This week I have been reminded that when people act out in prejudice, discriminatory, and outright ignorant ways…they are being driven by fear. It may be fear of themselves, fear of uncertainty, or such a deep fear they don’t even realize it exists within them. My response will either give fear more power and promote separation or provide the antidote and guide us towards unity. It doesn’t mean I accept behavior and ignore the consequences of their actions…it means that I generate something that is impossible to exist in a state of fear: love. When we respond in kindness, patience, understanding, and generosity we promote a strand that connects us a human beings and reminds us that we are all the same perfectly imperfect and beautiful being that is.
If someone asks you how your week is going, what are you most likely going to focus on? Too often we get caught up in the things that we didn’t do well, the tasks we didn’t complete, or simply the daunting things piling up in front of us. And sometimes, all of those things start to sound like a negative committee in our head that is communicating that we are not good enough or working hard enough to celebrate exactly who we are in this moment.
What if you paused today and simply asked the question: “What did I do well this week?” There is something powerful about this question because it holds the answer to where our strengths are found. Through examining this question, we can reveal what we do automatically, and sometimes with little to no effort. Herein lies the key to what really makes us strong.
Now for those of us who have a particularly loud inner critic, this exercise may prove to be more complex and require careful attention to avoid the desire of focusing on deficiencies. However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be on your way to a stronger you:
- First, gather your writing paper/pens (this is better than the computer to decrease the likelihood of distractions).
- Next, sit and allow yourself to feel calm. This will look different for everyone, but do what works for you. It may include abdominal breathing, remembering self-compassion, smiling, soothing music, or even just thinking positive thoughts. Whatever works for you, take as much time as you need. Being calm and present is the most important part of this task.
- After you feel calm and relaxed, reflect on your week and think about all the events from the past 7 days. You may want to jot down certain names/places/things that happened.
- When you have brainstormed for a minute or so, begin documenting the things that you did each day that you enjoyed, brought you satisfaction, made you smile, and/or you want to repeat.
That’s all. Don’t worry if you had one great day and then one really crappy day….you are focusing on the positives. If you woke up early one day, had a good workout, connected with a friend over dinner, and noticed a beautiful sunset, then you write it down. However, and this is VERY important, if you find your mind wandering to the day that you overslept, had a conflict at work, ate all junk food, or argued with your partner; take a deep breath and focus on listing out only the things that you feel good about. Sure, maybe you had a crap day for the most part, but can you find something that was positive? Maybe it was the fact that you got up and dressed that day? Or maybe it was that you decided not to go bed angry. If you sincerely look for the best parts of your day, I believe you will find it.
Every day we do something that supports us, that makes us feel whole, that motivates us to try again the next day; but we can get so caught up in the one or maybe five things we did ‘wrong’ or not quite good enough that we overlook and even forget the small awesome moments. Please do not think any act was too small….if you smiled at even one person one day; that is something work celebrating and acknowledging.
The whole exercise should only take a few minutes and the most time-consuming part may be the getting to calm but it can be incredibly powerful to consciously acknowledge all of the good things you did this week. And as with any exercise, you will need to repeat it often to reap the full benefits. So start today, see how you feel, then try it again next week. Hopefully with a few intentional exercises of highlighting your own strengths you can start to recognize that you really are stronger than you realized and that you have incredible potential to become even stronger.
Be happy, be healthy, be strong.
Last week I arrived to a lunch meeting about 20 minutes early and decided to keep my phone in my jacket pocket instead of keeping myself preoccupied with the latest status updates on all of the social media sites. As I sat there and took in my surroundings, it was astonishing the stories that I could envision of the people around me. The restaurant was buzzing with activity with a lunch rush; staff were hustling by and communicating to each other; one table in the corner was celebrating a birthday; another group of elderly women were toasting to their friend for her recent success; and a couple to my right appeared to be newly in love. I was able to process all my information through various verbal comments, facial expressions, body language, smiles, and pure energy throughout the room. Granted, it wasn’t detailed information about the circumstances behind each interaction, but they were all full of life. Undoubtedly, that experience was way more interesting and incredibly more ‘real’ than any status update I could have read that day.
It made me wonder, how much of the world do we shield ourselves from now in the spirit of ‘staying connected?’ And why is it so difficult to simply sit and observe? Are we hesitant to observe others or perhaps, even our own self? Are we afraid that someone will actually look in our eyes and engage us, even if simply through a smile? Or are our own thoughts so chaotic that we don’t want to be alone with them for even a few minutes?
I love forums such as this where I can intentionally seek out particular topics, ideas, and like-minded people. And I am grateful to share my thoughts and ideas with whoever may want to listen, but we both know that throughout this post I have had the luxury of editing, adjusting, or otherwise omitting information for one reason or the other. And while I value the ability to appropriately formulate my thoughts before sharing them with the world, there is a limitation to my ability to truly connect with someone who is not able to look into my eyes, hear the tone of my voice, or simply be with me in that moment when I stumble for the right words. My hope is that we find that balance of engaging with each other as honestly as we can, in whatever venue we have available to us. I know that my best and most real self comes out when I unplug and open up to the world right in front of me. And in the end, that is what helps me feel more confident in opening up to this world as well. (Insert a gentle smile here).
What if you spent an entire day without complaining? How would that change your perspective? How uncomfortable would it be to refrain from voicing a complaint and accept the reality of a situation and continue to move forward? I’m not suggesting that we all become passive and not speak up about unequitable, unjust, or unacceptable behaviors, I’m suggesting we think about how to voice our feelings and thoughts in a more productive and healthy way that result in either a reasonable solution or follow up plan of action.
We all have our moments of complaining and it’s totally understandable. Especially when we feel frustrated, upset, fearful, confused, and overwhelmed. At the end of the day we have to ask, what is the point of complaining? Are we seeking validation from other people? Maybe. Do we need to complain about how tough our day was in order for people to understand that we are struggling? Or are we looking to excuse our own behavior through the fault of something/someone else? Maybe we complain to connect with others. I’m sure many of us have complained about another person or event to someone and it made us feel closer and more connected than before. Are we complaining often because we don’t feel that anyone hears us otherwise? Or are we complaining because we are fearful? The next time you hear yourself complaining or feel the need to air out a complaint, ask yourself these questions:
–What is the purpose of my complaint? Or What do I need right now from this situation?
–Is this something that serves me well or can I let it go?
–If this serves me well or I feel strongly enough about it, what can I do to positively impact the situation or create change?
Once you realize those answers you can more easily determine how to frame your thoughts and feelings in a productive and helpful way instead of simply complaining about it with no means of appeasing your emotions tied to the situation.
The challenge is not about complaining, it’s the discovery of what is driving the complaint. Ultimately if we approach our struggles with more self-understanding and awareness we are more likely to find a solution that not only helps our own sense of well-being but promotes more peace and contentment within our immediate environment. I do not envision a world without complaint, but I love the idea of changing our personal space and space around us to a place where complaints are less frequent and ideas of action/resolve are the common theme.
There is an important disclaimer about increasing your awareness of your own complaining: once you become aware of how often (and honestly, how easy) it is to complain within yourself….you will start noticing it much more in everyone else around you. This is not an easy thing to navigate because as you begin living with an intention to complain less and act more, it can be incredibly taxing to be more attuned to everyone else’s complaints. The best advice I can offer in those moments is to practice love, understanding, compassion, and kindness for both the other person and especially yourself and to remember that it is not your place to learn lessons for other people. After all, lessons can be helpful but the models of those lessons are way more powerful. Be a model of Love, Understanding, Compassion, and Kindness and enjoy the space that you create around you.