The Practice of Gratitude

The ChiefOur dog, a three-year-old black lab named Chief, really has lived up to his name. He is dignified, kind, and gracious with all people and with other dogs. At meal time, he sits patiently and watches intently while his food is prepared. When we put his food down, he waits to be invited to eat. But then he does the dearest thing: when he is finished eating, he goes over to whoever put his food down and thanks them by nuzzling the hand. It is truly adorable.

Is there anything more attractive than gratitude? I think not. And guess what? It is as good for the person expressing gratitude as it is for the one receiving it. The research is piling up. Barbara Fredrickson’s research on Positivity shows a significant difference in health indicators, creativity, and resilience in people who practice gratitude among other positive emotions.

Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, leading researchers on the way gratitude affects health and well-being, define gratitude this way: “Gratitude is an acknowledgment that we have received something of value from others. It arises from a posture of openness to others, where we are able to gladly recognize their benevolence.”

Their work shows that there is evidence to support the notion that gratitude facilitates coping with stress and reduces toxic emotions resulting from self and social comparisons and materialism. Further, experiencing gratitude can make positive memories (as opposed to bad ones) easier to access, helps build community, makes achieving goals more likely, and promotes health.

In the US, we are once again celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It is not accidental that most cultures have a “gratitude” holiday. It is simply good for us to stop and remember what we are grateful for. Many people “say grace” year round before eating, which is a wonderful way to stay mindful about how fortunate we are to have plentiful food and clean water.

Of course, practicing a form of religion usually involves giving thanks, and The Blue Zones research shows that people who live the longest belong to some kind of religious community. The secular among us can easily reap the same benefits. From a health and well-being standpoint there is ample evidence that practicing gratitude in small ways on a daily basis is a good idea.

Some ideas:

  • When stopped at a traffic light or sitting in traffic, instead of looking at your smartphone, make a list in your head of all of the things you are grateful for. It will lower your blood pressure, release beneficial neurotransmitters and reduce adrenaline and cortisol in your bloodstream.
  • Write a thank-you note or email to someone who has done something nice for you. It will make you smile and it will make the person who receives it smile.
  • As you are falling asleep at night, review your day and come up with one lovely thing you are grateful for. It can be as simple as the hummingbirds who love the tree outside your kitchen window or the fact that you have a job.

Make gratitude a habit. It isn’t that hard to do—and the rewards are immediate and vast.

Who me…? I don’t need a Coach!!

Man ThinkingLet’s be real… Coaching is not for everyone! AND…I challenge anyone who believes he or she will not receive any value by working with a Professional Coach by answering the following questions:

  • Do you feel stagnant in your role?
  • Have you thought about how to get to the next level in your career?
  • Do you know how to increase your effectiveness as a ______________?
  • Do you know your greater potential and purpose?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, I strongly believe you will benefit from partnering with a Professional Coach. A coach is skilled at creating a safe and confidential environment so you can fully discuss your goals and aspirations. A coach will help you uncover what is needed to make a change and move forward.

How often does someone take time out to work with a “thought-partner” in moving towards accomplishing personal and professional goals?

Since I am keeping it real…You will be doing the work in a coaching relationship. Self reflection is key. Being truthful with yourself (and your coach) about your behaviors and the effectiveness of them will move you toward your goals. You will experience some “aha” moments as well as some unpleasant awareness with your Coach. The ultimate goal is to increase self-awareness and intentionally decide how to move forward.

Below are questions to consider to get the most value from partnering with a coach:

  • Are you ready to self-reflect and look in the mirror?
  • Are you ready to be open and truthful?
  • Are you ready to do the work to accomplish your goals?
  • Are you ready to take the time to uncover the answers for yourself (A coach does not have the answers. A coach helps you uncover the answers.)?
  • Is the timing right for coaching?

The benefits of partnering with a coach can be very impactful and rewarding. Some benefits may be experienced several months after the coaching has ended. As stated on the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=747&navItemNumber=565),

Professional coaching brings many wonderful benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence. And, the list does not end there. Those who undertake coaching also can expect appreciable improvement in productivity, satisfaction with life and work, and the attainment of relevant goals.”

I challenge you to partner with a Coach to move toward reaching your full potential!

 

Be The Goat

Goat

“Goat” is short for scapegoat, which is a person or thing that is given all the blame or responsibility for a negative event. A “goat” is the opposite of a hero. Suffice it to say, a goat is someone who is blamed when things go wrong.

Rather than a focus on the historical, religious or etymological connotations of a goat, I instead want you to consider the species itself. A goat is agile, a goat is intelligent. Goats are social creatures who can also work well independently, as long as they frequently return to their herd. Here’s something: goats will not move away from pressure, they move into it! Hmmmm. Sounds like I’m listing the traits of a confident and successful professional!

It was in observing a neighbor’s goats that I thought of the “be the goat” concept. The goats were removing poison ivy and invasive vines from her yard. Rather than just nibble at the choicest leaves, the goats were completely devouring the plants. They were committed to removing the leaves, the vines, and the roots of each plant.

With a number of my coaching clients, the concept of completely handling something is new to them. Rather than giving 89% of effort, or 76% feedback, I ask them what would it be like to fully engage? To be complete in their endeavors and communications? To “be complete” is powerful! Incompletions drain energy, require maintenance of the façade, and never address the issue.

The goats are all about completely consuming the vines. To the root. And when a new shoot emerges, it will be swiftly eradicated. Completely. Because of this, my neighbor can spend her energy on her flower and vegetable gardens.

What issue or challenge do you need to completely handle? What pressures have you been avoiding, when moving into the pressure would actually eradicate it? What requires your agility and intelligence? What opportunity will become available to you once the challenge is vanquished? Go ahead now, and be the goat!

Goat: “Greatest of all time.” Thank you, Muhammad Ali!

Appreciative Leadership

ai vs prob

The problem with becoming known as a good “problem solver” is that you get really good at looking at situations as, well, problems!   Your focus is on what has failed.   Your goal is to correct, save, or restore a broken system to a state where it will again provide acceptable results.  You get a reputation as the “fixer,” and are dispatched again and again to solve different problems.  Where is the fun in that?

There is a better way to contribute to organizations.

David Cooperrider invented Appreciative Inquiry when he was a graduate student studying Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980’s.  You can read all about him, and the AI Movement, at http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/.  (The work he began with Professor Suresh Srivastva transformed me and my leadership research.  I cited their initial work in my 1990 dissertation when I posited that having dialogue rather than debate can help groups work together to come to better decisions.)

I have continued to follow AI in the ensuing 25 years, and unabashedly say the reason coaching works is because the inquiry of the coach uncovers the wisdom in the leader.  Appreciative Inquiry is the underpinning of Positive Psychology, a theoretical foundation in the Coaching Profession, and is essential in understanding the impact of language in the field of Neuroscience.

Here is why Appreciative Inquiry matters for leaders:

  • Appreciative Inquiry has a positive core:  it focuses on the strengths and peak experiences in an organization.  AI focuses on the best of what is, and then stretches further to imagine the ideal future state.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is co-creative:  Rather than one “Mr. Fixit,” with AI everyone can be involved in the discovery, the dream, the design, and the destiny of the ideal state of the organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is generative:  with a focus on “what works,” a leader is aligned towards new possibilities for the organization.

You don’t have to wait for an AI intervention in your organization to benefit from this approach.  Simply shifting your focus from seeking problems to seeking what works well has an immediate, positive, and generative effect:  on you, on your group, and on your effectiveness.  Have at it!

Veterans Need Coaching Too…!

Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor our service men and women who have given ultimate sacrifice. This day is also a great time to honor those who continue to serve.  Memorial Day-american-soldier-saluting

As veterans transition from years of armed conflict, many of them are pursuing civilian careers. Coaching is one of the professional services provided to veterans during this transition period. Coaching services include specific focus areas such as financial, educational, family dynamics, career, and health. Professional coaches are assisting service members in their transition by helping them identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. Many coaches volunteer their time to support veterans through group and one-on-one coaching.

I was contacted earlier this year to coach veteran women on transitioning back into the civilian workforce. I am looking forward to donating my time to support women veterans in identifying their career and life goals as well as creating action plans that move them toward accomplishing their goals.

Military service men and women have paved the way for our freedom.

What ways can you support our service men and women?

I salute all veterans and active service members!

Commencement

ken

May is a great month.  Here in New England, winter’s grip is finally loosened and spring bursts forth.  The earth is resplendent with trees budding and flowers blooming.  Bears emerge from hibernation, and songbirds return.  Adding to these natural festivities (at least in this college town) are college commencements.  Graduations are achieved after the sheer determination and hard work of 8 or more semesters.

When I was younger, I always thought “commencement” was such an odd word.  My sense was we were celebrating what has (finally) been completed!  Commencement, of course, means to begin.  This focus on moving forward is essential.  No successful person is “done learning” when she or he graduates.  Understanding that learning is a life-long commitment is a powerful differentiator among people.  To value learning is to cultivate it at every opportunity.  To value learning means your life is enriched, and you enrich the lives of others, too.

One person who holds learning as one of his core values is Ken Blanchard.  Today, we celebrate Ken’s 75th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEN!  Thank you for your example of life-long learning.  Your curiosity, coupled with your interest in sharing your learnings, has truly unleashed “the greater good” in hundreds of thousands of leaders all over the world.

It is a happy concurrence to have Ken’s birthday during “commencement season.”  We can pause to recall our past opportunities for learning, and be grateful for all of them.  Moreover, we can assess the ways in which we continue to learn.  Mostly, today we can commit to ways we can increase these learning opportunities:  for ourselves, and for others.

Happy Commencement!

Be Big!

I took on the challenge to complete my first Half Marathon. The other day during my training as I struggled to run the next mile, the words that came to mind were “Be Big…BeFemale Runner Big!” I thought what caused me to think of these words? What does it mean to “Be Big?” In other words, what is it going to take for me to accomplish this goal? I was now focused on this question as I continued running. I came up with the following:

  • Envisioning the journey and destination: Running with ease and crossing over the finish line.
  • Being Honest and Clear about my Motivation: Competitiveness (I want to say I ran a “Half Marathon!”), proving to myself I have what it takes to accomplish the goal, knowing it will build my confidence and discipline that will transition into other professional and personal goals.
  • Maintaining Positivity: Being positive about training even on tough days that I fall short of my training goal.
  • Being Confident: Believing in my abilities and strength even if I do not see it right away.
  • Being Discipline: Sticking to the training plan even when I don’t feel like working out; pushing myself.
  • Acknowledging What I Need: Rest-no late nights; diet-specific foods that work for me not against me; the time of day to get the most from my workout.

As a result, I gained clarity and ran the furthest and longest since I began training!! Realizing what it means to “Be Big” are key factors for me to successfully accomplish goals. Of course, it is not always easy! I believe it begins with envisioning and being honest and clear on what will keep me motivated.

What does it mean for you to “Be Big?” What do you need to “Be Big” professionally and personally? What do you envision? What are your motivators?