikers continue to get out even during the winter’s coldest months.

Enjoy some carbs.  All that hiking, biking and playing in freezing temps will burn a lot of calories.  Which means you can compensate with lovely baked goods.

Volunteer your time.  It seems that Nordic folk volunteer quite a lot, which contributes to a sense of belonging and collective responsibility.  Feeling connected and purposeful leads to greater happiness.  And volunteering generally requires getting out of the house, which fights those cabin-fever induced doldrums.

Get cozy.  While getting out is important, staying in and cuddling by the fire has its benefits too.  The Danish have a term, “hygge“, that loosely translates to “coziness” but encompasses a broader sense of sanctuary, community and closeness.  It’s about creating time and space to enjoy the moment and spend quality time with family and friends.  Crackling fires, warm candlelight and comfortable spaces are key.

 

How about you?  What do you do to combat the winter blues?

 

True confession: I tune out when you talk about your Myers-Briggs type.

personality type

lee Scott via Unsplash

I’m an INTJ.  I’m detail-oriented and set high standards.  And you’re a…oh, sorry, what?  I was checking my Facebook feed.

Yep, that’s me.  I enjoy learning about my own personality type but lose focus when it comes to the other…15?… types.  It’s like reading someone else’s horoscope: it’s mildly interesting but it doesn’t really resonate.

But Penelope Trunk recently wrote about teaching kids to identify personality types being a key factor in their ability to navigate relationships and, ultimately, find the right partners, personally and professionally.  I like this because it offers a tangible way to help kids build a very intangible skill – a sort of curriculum for teaching emotional intelligence.

And THAT resonated.

I can be hyper-analytical and demanding, so I know I have to flex my communication style to be more approachable and supportive.  That knowledge gets me a long way, without giving much thought to personality type.  But I can do better.  And helping my kid navigate the world is my number one priority.  If Myers-Briggs will help me do that, I’m in.

How about you?  What’s your experience with Myers-Briggs or other personality typologies?

 

Management Quick Tip: “Watch for idiots on the road.”

No no. Thank you!  by Aaron Stidwell

Growing up and well into adulthood, whenever I left the house my dad invariably said:

Watch for idiots on the road.”

Not “Drive safe” or “Be careful“, but “Watch for idiots on the road.”  And as curmudgeonly and vaguely paranoid as it sounded, I always took it as a compliment.

It was his way of saying, “I know you’re smart and competent behind the wheel.  It’s everyone else I’m worried about.”  And I appreciated that.  My dad wasn’t an overly affectionate man, but he somehow always made me feel that he believed in me.

So the tip here is really twofold:

First, actually do watch for idiots on the road.  It’s sound driving advice.

And second, find a way to show your team that you believe in them.  It doesn’t have to be overt or gushy or something out of a management textbook.  Make it unique to you and your personality, and your team will appreciate it.

 

(Photo by Aaron Stidwell via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Ready to quit? I’m not here to stop you…but try these things first.

Boots by Phil Roeder

I’ve quit a lot of jobs.  And not just burger-flipper kind of jobs.  Real, career-level jobs.  With nothing lined up to take their place.  Do I recommend this as a career strategy?  Um…no.  But, my chronic dissatisfaction has taught me to tell the difference between real job issues and me just needing an overhaul, mentally and physically.  If you’re feeling burnt-out and uninspired in your job, try these before you throw in the towel:

Get some exercise.  Doing this is a constant battle for me, even though I know I will feel 10x better if I move my body regularly.  So I get that it’s extra hard when you’re unhappy in your job.  But you’ve just got to do it.  Exercise releases endorphins, which improves your mood.  It improves flexibility, something you’ll appreciate if your desk job is leaving you an aching, contorted mess.  And it gives you the energy and stamina to do other important things, like professional training, strategic volunteering or pounding the pavement for your next gig.

Find a hobby.  Find something outside of work that lights you up.  It doesn’t matter what it is, but you need something to look forward to at the end of the work day.  Having something to think (and talk) about besides your crappy job will make you happier and easier to be around.  And connecting with people who share your personal interests is a non-greasy way to network and can lead to unexpected professional opportunities.

Take stock.  When you’re feeling beat up, the temptation is to jump ship and hope for the best.  But the “anywhere but here” approach often sets you up to be just as unhappy in the next gig.  (Trust me, I know.)  Think hard about what it is that you really dislike about your current job.  It might not be what you first think.  And consider what parts of it you actually enjoy.  These are clues to where you might want to go next.  Then take an honest look at your skill set and decide if it fits a career trajectory you can be happy with over the next 5-10-20 years.  If it doesn’t, you have the starting point for crafting your next move.

 

(Photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Fiction with a business bent.

library

Patrik Goethe via Unsplash

Are you a business book junkie?  I am.  And over the past few years, I’ve seen my reading list become more and more weighted towards non-fiction.  With limited reading time, it just feels like I get more intellectual bang for my buck with fact-based works.

So Rohit Bhargava’s thoughts on why reading fiction is better for your business were a nice reminder for me: taking time for a wider range of reading material enhances your creativity, stimulates your intellectual curiosity and changes your perspective.

Following Bhargava’s lead, here are my own recommendations for powerful fiction with a bit of a business bent.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – This literary classic is a must-read story of greed, money and ambition in the 1920’s. Gatsby is the iconic American entrepreneur, a self-made man blinded by love and the pursuit of wealth.

 

 

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – The tragic portrait of a couple unable to reconcile their real lives with the lives of their dreams. Trapped in jobs they never particularly wanted – The Housewife, The Company Man – they struggle against their suburban and corporate conformity. Not exactly light reading, this.

 

 

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – On a brighter note, this allegorical story of a young shepherd’s search for his Personal Legend presents the value of being open to learning, to trying new experiences and to finding meaningful work.

 

 

 

And I’ve said before that AMC’s Mad Men has a wealth of business insights mixed in with all the drama, so here are three fun Mad Men related titles that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

         

 

(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)