Leadership: Finding time for ‘fika’ and ‘lagom’


Kathie Rotz PHOTO CREDIT: TH file


Kathie Rotz PHOTO CREDIT: TH file


Kathie Rotz PHOTO CREDIT: TH file


Kathie Rotz PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

In June 2019, my handsome husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Europe.

On this adventure, we visited England, Sweden, Germany and Portugal. All these countries were beautiful and educational; however, my favorite were Sweden and Germany because we had tour guides.

Our family members live in these countries, so they showed us the typical tourist sites. Plus, we were able to live the culture. We experienced food, attractions and language that most people do not encounter without connecting with the locals.

Two Swedish words that I learned connect with me.

At 3 p.m. on our first day in Stockholm, we were invited to fika. Fika, pronounced “feeka,” is a Swedish word for coffee break. But it is more than just enjoying a cup of coffee and a light snack. It is about taking a break and socializing with the people around you. We put away all distractors including our cellphones, toys and books. We sat, ate, talked and even enjoyed the silence.

Fika is so important in Sweden that the locals will plan and pack for it every day. We took a hiking trip to an island in the Baltic Sea and prioritized our drinks and snack for fika that afternoon. When it was time for it, we put away the drone and enjoyed each other’s company. It re-energized us and created a unique peace in our day.

I encourage everyone to take a break throughout their day to recharge the brain. However, I am guilty of making these “working breaks.” You know the type: Get something done while you are eating a snack. That seems like a responsible choice to be more productive in our full days.

Another word that I learned is lagom. This Swedish word, pronounced “law-gohm,” means “just the right amount,” of balance.

When my brother shared this term, it sounded like a great idea. But I did not fully understand the magnitude of this cultural expression until we walked to the subway one morning.

I noticed that many businesses had posters on doors notifying customers that they were closed for four weeks, during the peak tourism season. This is not smart business if you ask me.

Of course, I asked my brother why so many of the stores were not open. And his answer was simple: “Lagom.” During the winter months, Stockholm experiences 18 hours of darkness. During the summer months, they enjoy 18 hours of daylight. This pleasure time only comes once per year. Everyone will take advantage of this holiday season and fully enjoy it.

Sweden’s view of business is different than in the United States. Capitalism is not their priority. I like to work, so I found it challenging to shut down my brain and not think about income-producing opportunities.

I like to serve my customers and create new opportunities. Do I have a healthy balance in my life? When do I “lagom?” Do I “lagom?”

Because of the pandemic, I have not traveled more than 200 miles since my European vacation. During this quiet time of home activities, I have noticed the noise in my life. I have not truly taken a break and unconnected. This is important to me, especially while I am with other people; however, I have chosen not to do it for the sake of productivity.

I need to silence all notifications on my devices to remind myself of the blessing of focus. Maybe I need to lose my phone for a day and observe my productivity, while being unattached. Better yet, avoid turning on any electronics for 24 hours and enjoy people. I will pack myself a fika bag, choose a quiet location and find my lagom.

Will you join me?

Kathie Rotz is a leadership consultant and John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer and coach with Unity Consulting in Dubuque.

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