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.

 

Who would you choose?

I’m certain you’ve been asked to consider this question before. It’s a simple one.

If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

The idea of this question being a challenge for anyone living has lost at least some of its difficulty given the access available for everyone to everyone today. After all, there are very few barriers that hold in this age of technology. That is without question one of the most astounding possibilities afforded by social media in this age of connection.

But the challenge for those no longer with us does remain. My typical answer is my Dad. There are times when I truly long for a conversation with him. But there is another person that ranks high on the list for me and that is Eleanor Roosevelt. There is much about her life, contribution and overall philosophies that intrigue and inspire me, even where we disagree. A contemporary of my great-grandmother for whom my company is named, what underscores the enormity of her work is the age and time that she did it. She broke through barriers above, below and all around for those causes and people she championed.

Her last book, Tomorrow is Now was published in 1962. She knew she was dying when she started it and there are some that say she willed herself to stay alive long enough to write it. Its message was that important to her. Imagine a message so compelling, a sense of importance in your work so deep that you will yourself to live every day to see it through.

It’s one of the books I’ve chosen for my summer reading list. I’m finding it to be stunningly relevant yet today. The value of education and the fact that personal responsibility is the only way to achieve greatness never diminishes. I’m certain I will be having some lively imaginary chats with her over the coming weeks and I’m looking forward to the conversation.

How would you answer the question?

If it’s a contemporary, make it happen.

If it’s someone no longer with us, I invite you to think about these possibilities:

  • Why do they interest you? How can you learn more? Are there books available, videos, etc. that you can immerse yourself in to create a sense of connection?
  • Is there someone today that is doing similar work or carrying on their work? How can you connect with them? For example, Zig Ziglar was one of my Dad’s personal heroes and so, by extension, became one of mine. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with his son Tom Ziglar several times and it’s been a treasure.
  • How can you carry on the ideas and inspiration of that person today? How can you create that same sense of importance in your life and work? Sometimes we find our own higher purpose and calling by our resonance with someone else’s.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is essential, above all, that in making history we do not forget to learn by history.  It is essential that we cast out fear and face the unknown as our ancestors faced the unknown, with imagination and integrity, with courage and a high heart.”

Learn from yesterday and live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

 

Take your radio to work day!

Old beige vintage retro style radio receiver isolated on white bWe make assumptions about how and to whom we matter in the world. Those will stem from our own beliefs and perspective of the contributions we make.

And yet, sometimes what is most impacting about our life isn’t readily visible to us. We will not always know where we are making the most profound difference.

You see each of us is a miracle. Each of us comes into this life with our own soul print and we make a difference everyday. Even when we aren’t really conscious of it.

Let me tell you a story that brings this vividly to life. In the 1950’s, there were two men that worked in a factory in northern Ohio. One of them worked the afternoon shift and the other the night shift. They did not know each other. Yet their lives would intersect and create profound change.

The young man working second shift had just finished his tour of duty as a Marine during the Korean War. He and his bride had moved from West Virginia to Ohio in search of better opportunities. He often worked the night shift in addition to his regular hours for extra income. One night he was doing just that when he was assigned to a machine next to the other man in our story. Bear in mind that this was not mentally taxing work. In fact boredom was something they continuously contended with, each in their own way.

That night, over the humming of the machines our young Marine heard a very distinctive voice talking about all of his possibilities and how to reach all of those goals he had set for himself simply by changing his thoughts. It was as if this man was speaking directly to him. And so he went in search of the source and found the other man listening to a portable radio. The man speaking on the radio was Earl Nightingale. It was a life changing moment.

Immediately our young Marine was determined! He decided to take on an extra job instead of just extra shifts in order to earn enough money to buy his own portable radio. He had discovered his mentor even before he knew what a mentor was and did not want to miss a single opportunity to hear more! That encounter changed his life. That extra job? It was working as an attendant and mechanic at a local gas station. What happened? Ultimately, he didn’t just show up because he worked there as a mechanic. In time, he showed up because he owned the business.

I doubt that the other man in the story if asked would tell us that the most important thing he did that day was take his radio to work. He wouldn’t say that he changed lives just listening to his radio. But for that young Marine, undoubtedly that was the case. It set his life on a different course. And as a result, it did the same for mine. That young marine was my Dad.

Throughout my life what I learned most from him beyond the values of faith and family was the miracle of personal leadership and development. He defied all of the odds. He surpassed every expectation. A deeply spiritual man, he did it all with a quiet grace and humility that remains a part of his legacy. There was never a time that he was not reading or later listening to recordings and tapes. In fact, I still have his books and some of those early recordings! From that late night shift in the factory until his death, my Dad continued to live a life that celebrated learning and growth each and every day.

My Dad. He never lost sight of who he was. He never lost his vision of who he could become. And he never stopped growing into that man. He lived that legacy every day of his life. As a result, other lives were changed. And his legacy lives on in those lives. Including mine.

Thank you, Dad for always showing us not only who you were but who we could be. Thank you for being a living example of how to become that person more every day. And thank you to the gentleman that was part of God’s plan for our lives and brought his radio to work so all of this would begin!

In memory and honor of my Dad, Happy Father’s Day to all my readers! Always remember, as Earl Nightingale taught my Dad and he ultimately taught me:

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

Success Live: Where everything old is new again…

Success Magazine has been an integral part of my personal development strategy for many years. I look forward to getting the new edition each month and a subscription is one of my favorite things to gift to those brave enough to show me their potential. When they recently created a new opportunity for learning and connection it was an easy choice to say yes.

Success Live. A single day. Just one block on the calendar. Something to look forward to as much (or perhaps more) for the break in routine as for attending the actual event. An easy yes but frankly not really a star on the page. In all candor, that was how I thought about it. Until I experienced it.

I had forgotten the power of new perspectives.  I had forgotten the energy boost of being in the room. The virtual world is a good thing. It has enriched my life enormously but there is still something to be said for being in the room. When I look back over the past few years, it is clear my most significant personal and professional breakthroughs had their genesis in events I’ve attended in-person.

This conference was different however from most in terms of format. Fourteen speakers. In one day. Seven before lunch. Seven after lunch. And lunch was the only break. You really had to engage to keep up. No time for a wandering mind. If you stopped paying attention you would miss something. And from the very first speaker what you knew without a doubt was that you did not want to miss anything.

Time tested principals and philosophies were front and center. But with fresh voices and life stories demonstrating their continued relevance for all of us.

Here are a few highlights from my notes:

From Brendon Burchard we heard again from Aristotle, who also influenced Will Durant’s writings in his book The Story of Philosophy (1926). He spoke about the science of habit. If you want to know how extraordinary people achieve that status – this is how:

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Motivation may be what gets us started, but it is habit in the end that gets us to the finish line. We don’t make a difference by what we start, we earn that influence by what we repeatedly do.

Listening to Tom Bilyeu (co-founder of Quest Nutrition) I was reminded of David Bayer’s work which I discovered at a conference last year. Tom’s work also includes the interview series Impact Theory which is rich beyond measure for those of us seeking to understand mastery of our thoughts and self-discipline. His interview with Lewis Howes, another presenter at this event is well worth the listen.

Tom’s presentation was especially valuable to me as this is where I’m spending a great deal of time in self-reflection right now – the idea of keeping our promises to ourselves and installing the right disciplines to help us reach our full potential.

His signature statement for me was this: “Do and believe that which moves you to your greatness.”

It really comes down to these two questions:

  • Who do you want to become?
  • What price are you willing to pay to get there?

Another speaker that has stayed with me was Jonathan Fields. This was a lesson for me in staying open. I wasn’t familiar with his work and his presentation was later in the day. I was nearing capacity for taking in information. What I can share with you is that I have very few notes from his presentation. He drew me in from the start and I didn’t want to interrupt the experience even with notes. It was the presentation in a day of excellence that moved me the most. Since then I have been living with his voice in my head and I’ve been studying his thoughts through his books and other resources. His story is so powerful. His book Uncertainty is what I’m currently reading. There is no question that my future endeavors and writings will be influenced by what I’m learning from him.

A day of reflection and questions. Questions that we need to be asking ourselves continuously to ensure that we are always striving to live our best life and be of optimal service in the world.

These were the challenges I took home with me:

  • What decision have you been unwilling to make?
  • What action have you been unwilling to take?
  • What connection have you been unwilling to initiate?
  • What goal have you be unwilling to set?

Giving ourselves permission to face these questions is where the process begins.  Empowering ourselves to take the next action as we answer these questions is where the transformation begins. Continuing to ask these questions is where our gifts can reach their highest possibilities.

I trust that what I brought home with me also resonates with you. Always remember that there is more value in the rest of your story than you ever dreamed possible. Live today in the belief that you are creating the tomorrow that will transport you beyond achievement to joyous fulfillment.

Live well.

P.S. There is another Success Live event coming up in September.  If you’re looking to capture this experience for yourself, take advantage of the early bird registration. You won’t be disappointed.