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.

 

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!

 

Resilience: Asking the other question….

The Other QuestionThis is a time when we are thinking about what lies ahead. Our focus starts to shift more significantly from now to next when looking at strategies and plans.

A productive practice will be to ensure that for every question we ask, we also ask what I call the other question.

What we are considering is the fundamental need to move beyond positive thinking to possibility thinking. We must be able to look at every side of our choices. In my work as a strategist over the years this has proven to be what has made the difference between goals and objectives that are reached with greater ease and those that create struggles, or even get lost along the way. There is always another question to consider. The other question is also what quite often delivers us the greater return.

A simple example of this might be reducing the clutter in our life. We ask ourselves what we need to eliminate. This can be physical within our environment or more resource centric around our money, energy and time.

It can seem counterintuitive to say that in our review and self-discussion we also must ask ourselves what we need to add into our life.

Endings and beginnings are important to see together.

While it may seem not to matter which we ask first, it can be helpful to start with the start! What is it time to begin? To add? Given the resources needed for that, what is it time to release? To make available?

We essentially move into an exchange. That can be significant in how we perceive and handle the practice of letting go. In this case, what we thought was the primary question in truth is secondary although vital.

Questions that drive insight are the ones that move us forward. Here are three areas of questions to consider for developing a possibilitarian point of view that leads to resilience:

What is the real change I want to achieve? Know your true objective. Keep asking until you find it. You cannot stay on track if you don’t know where you really want to go. There are several schools of thought on this in terms of how many layers of questions to go through. In essence, once you get to an emotion, you’re probably there. The more you practice this, the faster you will get to your core value. When we keep our core value at the forefront, resilience is a natural result because we are not looking at a circumstance without context. We are examining everything against how it can serve what we value.

What options am I avoiding? This is crucial because quite often what we refuse to consider is our best choice. We all have non-negotiable positions. That’s not what this is about. This is about what we might be afraid to try or think isn’t a possibility for us. It’s about removing limitations, not compromising boundaries.  When we are practicing a resilient life style, how we perceive things will change and what we never considered before can move front and center. This is just not about avoiding something because we may not want to do it although that is part of it. It is also about avoiding something because it doesn’t seem big enough or it’s failed in the past. Any number of reasons can come into play. What is important is that we exhaust every possibility without initially limiting ourselves to probabilities.

What am I missing? What is going to trip us up? Where are the blind spots? What aren’t we considering that needs to be addressed? What are the risks? If you know them, you can mitigate them from the start or at a minimum, have a plan in place to address them should they happen.  If you do not know the risks, you have not fully defined what you want.  If this is a challenging area for you start with your assumptions. Your risks will be in your assumptions. What are you assuming to be true? What if it is not? What are you assuming is not true? What if it is?

One of the many gifts I received from my iPEC family where I studied for my certification as an Executive Life Coach was a very special stone. I’ve had it for a number of years and it stays with me as a kind of talisman when I’m thinking through something challenging.

On one side, the word problem has been engraved. It literally covers the entire surface. On the other side, you find the word solution. The solution resides within the problem itself. We have to examine it from all sides to find it but it is there. The other question is what will take us there.

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

Resilience: My friend fear..

What Are You Afraid Of?Recently I experienced a situation where fear was an unexpected partner in the dance. Not in an obvious way, but definitely present. In fact, I doubt that anyone involved (including me) recognized at the onset that fear was part of the equation.

I was reminded in that situation that we cannot change what we cannot see. And we won’t see what we are afraid to see. That means that before we can fully experience resiliency in our lives, we must be able to move past fear.

There it is – FEAR. Regardless of how we define success, before we can fully achieve and sustain it we must develop a healthy relationship with fear. Wisdom teaches us that fear can be a positive energy, a partner for change.  But before that can happen, we need to engage fear as our ally.

The first step is to recognize that all of us experience fear. Let’s get some clarity about the many faces and flavors of fear. As I was researching this I found at least 45 synonyms for the word fear from one search. 45! That’s quite a few flavors. And when you move on to all of the additional terms and phrases, the list is literally endless. That tells us something. We get to choose some things about fear in any given situation. We get to put a specific name to our fear. Once we do that, it becomes easier to see it within a context that will allow us to counter and/or leverage it.

The second step is remembering that fear is a basic human emotion. We are born with fear as a primal response in recognition of danger and for self-preservation. Fear is designed in its basic form to serve us. Over time though, we can allow fear to become the danger itself and to be self-limiting.  We need to remember that fear is not an absolute predictor; fear is just an alert mechanism that tells us we need to look at something more carefully before making our choice. Going back to our first point, remember that in this context, fear does not have to remain a reflexive response. Fear can create choices in how we respond. As with any choice, once we recognize we are in a decision moment we know by default we have the power to make a different choice.

But still, claiming fear as an ally can be daunting. After all, it is an incredibly powerful emotion. It can distort our vision, perception and ability to act. In some cases, the fear is clearly invalid and we are able to just choose another response. But in most cases, we will need to engage with our fear and allow it to guide us back to our personal power. That is done using the right questions.

For example, if you are timid (afraid!) in certain situations it most likely won’t be as simple as “I will choose confidence over being timid”.  Most likely, there is an underlying reason you are timid. The key will be to ask yourself what steps you need to take to develop confidence. Instead of focusing on the fear (being timid), focus on the alternative (confidence). First you will have to identify where you lack confidence. You will be able to look at what kinds of situations bring out that timidity and determine why and develop those skills to remove the fear. With that, fear becomes your ally. It lights the way for you to see where you lack confidence so you can take productive measures to restore it. You can then thank your fear for its service and send it on its way!

What about some of the more ambiguous forms of fear such as unease. What is it about this situation creating unease for me? Are those things true? If so, are there steps I can take to be at ease? If so, what are they?  Take those steps, thank your fear (unease) for its service and send it on its way! If you cannot define steps that will help you feel at ease, recognize your unease as a “do not enter” warning”, thank your fear (unease) for its service and send it on its way!

This is a life skill that can serve us in so many situations. Just remember that skill grows from use over time, not time alone. Put this into practice!

When we embrace fear for what it is meant to be – an alert to potential danger – we can leverage it to change outcomes and set ourselves up more effectively for success.

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