I have something a little embarrassing to admit. I was listening to a podcast from NPR, Joshua Johnson’s 1A show (It’s So Hard To Be Grateful, November 20, 2017) and I found myself being critical of the comments from some of the guests on the podcast. And, then I laughed to myself as I recognized the irony. I was criticizing a podcast titled, “It’s so Hard to be Grateful!” So, I recognized my mistake and then self-corrected. The way I got myself back on track was to commit to writing this blog about all the wonderful insights and nuggets I was grateful for receiving from this podcast.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope you find some meaning in this and actively seek out ways to be grateful this holiday season.
Nugget #1: “If you look hard enough, there’s always something you can be grateful for.”
This quote says it all! When I first started listening to the podcast, I was listening with a critical ear and I wasn’t focused on listening for all the nuggets I could find. Our brains naturally scan the environment for danger to help keep us safe. So, we need to work against our wiring to see what is working. This takes tremendous practice and even then, we fall into the trap of negative or critical thinking.
So, here’s a challenge for you - when you find yourself criticizing or complaining about something, think of three things that are working or that you do appreciate. Remember, we believe what we see and see what we believe. When you train yourself to see what’s working, or what you appreciate, your belief about others—and outcomes—will begin to change as well.
Nugget #2: “Mindfulness is the practice of keeping our attention focused on moment to moment in a non-judgmental way.”
This definition of mindfulness is a great reminder that mindfulness and being grateful are a practice, not a goal. I think of leadership in the same way. Being a focused, conscious leader is something that I work towards every day. And, those times when I stray off track, like I did when I initially listened to the podcast, I then notice what’s happening (without judgment) and then look for a way to get back on track. (And no, the track is not walking to happy hour!) As soon as we judge ourselves, we enter a downward spiral and get stuck in our thinking. When we learn to notice without judgement, we learn to have self-compassion (rather than be self-critical). This creates openness in our mind and allows for new alternatives to emerge.
Nugget #3: "Mindfulness is the practice of developing awareness and learning how to respond to life in a more skillful way.”
What I love about this quote is ‘a more skillful way.’ The reality is that we’re responding to life all the time. So, we can either be conscious and intentional about it, or we can respond without thought. The choice is ours.
Nugget #4: “How can I be content with what I have and ambitious with what I want?”
This is something I have spent time grappling with myself. From studying Polarity Thinking with Barry Johnson, I have learned to identify these tensions as polarities. In this case, I would label this polarity (or tension) as: 1) being content and 2) being ambitious. What’s helpful is to recognize that there’s an upside to being “content” (i.e., appreciating what is, being in the moment, etc.), and there’s a downside if I over-focus on it (i.e., becoming lazy, complacent, disengaged, etc.).
Similarly, there’s an upside to being “ambitious” (i.e., achieve new goals, brings me energy, innovation, etc.), and there’s also a downside (i.e., moving too quickly, burning out). There is a place in which I can find gratitude while continuing to improve myself. And, I find this place by being aware of my actions and the impact my behaviors have on me and others.
Nugget #5: Create a Gratitude Jar at work or at home
I thought this was a great tip for the office or the home. How it works:
‘Tis the season to be grateful! This might be a good activity to start on Thanksgiving day. Set the jar out in the morning and have everyone write down 1-2 items that they’re grateful for. Then during dinner, pass the jar around and read the comments.
I’m grateful you have read this blog! And I’d love to hear what you do to keep gratitude front and center at home and at work. And I’m curious to know what you do when you get off track too. Write a comment or send me a tweet @LauraMendelow. In the meantime, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!