One of many lessons from Mr. Rogers

One of many lessons from Mr. Rogers

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood…

Depending on your age, you will likely recognize this sentence as the opening line from the Mr. Rogers TV show theme song.

The Mr. Rogers show had so many valuable life lessons about acceptance, feelings, relationships, compassion, curiosity, creativity, play, imagination, and on and on. Mr. Rogers was basically the original TV therapist!

Perhaps the most witnessed but least recognized lesson was in the simple repeated act in every episode when Mr. Rogers took off his jacket and outdoor shoes, and put on his zip-up cardigan and indoor shoes.

This routine was such a powerful way to transition from one context to the next, from one mindset to the next. He sent both himself and all his viewers a clear message that he was done one part of his day and was ready to begin the next part. With full presence and engagement.

I’m guessing that for many of us, the pandemic has meant the loss of so many of our natural transitions and rituals and routines, particularly with working from home. Of course it may have meant the creation of new positive routines as well. But very likely there has been a blurring of boundaries between work and home.

Pre-pandemic, I would typically change out of my dress pants upon arriving home at the end of the day – because the less time I have to wear dress pants, the better! – and put on jeans or ‘yoga’ pants. Throughout the pandemic, jeans have typically been my go-to lower body work attire (ok, a few occasions of yoga pants too). Because of course, no one is seeing my pants on screen, and again, the less time in dress pants, the better! And we all need to ensure we can find little ways to feel more comfortable during this unprecedented time.

[Quick aside: Oddly enough, I remember (accurately or not) a psychology professor during undergrad talking about professional attire and telling us that ‘if you are wearing jeans, you’re not working’. This was of course many years before our current upside-down life circumstances, so even he would probably agree that this rule no longer applies in the same way!]

The flip side of my more casual work attire has however meant I have less need to change my clothes at the end of the work day. Consequently I miss out on this simple but powerful transition ritual, that Mr. Rogers embodied so well. Consciously reflecting on this now, I still don’t think I am going to convince myself anytime soon to wear dress pants working from home. However - maybe there is something else concrete I can be doing that can serve this very important function of helping me to mark the end of one part of my day and transition with intention to the next part.

With Mr. Rogers as our inspiration, I encourage us all to consider:

  • What transitions or rituals or routines do I already engage in that help me to shift from one activity or mindset to the next?
  • Any that have perhaps slipped away on me over the past months?
  • Any worth resurrecting?
  • Any new routines that can help me to transition with a little more ease into this next season?