Resiliency: Creating perspective with gratitude

Nothing challenges our beliefs like pain.

Whether physical, mental or emotional, when pain strikes, all bets are off when it comes to what we might have expected in our responses.

That is why it’s crucial for us to have a tool to create context and perspective for those moments.

That tool is gratitude.

You cannot be stressed and genuinely grateful at the same time. You cannot be angry and grateful at the same time. They are counter-intuitive emotions.

It can be hard to find gratitude when your world seems to be crumbling. And it’s maddening when others tell you about the silver lining in your cloud; or that there’s a purpose to everything. We know that of course. But at that moment, that’s not what we need to hear. What we feel in that moment is that nothing matters except the moment and its pain.

The most helpful thing we can do is to contain the moment and gain some perspective, even distance from the pain.

The fastest path to that wisdom is gratitude. This is not about being grateful for the pain. In fact, sometimes it’s about anything but the pain. Sometimes we need to rest the eyes of our soul for a moment. We need a life lens that takes away the harsh painful glare. Simple gratitude can do that for us.

However, I know from personal experience that gratitude will not always come naturally. It too is a skill that must be honed and developed. It is also one of the most vital prerequisites for resilience.

If we are not grateful we will not see the point in creating good. In the end, that’s what gratitude is really about – finding the good.

It may not be about everything in the moment, but it can be about something.

I remember during some dark days when it took all of my strength just to get through the day that the corner of light was always there because of gratitude. It was my diversion from pain to peace. Even if just for a moment, it immersed me in something outside of the pain.

Taking time to seek the good and be grateful begins to balance the scales.

It was during these days that I began a life practice that still sustains me now and that is my gratitude journal. Each day I express gratitude. A journal is a natural expression for me as a writer. It can take many forms but once we develop this life practice the skill becomes a part of us and something very special begins to happen.

We begin to seek the good in everything. We search for those reminders and we find them. After all, whatever it is we seek, that is what we find.

This is what begins to establish a life that is centered around gratitude as a core value. It takes us beyond the moment and into a deeper and richer experience of life. When someone asks how I am able to see possibilities where others may not, it usually comes back to this. When we begin to seek the good, we begin to find it. Not only in those days and times as an antidote to pain, but everyday and how we see our world overall.

Our thoughts are like magnets. When they are about what is good, that will be what we attract. Even when on the surface, we may not see it. The good is there. And we will find it. That’s the power of gratitude. It changes our perspective about pain but even more, it changes our perspective about life.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

 

5 Clues You May Need A Balance Check

Work and life balance is a popular topic for executive and life coaches. It’s not a concept that I fully embrace even though I’m trained to help others achieve it. There seems, at times, to be a belief that we can proportion ourselves out in some measured way across all the demands of life. That hasn’t really been successful in my experience. Life doesn’t happen that way.

It has been my experience that the more we attempt to create silos or compartmentalize our various roles, the more we face conflicting priorities and ultimately, always feel like we are failing somewhere or someone. Quite frankly, it’s not how I live or even want to live.

What I do believe is important is an awareness that we are a multi-dimensional being that needs our care and attention. That can be achieved when instead of creating unsustainable boundaries we create an integrated view of who we are and the value we bring to our world.

Victor Hugo expressed it well when he said: “To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.”

The balance I think about is rather like how an aircraft balances and levels itself during flight, constantly adjusting its positioning to stay on course.

When we look at it from that perspective, there are some clues that will tell us if we need to make some adjustments in our lives to remain on course.

Here are five checkpoints I invite you to consider:

  • The first one is in fact the most important and if this isn’t in check, there’s no reason to go further until it’s addressed. I learned this one from life and success mentor, Jim Rohn, and it is simply this: Wherever you are, be there. That’s my first check. If I’m working and thinking about something else, I’m not going to be effective. If I’m with friends and family but thinking about work, I’m not going to be engaged. There’s a balance issue and I need to adjust by shutting something down to course correct.
  • The second one is what I call my calendar check. When I review my plan for the week each Sunday, I check my values against my calendar. Where are my health goals showing up? My learning goals? My relationship goals? If all the parts of my life aren’t there it’s time for a tuning. Rather like a flight plan before take-off. We need to know we’ve got everything working as needed for a successful journey.
  • My third check-in focuses on my core value of personal growth. I want to ensure that I am growing across multiple disciplines. My growth needs to be aligned to my goals and not just my profession. Whatever it is we seek we also need to study. I found that I wanted to grow in my knowledge around finance and investment. But my personal development plan didn’t reflect that. Now there are books in my library, I regularly attend seminars and have several podcasts I follow.
  • The fourth check point is related to the first one but its importance merits its own reflection and that is relationships. Each week I check in with my inner circle and also review where I’m growing and need to expand that circle.
  • The last point is less specific but matters a great deal and it is this: Am I happy? Do I feel satisfied with how I am showing up in the world and the contribution I am making? We can get so busy with the demands of life we forget to enjoy life.

Five check points – clues in each one for adjusting and calibrating how we are living our lives to ensure we are making our highest possible contribution in each moment.

These are the disciplines of legacy and are deserving of our attention. Balance? Perhaps not. Harmonized? Guarding that everyday.

Live (harmonize) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (harmonize) well.

 

Do you have what it takes?

It’s a question that in some form we often ask.

What will it take to do something, have something, be something?

What will it take to have more of something, less of something or be done with it altogether?

What will it take? Do I have it?

 

When I stopped to really consider where I have succeeded in attaining a goal and where it has alluded me, I found that there were five things that have made a significant difference. A few of them surprised me but as they say, success leaves clues and these have proven themselves by their presence many times over. It is less about what it takes in terms of what we do, and more of what it takes for who we need to be.

#1 – Be comfortable being a beginner

Quite often when we have already achieved success in some area of our life we tend to get comfortable being in that “attainment” mode. But that holds us back.  To move on to what is next, we must be willing to once again be that beginner. What does that mean? It means recognizing there is still so much to take in. It means staying curious. It means recognizing that to be valued as a teacher, we must continuously seek deeper value as a student.

#2 – Embrace being yourself

It is quite possible, perhaps even advisable to follow a prescribed path to get somewhere. But it would be invalid to think that it would be the only way to get there. The path we choose is just that, a choice. There is only one way to fully embrace our individuality and value and that is by taking responsibility for ourselves and determining the value we want to create. Those that go far beyond success and attain significance in their impact and influence are those that take responsibility for their part of the story. We must first embrace ourselves before we can truly embrace the world and influence others. What determines if you have what it takes? It isn’t  a what, it’s a who. And the who is you.

#3- Relish making a choice

Those able to continuously move into their best place for success have this as a distinctive part of their modus operandi. They choose. And they choose timely. Because no choice is still a choice. Not saying yes is the equivalent of no. Indecision is indeed a myth.

The most critical insight for me was recognizing that how we handle the seemingly small choices in life is the best predictor of how we will manage the more significant opportunities. If we aren’t making good choices within our day, ultimately that shows up as ineffective choices for our lives.

#4- Crave mastery

Competition is not something that drives me. In fact, I tend to reject any situations that have a highly competitive energy. It just doesn’t resonate with me. But I am highly driven. Gaining an understanding of that distinction was invaluable for me. What drives me? Mastering my craft. Learning something well and finding even greater depths and capacity within myself. Good can be the enemy of great when greatness is the real goal. Regardless of what we choose as our form of measurement, the desired result is the same: Mastery – Being the absolute best we can be.

#5- Live from a place of gratitude

This has been the most significant constant throughout the best experiences in my life. Gratitude is not just being appreciative of what someone does for us. Gratitude is a recognition of everything that has made good possible. It is a constant seeking of the good in order to show our appreciation for it, celebrate it. In his program MindHack, David Bayer teaches that gratitude in its basic form is energy. That was such a profound image to soak in. Living from a state of gratitude, a state of grace is living from the purest form of energy available to us.

Imagine these thoughts as a mantra, a manifesto for your life. That’s what I’m working toward in mine just now. Since our true legacy will be determined by how we live rather than what we leave, I am seeking qualities that are worthy.

It’s interesting to me as well that the same things that are true for ourselves as individuals for making a difference are also true as a foundation for bringing together those that we lead.

Imagine a group that is committed to constant curiosity and growth, willing to stake their uniqueness in the world, take the risks that will propel them into greatness, do the work that will sustain that position and ultimately celebrate everything and everyone that made it all possible.

My bet would be that they would indeed have what it takes.

What would you do? Setting the right response in motion

A key lesson that I have learned over the past few years is that the easiest way to change how we respond to things or people we encounter is to have a system in place to help us. Frustration grows when it just seems like someone or something pushes our buttons every time. That trigger is going to continue to plague us until we change it. While it’s great when we can do that just by choosing to make that change, the reality is that it’s rarely that simple.

My experience has been that it really comes to down to sleuthing, solving the mystery, evaluating vs. judging. You see, that’s where I found the real issue. We can get so busy judging ourselves for our reaction, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to understand it. When we understand it, we are equipped to change it in a meaningful and sustainable way.

What you give meaning to is what causes your emotion. Before you react know why you are giving something so much energy or fear. When you begin to understand why you give things meaning you can begin to change how you react and why you do what you do.  ~Shannon L. Alder

There are five key investigation tools to use that will help you master the art of reaction every time. Using the word REACT, let’s break them down.

R – Recognition

This is the first step. Simply recognizing it’s happening and taking responsibility for it. Just by asking ourselves if in fact we are reacting, we start a valuable chain reaction shift. We are taking responsibility for our side of the equation.

E – Emotion

Emotions are wonderful. They are such a part of what makes life such an exquisite experience. But they can also derail us when they are part of a triggered response. In my early training as an executive coach we broke this down into another acronym – FLAGS. We use that to identify the dominant emotion in our response. Fear, Love, Anger, Guilt or Sadness. FLAGS. Once we can pinpoint the emotion that’s involved we can begin to determine where the core response and put productive measures in place to handle it. If the trigger brings up guilt as an example, that’s very different from fear in terms of next steps. But in both cases, it is the initial recognition of the emotion that will lead us to the next right questions.

A – Attitude

What did you expect? Where are your sensitivities? Many years ago, when I was really struggling communicating with a fellow executive, I had a conversation with a trusted friend and mentor. He suggested that my sensitivities were high and that I was expecting a certain action and so that is what I saw.  My attitude was a conditioning agent. I had to first be open to a positive exchange before one could happen.  Being candid with ourselves about our expectations and attitude toward a person or situation is a critical part of our excavation to our solution.

C – Context

This was perhaps the most important element for me in a number of situations. Has someone ever asked you what a word meant and you weren’t certain or there were several possibilities? What do you normally ask them to do? I suspect it might be to ask them to use it in a sentence to help you better understand what it might mean. The context of anything is the ultimate lens for deciphering it’s meaning. What else is going on? Is it related? Not related? Is it influencing? One example might be that you’ve had a pretty long day and you’re physically exhausted. You’re tired. Does that seem to be a factor in some cases? Or perhaps there was an incident just prior that left some unresolved emotions that are spilling over.

T – Truth

What do you know to be true? This is an essential question because it allows us to get to the taproot of the situation quickly. When we take assumptions off the table or at least recognize them for what they are, we’re in fact clearing judgments and other potential mental or emotional clutter in reviewing our next steps.

R-E-A-C-T

RECOGNIZE what is happening;

Identify the dominant EMOTION;

Check your ATTITUDE coming into the situation;

Consider the CONTEXT of the situation; and,

Focus on what is TRUE.

That’s the process. That’s the system. Like anything regarding our personal framework, it’s also a skill. This can be your most effective system for productive personal change.

As a final note, remember that as we change ourselves, we are also creating the opportunity to change other people’s perspective of us as well. That’s especially true for those where we have influence but it’s also not limited there. When we employ this skill, we can inspire others to do the same. It creates a CHAIN REACTION that’s positive and constructive.

Live (react) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (react) well.

 

Are your goals IDEAL? It’s a good time to check them out!

It seems just a moment ago, we were ushering in the new year and yet here we are, almost at the end of the first month of this trip around the sun.

Statistics tell us that this is the time when we are most at risk of losing our momentum for the determination and drive we embraced as the calendar page turned.

Life has already started to challenge us.

My focus this year is around investment. And I can personally attest to the fact that resistance has already appeared. But I can also sense and see where for me, this time I’ll be defying those odds (don’t you love when that happens?) and my resilience is showing resistance the door.

I’ve been giving thought to what creates our ability to sustain our pursuit of our dreams beyond the blush of making them.

As I was listening to a speaker this past weekend talk about real estate investments I began to see a universal application to some principals he was sharing. The segment was on how to know when you had found an ideal property for investment. While the specific details are different, the concept of testing your choice before the commitment of investment was directly on point.

There are so many things we can do. We have so many choices in terms of where we want to grow. How do we know that the goals we’ve chosen will in fact stand the test of time?

Using the word IDEAL as our guide, here are some thoughts to consider:

I-IMPACT

When we know what the results of our efforts will be, they have a higher probability to be sustainable. As Jim Rohn taught: “When the promise is clear, the price is easy.”  We have to start with the promise.

D-DEFINED 

The plan to achieve needs to be flexible but not vague. This is also vital to long-term success. What steps are we taking, in what time frame and how are we going to track progress?

E-ENERGY 

When you think about the impact and effort, how do you feel? What energy is produced? High? Low? Excitement? Dread? Everything in our life either creates or consumes energy. The ideal goal will do both but not be in equal proportions. It will be producing more positive energy than it expends. If thinking about your goal does not energize you, it’s in jeopardy.

A-ALIGNMENT 

This could be the place where we are most vulnerable. When we set a goal that isn’t in alignment with the rest of our life it can become a point of contention, even conflict with other priorities. When we begin by creating alignment for the goal, we are supporting its ultimate success. We are making room for it from the onset. Sometimes this is not just alignment for our own life but also alignment with others in our core circles.

L-LEVERAGE

While this is in the final spot, it could be considered the secret sauce of the whole effort. What do you have you can leverage and integrate into this new work? How will you be able to leverage the results of this goal for future work? What opportunities are being created before, during and after success? It is the bridge between now and next.

Our investments must be setup for success from the start.

Let’s recap: The IDEAL goal will have a championed impact, be exquisitely defined, bring optimized energy, support alignment in our life and create opportunities to leverage resources we have now and produce an outcome we can leverage for everything to follow.

I believe It’s a good check-up for where we’re focused. What about you? How do your goals fare? Are they IDEAL for this time and place in your life?

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well!