Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gratitude is in the Perspective

Although counterintuitive to some, I find expressions of gratitude flow much more easily in the difficult times. When everything else is falling apart, the one or two positive outliers shine like beacons begging me to hold tight in gratitude. My mind gravitates toward focusing on and absorbing this recessive positivity and allows the ugly reality of whatever else is going on, to fade into the background. At a very basic level, I believe this is the epitome of mind over matter and, honestly, how I’ve gotten through many uncomfortable times.

The beacon in a long race is the image of the finish line and the sense of accomplishment I know I will have when I finish the run. The beacon at the bottom of a steep hill is the view at the top I am sure to relish.

If there is no available beacon, I will employ a challenge to act as a beacon. The challenge the day after a mastectomy was a 10K walk one week post-op. The challenge hatched for after my second mastectomy and bilateral reconstruction was a very slow half-marathon.

Indeed there are a variety of tactics I employ to focus my thoughts in times of crisis and most of them involve a mind over matter bent. But earlier this week, I participated in an exercise with my fellow cancer coaches that demonstrated just how uplifting focusing on the good can be even when the baseline is pretty groovy already.

I feel the need to share.

  • A timer
  • A buddy

Time: less than 5 minutes

How to: You have exactly two minutes to, in stream of consciousness form, articulate what you are grateful for. Your buddy will stop you (mid-sentence even!) at the end of those two minutes. And you will share the word that best describes your state of emotional being at that time.

And then you switch.

I was fortunate to ‘play’ this game with three other phenomenal people and just listening to their gratitude was uplifting. What each of us takes for granted on a daily basis is somewhat mind-numbing. Hearing their gratitude was a gentle, non-accusatory reminder for me that simple the act of being able to enjoy a meal is a gift. 

A comfortable home. Financial stability. Truly these things are realities we often assume into the fabric of our day to day. I am not ungrateful for them but I am not regularly or overtly appreciative. 

Parents who are living and of sound mind. Good friends and the promise of camping for Thanksgiving. The steady rainfall. Again, my realities that, once spoken seemed to take on a bigger life and space of their own. 

The love and support of a spouse and the laughter and joy of healthy children is a total and utter bonus.

In the weeks before this exercise, my health was good and my personal and professional life enriching. Yet I had fallen somewhat into the doldrums and was seeking the new-new thing. A race? A vacation? A new adventure? 

In two minutes, without changing a thing, I found new perspective.

My word, at the end of the exercise, was Uplifted
If I had used several words one surely would have been “eye-opened” too.

I won’t stay here. I know I’ll get absorbed back into the go-go-go and do-do-do. But I have a tool to leverage any time I need a boost. And now you do too!

If you do try this activity with your friends, spouse, children, co-workers, please let me know how it works for you!