I am a fan of Food Network’s Chopped® cooking show. I am an even bigger Chopped Junior™ fan.
I am amazed at the skill and creativity of the Chopped chefs in taking a mass of ingredients (some of which are very foreign to me) and combining them into a dish that is edible and, in fact, enjoyable.
But of course, this would astound me for my motto is “give me a recipe or give me take-out!”
I am even more amazed at the pre-teen chefs competing on Chopped Junior. Did I even know how to boil water at the age of 11?
Beyond the creative cooking skills, these young people provide us with behavioral lessons to apply both at work and at home.
First of all – the Chopped Junior contestants offer their help freely – to each other – during the heat of battle.
The other day, one contestant had plated her entree round and had time to spare. She noticed another contestant was struggling and may not have completed her plating. She offered to help. Help was accepted and plating was completed within the time limit. The judges noticed the kind gesture.
On Chopped, you rarely see a contestant digging in to help others. In some cases, I have even seen contestants refuse to give an extra ingredient that they have on their table to a fellow contestant in need.
Secondly, the Chopped Junior contestants encourage each other.
At the end of each round, the eliminated contestant will hug or shake hands with his/her competitors. Whereas on Chopped, you see the chopped contestant leave the area without a glance at his/her competitors.
Third, the Chopped Junior contestants see failure as a learning opportunity.
Each Chopped Junior contestant speaks to the lessons they have learned and the value of the experience as they leave the studio. Whereas on Chopped, you often hear the competitors saying that they know better than the judges and that their dish was, indeed, superior. They believe they were wrongly chopped!
Why the vast difference? Is it due to the “dangling carrot” of the $10,000 prize to the winner? The Chopped contestants are planning to use their winnings for their livelihood. The Chopped Junior contestants covet the Chef’s jacket while their winnings will go into their college fund.
As we often see, a scarcity mentality leads to behaviors unbecoming to adults.
Maybe it is time for all of us “all-knowing grownups” to take a lesson from these 11- and 12-year old aspiring chefs? Maybe it is time for us to respond to our life’s situations with the maturity and composure of the Chopped Junior contestants?
- Offer help freely.
- Encourage each other.
- See failure as a learning opportunity.
Exercising these simple lessons could very well result in all of us being winners, regardless of our chosen path!
We bring to the workplace our thoughts of what “normal” is. In the past, I have often heard “Susan, be like this person” or “Susan, be like that person”. This feedback has led me to feel that I needed to be someone else.
I have resisted this. I am not like everyone else. I am loud. I am enthusiastic. I am over the top. I always want to change things up. I am out there.
“OK – calm down. Breathe. Be like ‘normal’ people. Be the same — not different.”
I have failed miserably at “same”. The little voice in the back of my mind murmurs, “Hmmmm – you are not measuring up”. I knew that all of the feedback I was receiving was actually true. I knew that I could be loud. I knew that I could be assertive. I knew that I have this craving urge to change things. I was (and still am) very self aware about all of this.
That was the struggle. I was of the belief that the way to build relationships, and therefore achieve success, was to be like others. This thought stemmed from past feedback and experiences.
Back in the 80s, I was hired to be part of an instructional team of 17 facilitators. The entire team was sourced for similarity — similar backgrounds, similar experience, similar personalities. And that worked for this team … until our initial project ended.
As work diversified, I was assigned to team with a colleague on a curriculum development project. We discussed direction and approach during our initial brainstorming meeting. I offered to write up some draft objectives for our review the next time we met. We knew that this overview document would be a rough cut.
During our next work session, the following conversation ensued.
Susan: “This is what I am thinking — what do you think?”
Colleague: “Susan, you need a comma in this sentence.”
Susan: “Yes, thanks. But tell me, what do you think about this approach/concept?”
Colleague: “And there should be a period here and I don’t think these two words go together.”
This “dialogue” went on for a while. I was saying look at the big picture concepts. My colleague was focusing on the details. I left that meeting thinking that I would never be able to work with this person. We didn’t see things in the same way.
Shortly after our conversation, we had an opportunity to attend a leadership course with the other members of our team. During this workshop, we were introduced to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator®. Comparing my results to my colleague’s results — yes — we were the exact opposite. I was an ENFP – a big picture external focus; my colleague was an ISTJ – a detailed inward focus. At that moment, it clicked with me. Now, I know why we were so frustrated. It had nothing to do with our ability to work together, but it had everything to do with seeing things in a different way. Even though we were hired for our similarities, we were different.
This was 30 years ago when this epiphany hit. Since then, I have grown more and more willing to embrace differences and different preferences in others. But what I have not done during that time is grown more comfortable embracing my difference. I felt like I had to be like everyone else. This person is doing this — so I had to do that. This person is making this career move, so I need to make a similar move. I would see my perception of personal success and failure in others’ moves and promotions. I never saw my “worthy” self as one that I truly am.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2104, when I was introduced to the Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage®. This content focuses on our personal branding from an external viewpoint. How do others see us? What makes us different?
I learned that our ability to influence is subject to commoditization, competition, and distraction. I learned that we each speak a specific language that allows us to fascinate, stand out and be heard above the noise. I learned that when we are communicating in our preferred language, we are at our best — delivering our highest value.
On that July afternoon, I learned that I speak the language of relationships and creativity. I learned that I am an out of the box thinker. I am energetic. I am enthusiastic. I learned that my “quicksand” was the language of stability and routine. I get dragged down when asked to repeat tasks and processes. I avoid the status quo like the plague.
These are the same comments that people have said to me all of my life. But now, I see this as a good thing. My focus on relationships and passion for creativity are how I deliver my highest value. This is how people see me at my best. It’s ok to be enthusiastic, energetic, relational, creative, a re-inventor. It is ok to be different.
“Different is better than better.”
– Sally Hogshead
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Being different flavors the pot.[/inlinetweet] Picture a fruit salad. Pineapple chunks. Strawberries. Grapes. Pears. Apples. Singularly each has a unique taste – each is different. When you put them all together in a bowl, you still taste the individual pieces, but they all contribute to the overall mouth flavor.
Now think of yourself and each of your team members as individuals, with unique contributions. When combined, you retain your uniqueness, but you also contribute to the value and performance of the team. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Yes, there are Is in team.[/inlinetweet]
Identify what makes you different. Embrace it. Leverage it. Be proud of your uniqueness.
How does your difference deliver value? Please share.
I often wonder if many think that the “soooo busy” whine is a badge of honor. Doesn’t “busy-ness” validate us? If we are sooooooo busy, then that must mean we are needed, wanted, important, the missing link in the lives of others! Racing at work – racing at home: the similarity to a hamster in a wheel going round and round and round is startling. However, when the “hamster wheel” stops, one collapses – mindless and numb.
In the book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte explores our frenetic attraction to the busy-ness of our daily lives. Schulte conveys the conundrum with this quote from sociologist, Edson Rodriguez.
“As a culture, we have translated speed into being a virtue. If you are busy, if you get things done quickly, if you move quickly throughout the day, it expresses success. You’re achieving.”
In Guy Kawasaki’s Huffington Post article detailing key points from Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder, he challenges us “to stop the glorification of busy and start redefining success.”
I am jumping on this same bandwagon and asking all of us to stop counting unread email messages and start counting the moments where we are at peace with our workload and our family and our friend commitments.
But how do we do this? I have some suggestions.
“Put First Things First”
Stephen Covey’s Habit 3: Put First Things First, in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, counsels us to create and live by our mission statement. This statement, of course, communicates our “end in mind” (Habit 2) and puts us in control of our lives (Habit 1: Be Proactive). The mission statement describes our priorities. Document them. Schedule them. Then commit to living them.
As you see, “living our priorities” requires a bit of balance. We can keep our priorities in our head, and then quickly forget them when something more “appetizing” comes along. We can document and schedule, but not have the fortitude or conviction to stick to our scheduled commitments. Doing one without the other will force a figurative tumble. Documenting the life you wish and then committing yourself to live this documented life will provide you the courage to say “no” to the wasteful and “yes” to the mindful.
Loose the Ego
Our self-esteem is related to our perception of being needed. “They want me.” “They need me.” “I am the expert.” “I must be everything to everyone.” (Oooooh – that last one is the first step to self-esteem destruction. Really now – is it possible to be “everything to everyone”?) So, forgive yourself for being human. Understand that there are only so many hours in a day (24 at last count – even though I did just see a Business Center in a hotel with a sign saying it was open 30 hours a day). And, during each set of 24 hours, we must care for ourselves (notice that is first), care for our family and friends, and care for our chosen profession. In my opinion, the “miracle person” is one who realizes the limitations of “doing it all” and instead, does the important – in all areas of life.
Shift Your Mindset
Sure, you are racing between work, kids’ practices, the grocery store, and a million other tasks that occupy your day. Are you letting your mind slip into a time-constrained martyrdom? Or are you shifting into a more positive, optimistic mode which allows you to value spending time teaming with fellow professionals on an important project, communicating with and learning about the kids in the car as you drive to practice, observing your child’s improved skills in the activity being undertaken, thinking about creative menus you can concoct with the variety of foods in the grocery store, etc. You see, it is all about mindset – the “glass half-empty vs. glass half-full” thing. If we think we are frazzled and frantic, we are. But if we see each moment as an opportunity to learn and experience, doesn’t our blood pressure decrease and a sense of stillness and calm overcome us? These minds of ours are pretty powerful things. Just a small shift transforms “overwhelmed and submerged” to “encouraged and uplifted”.
Be Aware: Your Expectations are a Mirror-Image of Your Actions
In many cases, others may interpret your actions as expectations you have for them. Is that what you want? For example, what are your communication patterns with your team members? Do you send emails long before the workday begins or long after the workday ends or throughout the weekend? Do you have the expectation that your team member answer? In most cases (I hope), I would say your answer is no. But in this high-stress, frenzied, busy-ness we all live in, do your team members know what your expectations are? Watch your actions. Communicate your expectations. Remember, it’s the quality of the work that defines success … not the quantity.
If you refuse to take responsibility for yourself, who will? Quick answer – no one. So, prioritize your rejuvenation by taking a few moments each day to read or exercise. Spend time being mindful or participating in your favorite “me” activity. Funny thing – by taking quality time for yourself, you actually find more time for others. Hmmmm – how does that happen?
It’s Your Choice
We talk about the desire to have work/life balance. We say we don’t have it. But are we actually doing something about it – other than complaining? Are we taking actions to stop the madness, prioritize, and breathe? Greg McKeown, in his HBR blog article “Why We Humblebrag About Being Busy” asks you to become an “Essentialist”, one who shifts toward the “disciplined pursuit of less, but better.” Take some time and take a look. As McKeown says, “we have two choices.”
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life. “
“Very often, human beings are living … on autopilot, reacting automatically with what happens. What interests me about the life of an explorer is you are in the unknown; you are out of your habits.”
– Bertrand Piccard
I recently had an “aha moment” while attending a conference. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference was a large one (~13,000 participants) held in a large venue (the Orange County Convention Center). The logistics of putting on such an event boggles my mind.
On the last day, following the final keynote speaker (the former First Lady Laura Bush), we attendees shuffled out of the General Session and wound our way to the next session of our choosing. I was attending a session one floor up – so I calmly stood in a line with hundreds of people moving toward the escalator. One step at a time we went – slowly – methodically.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something startling. A man was walking “up” the adjacent “down” escalator. How silly, I thought. He must really be in a hurry. But – on further observation – I noticed that the “down” escalator was actually going “up”. (A wise move by Convention Center staff to ease the crowd gridlock.) Once I realized that the escalator was going the “right” way, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and leave the traditional “up” line. Others followed suit.
As I did this, I marveled at how many of us (myself included) failed to notice this avenue of assistance. We are conditioned to line up on the right and to shuffle our way calmly to the bottom of the escalator where we will ascend, all in an orderly fashion. A remedy to this conditioning was provided for us – but we either failed to notice or failed to take advantage of it.
At this point, I became mindful of my surroundings in search of other ways in which our conditioning might be challenged. And yes, I found it in the women’s restroom. At conferences such as this, there seems to be a continual line outside of the women’s restroom. Each woman patiently waits her turn, moving closer to her goal one step at a time. But with a bit more attention, one could see an alternative to that line. The sign to the adjacent men’s restroom had been covered with a pink 8.5×11 piece of paper on which the words Women’s Restroom were boldly printed. I witnessed this in several high traffic volume areas. (Don’t worry, gentlemen, they did not do this for all of the restroom pairs in the Center.) I had to smile as I looked at the modified signage. The transformed Men’s-to-Women’s Restrooms had no lines. Looking at the traditional Women’s Restrooms, I saw lines coming out of each.
In just a few minutes time, I happened upon two opportunities for attendees to ease their way. However, many didn’t even take notice of the changes and the added conveniences that were offered. We are so comfortable with the known – the automatic – that we fail to see the options that present themselves to us. In a lifetime, I wonder how many opportunities are missed due to an engaged autopilot and a disengaged mind.
This was a wake-up call for me – and it may be for all of us. It is time to become mindful, to question the traditional and search for the opportunities that surround us.
To do so, however, we must act differently. What will you do, today, to become more mindful? How will you move from the comfort zone of the known into the abyss of the unknown? How will you raise your awareness and open yourself to opportunities that present themselves?
Disrupt yourself. How often do our habits engulf us – sending us on a “mindless” journey where we do same thing over and over again? Make a pact with yourself that you will do something different today … and each day thereafter! It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. Even a small disruption in routine will sharpen your mind and provide you with a renewed energy and awareness.
Stop – look – listen. We see this warning on railroad track crossings. Hopefully, all of us follow these instructions. But I wonder. I wonder if we just look at these track crossings as a momentary “slowing” while we listen for a train whistle, hoping to quickly cross and continue our mind-numbing travel. Instead – STOP. LOOK. LISTEN. What are you missing as you hurry on your way? What are you not seeing because you scan as opposed to examine? What are you not hearing because you fail to listen? Or worse yet, what do you miss when you “tune out” because you already have the answer in your mind? Each day, set aside some time to be mindful. Let this habit become ubiquitous as you activate your Sherlock Holmes-esque keen sense of observation.
Laugh. Smile. Hug someone. Become a participating member of the human race. Find someone with whom you want to share something. Enjoy another’s company. Learn something new from this person. So often we mindlessly shuffle in line – not looking at each other, not talking to each other. Instead, say hello to a stranger. Smile at a child. Laugh at a joke or movie. Get out of your “worry-a-day” cocoon and embrace life.
John Teasdale’s (former Oxford University cognition researcher) quote in David Rock’s “How Often Are We on Mental Autopilot? You Might Be Surprised” says it best:
“Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort… it’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.”
Tell us – what will you do to disengage your autopilot and engage your mindfulness?
Some subjects may not seem to fit in a leadership blog. Passion might be one of those. But I believe passion is an important topic to address for our passions are what make us people. Our passions keep us vibrant. Our passions create space for learning. Our passions challenge us in such subtle ways that we do not experience hardship of loss or potential for failure. Our passions fuel our minds and our bodies. Our passions create Ben Zander’s version of “shining eyes” in our teams and ourselves.
Each April, the Katie Caples Foundation sponsors the Katie Ride for Life on Florida’s Amelia Island. The “Ride” is a cycling event, a walking event, and a running event. For 2014, a spinning bike component was added to the mix. And that is where I witnessed the passion that prompted this piece.
Gary Humphrey (adventurer, survival skills instructor, former member of the Royal Marines and UK Special Forces, Discovery Channels survival expert/TV presenter and all-around nice guy) challenged himself to participate in this event by riding 24 hours on one of the stationary spinning bikes. He was joined by others periodically during the day, night, and following morning. But, the tenacity to keep on that bike for 24 hours solely rested on his shoulders. See, Gary has passion for the causes he represented: the Katie Ride for Life (supporting organ donor education) and Walking with the Wounded (supporting wounded military in their efforts to retrain, re-skill, and find new careers). Gary’s passion trumped his pain. He stayed the course for his causes and those who believed in him.
How can someone do this? What is inside a person that accomplishes these types of feats? The short answer – passion. A passion for something bigger/greater than oneself. A passion for a cause, a belief, a deep-seated reason-to-be.
Need proof? Listen to Amy Purdy (Snowboarder, Olympian, “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, double-amputee).
“Your passion is attached to your purpose.”
Passion interrupts doubt.
When one has pure passion about a cause, obstacles are overcome. Determination is hardened. The focus is on moving toward conclusion, objective, and achievement. Passion answers the question “why am I doing this?”
Author Elizabeth Gilbert equates one’s passion to one’s home.
“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. … Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”
I get a bit concerned when people use “passion” as a cover-up for unscrupulous or evil deeds. We see and hear of others harming/disrupting lives and lifestyles in the name of “passion”. That is not passion. True passion is uplifting and healing – not harmful or distressing. When we choose to follow a path on which we will harness all of our energies, it should be for the greater good. The litmus test of a passion – does it help or does it hurt?
Passion drives us to do extraordinary things.
And with passion, extraordinary is sustained.
Does fear get in the way of identifying or exploring your passion? What if you are in the wrong field? What if you have invested a great deal of time in your work/job/education, only to realize that it is the wrong fit for you? Sometimes we believe that the track we are following (and have been following for many years) is the track on which we should continue. It is scary to jump tracks. It is frightening to give up what you know and what makes you comfortable in order to follow something as ethereal and untested as a passion. So many of us won’t. Many of us will say life is ok. I will continue on. But in the wee small hours of the morning, will you wonder, “what am I missing”?
“Passion is your greatest love. Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent. Passion, interest — it’s not the same thing. What you want … is passion. It is beyond interest.”
– Larry Smith (Economics professor)
Finding your passion is an individual journey. So, inspire yourself to take that trip. Follow Gary as he continues to challenge himself for others. Reflect on the obstacles that Amy has overcome in the name of passion. Listen to Ben, Elizabeth and Larry as they share their thoughts.
Be brave. Be bold. Be passionate.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
– Mark Twain
“What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”
– Don Clifton, Soar With Your Strengths
Several years ago a colleague and I attempted to start a “Strengths Revolution”. Buoyed by the work of Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths), we wanted our organization to embrace strength-based development. Doesn’t that sound like something that should occur: focusing on strengths?
Our manifesto fell on deaf ears, however. Why?
As a society, we focus more on fixing our weaknesses than promoting our strengths. For some reason, the “powers that be” may think it is easier to fix something that is broken instead of improve upon something that is not broken. Maybe it is a result of accessibility or availability. Matching strengths to tasks or jobs takes time, they may say. And in the fast-paced working environment in which we all seem to exist, time is a rare commodity. The ineffective manager thinks, “You are the only one available so you are the one that has to do this task.” Result – a square peg is forced into a round hole. The job may get done, but it will probably take longer and/or not be completed as well as it could be. It seems to be easier for the ineffective leader to say “try your best” as opposed to “do what you do best”.
“You have development needs – areas where you need to grow, areas where you need to get better – but for you, as for all of us, you will learn the most, grow the most, and develop the most in your areas of greatest strength. Your strengths are your multiplier. Your strengths magnify you.”
– Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work
The Strengths Revolution encourages (requires) a shift in mindset. Turning our focus to the areas in which we excel demands an increased level of self-awareness and the courage to pursue those assets.
What is the organizational value of strength-based development? At a minimum:
- Increased productivity.
- An engaged workforce.
- A culture of respect for the employee and what he/she brings to the workplace.
- A high performing environment.
Think about your “best day ever” at work. (If you can’t think of one at work, think about your “best day ever” outside of work. Then let’s talk for you might need to seek an alternative to how you are spending your days.) What were you doing? As you think back on that day – or series of days – you are reviewing activities in which you excelled. Maybe you didn’t realize it at the time, but your contributions to that “best day ever” were indicative of your strengths.
I remember one such day. Another colleague and I were brainstorming ideas for content of an e-learning program that would introduce users to the navigational aspects of a new computer system. As we shared our thoughts, you could feel the energy in the room increase. We quickly added to each other’s ideas spawning imaginative ways to connect the learner to the concepts. As time went on, observers would see each of us running to the other with words of “what about this?” starting each discussion.
This “best day ever” exposed the creative process as one of my strengths. I am happiest when I create; when I take a blank piece of paper and turn it into a visual or written image.
What about you? How do you identify your strengths? And then what do you do once they are identified?
1. Start with a “strengths audit”.
In addition to thinking about your “best day ever”, I recommend Tom Rath’s book, StrengthsFinder 2.0. The book contains descriptions of 34 strengths and descriptions of these strengths in action. The related online assessment produces a list of your top five strengths. Take the assessment, read the descriptions of your top five, and analyze your workday. How often do you get to use these strengths?
For those who want to go further with the “strengths audit”, couple the StrengthsFinder data with other assessments, such as the Simmons Personal Survey and/or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to determine your behavioral tendencies.
For example: The Simmons Survey tells me that I have a strong tendency toward embracing change and that my normal decision making mode involves collaboration. The Myers-Briggs tells me that I would rather imagine “what will be” as opposed to “what is”. And the Strengths Finders tells me that I am futuristic, always looking toward tomorrow and painting a vision of what appears. When I analyze my “best day ever”, I am doing just that. Working in a collaborative setting, combining existing pieces to create something new and different for “tomorrow”.
And don’t forget to include additional data in your strengths audit. What have you learned about yourself from other feedback sources: performance appraisals, multi-rater assessments, comments from colleagues, etc.?
2. Analyze your current job.
When do you use your strengths? In what ways might you start using your strengths?
Not to foment a rebellion (even though I do want to start a Strengths Revolution) – but, if you do not use any of those top five strengths in your job, then I think it is time for you to look around for work that is more suited to your talents.
3. Talk with your manager about opportunities to use your strengths on the job.
Look around. Does your team need to build relationships with other teams? If your strength is one of “winning others over”, then suggest that you become your team’s relationship building liaison. If your strength is in details/research, suggest that you lead a data-driven project.
Use your manager’s influence to help create opportunities to develop your strengths.
4. Seek opportunities to use your strengths outside of the organization.
Think outside of the workplace. Volunteer opportunities and hobbies also become havens for us to exercise our passions. (And, you guessed it – within those passions one can find his/her strengths.)
5. Assess your progress.
As you work within your strengths-set, examine how your performance has increased. Also, observe your energy and your optimism. Focusing on strengths changes outlooks.
A Strengths Caution!
Beware of the “strengths-on-steroids” syndrome. At times, we overuse our strengths to such an extent that our performance is negatively impacted.
For example, the ability to speak one’s mind and have managerial courage or the Command strength could very well turn into overly aggressive behavior and the lack of empathy, if overused. This “strengths-on-steroids” behavior results in an inability to build relationships and work collaboratively with others.
Take caution that those behaviors and tendencies that make you unique don’t become derailers on your path to success.
As Terence, a comic playwright of the Roman Republic said, “Moderation in all things.”
Your Call to Action
It is time to reignite our “Strengths Revolution”! And I invite you to join me.
For the first three respondents to this invitation, I offer a complimentary “strengths” consultation. Using the Strengths Finder, the Simmons Personal Survey, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, we will analyze your strengths and discuss ways in which you might further use and improve upon these talents. If you are interested, please send your contact information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond with instructions on how we get started.
I look forward to collaborating with you as we spread the news regarding the power of strength-based development.
“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I had the honor of co-facilitating a team of professionals for a one-day retreat entitled Inside – Outside – Insight. As the name implies, this workshop focuses on internal awareness (Your Outlook), external balance (Your Energy), and the insight one gains from tending to both (Your Passion).
As I reflect on this experience, the “teacher” became the “student”. Following are my insights.
1. Silence provides the opportunity for enriching insight.
During the Outlook section, the participants and facilitators took a 15-minute walk. Not a difficult activity. But, the instructions provided a bit of challenge for the extraverts in the group. We were to walk together – only in silence – for the entire 15 minutes.
What would we have missed if we had talked? From my perspective, I would have missed:
- The clear cerulean blue of the sky on a beautiful day.
- A huge ancient oak tree in a yard – with limbs so large they seemingly reached to embrace the neighboring houses.
- The sounds of people experiencing Saturday afternoon in an historic downtown setting.
This mindfulness – being in touch with the here and now – is so very vital to our mental and physical health. Whether it’s a few minutes of quiet time, a short silent meandering walk, or time spent meditating, silence opens our minds to think beyond our everyday pressures and challenges.
Give yourself this gift. Schedule a “silent period” each day. And then, as you exercise this priority, see what insights you gain and how your mental energy expands.
2. We must train our minds to be “mindful.”
That does seem contradictory, doesn’t it? But we have so many demands pushing at us – always thinking of the next minute, the next day, the next week, the next month. In these thoughts, we lose today.
So, start your day with thoughts of what it will bring. End your day with thoughts of what you achieved. Please pay attention to what is going on around you – and celebrate the “here and now”.
Tomorrow will be here much faster than you want. Will you have memories of today?
3. Be grateful, smile, and laugh.
It is always the right time to say thank you, to share a smile, and to let out a good belly laugh. These are the three no-cost actions that can keep one centered.
Three life lessons:
- It is never too late to say thank you. Never!
- It is always appropriate to share a smile with everyone. And even if it is not “shared”, it is always appropriate to gift a smile to others.
- And what about a good hearty laugh? Don’t the clouds part? Don’t you gain a boost of energy that can only come from a brief moment of unadulterated joy?
Regardless of who is around you, these three acts create a bond that is impenetrable. There are so many things in this world that can turn one’s outlook gray and dismal … but a smile, laugh, and/or thank you can quickly erase the storm and give hope – even in the direst of circumstances.
So my three lessons learned are simple – yet important. Doesn’t it seem as if the easiest things are often the most overlooked?
Make a pact with yourself to spend some time in silence, be mindful, smile, laugh and be grateful. Commit to a daily practice – and make it a habit. Then, reflect on the impact of these new behaviors … and let me know the difference this has made in your life.