The Thanksgiving season naturally lends itself to recognizing what we have to be grateful for. Health, family, friends, and prosperity are among the most commonly cited blessings. What comes most easily to mind are the warm, fuzzy areas of our lives that naturally lend themselves to feelings of appreciation.
But the power of gratitude reaches far beyond those things that bring immediate smiles to our faces.
And leveraging this power requires that we embrace not only the happy times but also the tougher experiences we’ve had that we would often rather forget about. Because the most challenging times in our lives and our careers are often accompanied by some of the richest blessings.
- That proposal that you worked day and night on but ended up going nowhere.
- The difficult customer/coworker/boss/direct report that continually pushed all your buttons.
- The presentation you made that didn’t have the impact you would have liked.
- The restructuring in your division that took you to the edges of your comfort zone and required you to navigate through uncertainty that was as unfamiliar as it was unsettling.
These things that push us to our edges come bearing gifts.
And we tend to move so quickly that we fail to pause long enough to unpack those blessings and truly integrate them. But when we do, we often realize in hindsight that these less than ideal circumstances allow us to grow, to become stronger, to more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, more wise.
The circumstances themselves pass, but the gifts remain.
Cultivating this deeper level of gratitude allows us to contemplate the idea that perhaps life isn’t happening to us, but rather for us. These challenges that test our patience, push us to our edges, and appear to be nothing more than irritating obstacles are often the very things we need in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s easier to see the perfect order of things in retrospect.
Can you think of a challenge you faced in the recent (or not so recent) past that stretched your limits? Consider for a moment what you learned as a result of that experience. What did the experience itself require that you activate within yourself to successfully move through it? And how did it make you a better leader? A stronger performer? A wiser and more compassionate person?
The reason these insights come to us in hindsight is that our thinking settles.
When we are not so frazzled and pressured by the need for an immediate response, or plagued by worried and doubt, the static that prevented us from seeing and appreciating the deeper purpose and significance subsides. And there is space for gratitude to emerge.
Gratitude, yes for all the things that are going well in our lives – our health, the precious people in our lives, our prosperity – but also gratitude for the experiences that allow us to see who we really are when our backs are to the wall, to step up and into our true potential, to realize ourselves to be much stronger and more capable than we thought we were.
What if you could leverage the power of hindsight in the present?
What if you could learn to look beyond the tangle of thoughts that may have you in a knot as you approach a current or emerging challenge – with the knowing that this unsettling, less than optimal situation also comes bearing gifts and blessings?
What if instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the situation and the external circumstances you could turn your attention to the knowing that you have what it takes to rise up to this and any other challenge? All you have to do is look to your past for evidence that it is there.
If you take it a step further, you can become grateful for the situations and circumstances you previously wished would go away. Because you know that along with the struggle, they provide you with gateways that invite you to discover and unearth who you really are. This approach allows you to face your challenges with curiosity, playfulness and grace – mindsets that catalyze insight, creativity, and the resilience you need to find your way and emerge victorious.
Now that’s something to be grateful for.
Using the wisdom of hindsight in the present is just one approach I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help high achieving executives appreciate and leverage the perfect order of their most challenging experiences to unleash their greatness. Enrollment for Spring 2020 will open soon, and for a limited time you can secure your seat at the 2019 rates before they increase. Stay tuned for more information or join the waiting list to be the first to know when registration opens.
Can you recall the last time you were faced with great change, challenge and/or uncertainty?
Times of great upheaval and transition require that we bring our very best to the scene, and yet they also have a way of unnerving us. When you don’t know what to expect and feel as though much of what is happening around you is out of your control, it’s easy to begin to doubt your ability to successfully navigate through it (not to mention lead others to do the same).
Check out this video for insight on how to summon and embody your true strength — one that isn’t dependent on external circumstances, but rather self reliant and resilient in the face of any situation.
I hope you enjoy it!
If you’re experiencing upheaval in the face of change, check out the The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, an exclusive 13-week leadership development program designed to help high achieving (and often overextended) leaders minimize pressure and stress so they can access their best work — and enjoy their lives more both on and off the job.
Though the spring program has now closed, registration for the fall program will open soon. To get on the waiting list, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
One of my favorite places to go on holiday weekends is Prescott, AZ. On one such trip with my mother and daughter we walked through an art festival in the town square. The place was dotted with people and their dogs, meandering from booth to booth, admiring the wares and taking it all in. White tents and tall, willowy trees sheltered artisans and their customers from the bright sun and intense heat.
There was a lot of jewelry, handmade signs with clever quotes, t-shirts (for people and their dogs), hand crafted furniture, blankets, tablecloths, framed photography, bird houses. If you could think of something that could be artfully designed and hand crafted, there was probably a booth for it in the Prescott square that weekend.
Some of my favorite booths were the ones with food in them. Freshly dipped caramel apples rolled in peanuts or toffee, kettle corn popped in large copper drums, homemade tamales, chocolate dipped cheesecake. And, oh, the best freshly squeezed lemonade ever, made with generous portions of sugar and large juicy lemons whose rinds floated in the clear plastic dispensers.
I was standing in a rather long line for one of those lemonades when I became acutely aware of the presence of swarms of bees flying around me and everyone else, hovering over people’s cups and food, and even landing on shoulders, arms, and clothing. People squirmed in their shoes, swatted them away, and some ran out of the line altogether.
I turned to see an older man with a closely trimmed white beard and long white eyebrows. His eyes twinkled and dimples appeared below his cheeks. I looked at him and smiled.
“Don’t be afraid,” he continued. “Bees only sting when they sense fear.” He rocked back and forth on his feet, with his fingers wrapped comfortably around the straps of his faded overalls. “It’s true!” He insisted.
Hmm. What an interesting thought. Is it true? I don’t know. I wouldn’t doubt it.
It got me thinking about fear in general, and the correlation it often has with unfortunate circumstances. Fear is widely considered to be the effect of an unpleasant and often painful stimulus. But the cause?
Could it be true that fear itself could bring about some of the unfortunate circumstances that we are often most afraid of?
I think so.
When we are afraid, we get consumed with thinking we need to protect ourselves, have the last word, save face. We become far more occupied with getting than giving. We can panic and engage in irrational and even hurtful behavior. A fearful response is often an overly aggressive one – one that can create more problems than it solves, and one that might otherwise be deemed as unnecessary. We say and do things we later regret. And we cut ourselves off from the wisdom and insights we would otherwise be able to tap to constructively resolve our differences and creatively rise up to our challenges. Our solutions tend to be half baked and often unsatisfying – as well as short lived.
But how do you override that somewhat instinctive and often knee jerk, fear filled response to what you believe could hurt you?
“Don’t be afraid,” the white haired man said. Easy for you to say, buddy. He obviously sees bees differently than I do, or at least have in the past.
And maybe that’s the answer.
Maybe it’s about learning to see things differently. Maybe it’s about questioning what we’ve come to believe and learning a different response – one that is more grounded, centered, and thoughtful. Perhaps it’s about trying something we’ve never had the presence of mind to consider.
The woman behind the counter handed me my lemonade and a single bee came along for the ride. It followed us throughout the square, from booth to booth, hovering around the large waxy cup that contained the sweet, refreshing liquid we waited in line for over ten minutes to receive. At one point, it landed on my shirt sleeve. I felt my blood pressure rise and took a deep breath. What if I get stung? I tried not to think about it. It flew away and came back a few seconds later.
We couldn’t help ourselves. We shooed it away with our napkins. It kept flying back. We tried hard to stay brave and calm, but we kept our napkins unfurled and continued to flap them around whenever the bee got too close.
We made it home without any bee stings. But the wheels in my mind are still turning at the thought that there may be some kind of insight or lesson in that experience for me. Have I grasped it? I don’t know.
One thing is for sure. The next time I begin to feel that familiar rush of adrenaline, you can bet I’ll think back to that white-haired man in his frayed overalls, with a large grin on his face and a quiet wisdom in those sparkling eyes. And I’ll do whatever I can to see things from another, less fear provoking perspective.