A 2020 Lesson in Gratitude

New Normal 2020It’s that time of year when many people think about everything that they have to be grateful for.

This year—well, this year has been one for the books. Negotiating our way through a historic pandemic and losing our versions of “normal” have generated a new awareness in all of us. What have we lost (if only temporarily), and what do we still have to be thankful for as we move forward?

Thankfulness has enormous benefits for our health and happiness. The practice of gratitude, especially during times like these can really spur us to unpack things that no longer serve us, from negative thoughts and physical “stuff” right down to our ways of being.

What started with fear and mass confusion has brought a lot of knowledge, too. Number one for me is being abruptly reminded of what I am grateful for, want to keep, protect, and treasure as well as realizing what should go.

Imagine that being thankful helps us to pause, think clearly, and to act more wisely. Thankfully, it’s hard to maintain negative feelings when we are feeling grateful.

I think 2020 can be viewed as a massive reminder to be thankful for—or certainly more aware of—our blessings.

What are you thankful for?

What can you let go of?

Recognition: Negative Thoughts to Positive Beliefs

Gremlins. ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Cognitive Distortions. Whatever you call them, these unconscious negative self-judgements are at best unhelpful and at worst extremely unhealthy.

Handling gremlins is one of the three pillars of empowerment and goes hand-in-hand with finding clarity and being grounded.

[Please use this link to enjoy The Three Pillars of Empowerment FREE!]

A gremlin is a descriptive (and uncomfortable) name for thoughts that hinder self-esteem, positive actions, and progress in life. It is an internal dialog that we want to bring out of hiding so it can no longer secretly sabotage us.

The contradiction of gremlins is that they may actually have kept us safe at some point in our lives. We told ourselves stories to keep us safe. Perhaps these thoughts kept us from trying and risking failure, or they provided confirmations for times when we did fail. They became stronger and more and more treacherous—because they became the “truth.”

Similar to a virus, gremlins become more systemic until we believe them! Do any of these statements resonate with you?

  • When you fail at something, you can feel as if you are a failure.
  • When someone else is called pretty, you become not so pretty.
  • When you don’t get the grades, you are stupid.
  • When you don’t make the team, you are a loser.
  • If someone else is called skinny, you must be fat.
  • When you don’t get the position, well of course, it confirms that you just weren’t worthy.

And on we go. We just create more powerful gremlins (stories) to protect us on a higher level. We up the protective (albeit negative) ante and continue to keep ourselves safe and out of the game of life!

What do we know for sure about negative thoughts?

  • We are unconscious of them.
  • They were created to keep us safe from harm.
  • We turned them into a truth—which makes them harder to recognize.
  • They can harm and hinder.
  • They can be changed.

That last one is the key to living the life you are entitled to.

Can you recognize a stuck pattern in yourself? Can you offer yourself compassion and give yourself space and time to choose your next chapter consciously? Self-compassion, love, and self-forgiveness will open the door to forward motion.

We will only grow, dream, and rise in life to the level that our gremlins will allow us to. What we think absolutely has that much power over us. I am convinced that turning negative thoughts into positive beliefs can take years off our journeys to success and happiness.

Understanding where the gremlins come from and how they developed can help us to defeat them. Once thoughts are questioned, new possibilities are not just conceivable; they’re inevitable.

The Wider Benefits of Personal Empowerment

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. – Marianne Williamson

“Powerful beyond measure.”

I remember reading this quote for the first time. It gave me pause. It rocked my world, and when I grounded myself with its meaning, something in me had awakened.

Have you ever felt the truth come to you like this? In coaching, I always ask my clients if something resonates with them. “Does it feel true to you? If it does keep it, otherwise, throw it away.”

This quote hit me with a force so strong, I immediately knew what the truth felt like. So, when the crisis came, I understood something very clearly: If we are ever going to throw caution to the winds—now may be the time.

If we are all powerful beyond measure—and we are—what can our collective power do as a source for good?

When dealing with COVID and unparalleled layers of social upheaval, what can a belief in being powerful beyond measure mean? Many agree that we are experiencing a perfect storm…but even this can be an opportunity for much needed growth. Talking with a friend on the topic of the never-ending saga of 2020, I asked her, “What can we do?” She said, “Well, we don’t waste a good crisis, now do we?”

We can go through life being cautious about this, fearful of that—and all of those thoughts end abruptly when a crisis arises. We will no longer fear whether we are good enough, or think that our voice doesn’t matter, or focus on the Gremlins (negative talk) that our egos usually challenge us with.

Perhaps one of the greatest rewards of a crisis is the shedding of these superficial thoughts—and how quickly that can happen! Goodbye and good riddance superficial fears, the focus has shifted: “We are not playing around being shy and humble—we don’t have the time. We’ve got some work to do.”

We can’t sustain the distancing, illness, and death caused by COVID. We do not want violence in our streets, or for anyone to fear because of the color of their skin or their choice of worship.

Even if we feel our deepest fears of inadequacy, we can dig deep. We may find that we are powerful enough that our skills may help to light the way for others.

Becoming empowered not only gives us courage; it also helps us discover who we are and to claim our place in the world, knowing all of us matter. Yay us!

How to Call Upon Resilience in Challenging Times

ResiliencePsychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship issues, serious health problems, workplace and financial stressors, natural disasters (like epidemics), and more.

During a crisis, there is a sense of urgency to get ourselves to safety. Times can be such that we need to respond even before we fully understand the threat.

Will we ever forget the 2020 toilet paper shortage!

Even though you have already been resilient throughout life you may not have consciously acknowledged it as the strength that it is. And there lies the answer of how to call upon resilience when the need arrives! You start from a place of self-awareness.

The time you climbed the mountain, ran a marathon, cared for a crying baby for months on end, turned your life around!

Imagine the power and energy that can be yours when applying consciousness to your innate ability to be resilient. When you become conscious of your skills and abilities, you can transmute your fears by strategically making adjustments and moving forward. You can pivot direction and still be productive. Many times, even more productive as a change in direction can come with an acute focus.

We pivoted quickly to work from home. To wearing a mask. Social distancing. Walking the wrong way down the aisle of your local grocery store (accidentally) and living to tell the tale. (Or was that just me?) Homeschooling, and so much more.

While being resilient does not solve problems, it does help us to face situations that must be faced. It allows us to keep our wits about us (or find them faster) and adapt to any new and sometimes even frightening situations.

Here’s a fairly relevant example. If a high schooler misses their graduation because of a life-altering event, their world can be rocked. A lifetime of expectations go out the window. This is a big deal, perhaps a monumental deal! They can literally feel lost unless/until they’ve developed the power of resilience and consciously choose to use it—or have someone in their life who can help them find that resilience.

It is during tough times, not easy times, that we learn how to be resilient. If this door has closed, we can ask: What door can I open now? What can I make happen? Who can I partner or collaborate with to make things better? How do I want to show up? What am I made of—what is my mettle?

We can’t erase sadness, worry, or fear. It can’t be done. They are an integral part of the human experience. Each feeling has its own unique lesson to teach us about resilience, about showing up for ourselves.

There will always be challenging times that require resilience. By making a conscious effort to develop it, we will find it to be more easily accessible when we need it the most.

How to Create a Grounding Kit

You can easily put together a grounding kit so it’s ready whenever you need it.

Instructions for adults

What is awe inspiring in this great big universe and depicts strength for you? Use that to create your personal Grounding Kit. Some physical items can include:

  • Essential oils for stressful moments
  • A stress ball
  • Strength positioning information (chart/website)

The other essential item is a very strong visual that resonates strength for you. My visual is a redwood tree. (I’m rooted and strong like a tree.)

How to utilize this with children

For children I recommend practicing their routine with them much like you would a fire drill. You can make this so much fun. This will build a grounding muscle and allow them to slip more easily into feelings of safety when their little worlds are rocked.

Suggestions for working with the little ones. Ask them:

  • Can you feel your feet on the ground?
  • Can you wiggle your arms?
  • What do see? (Have a window or pretty picture available.)
  • Can you stand like a super-hero? (You can also teach them the yoga warrior pose.)
  • What do you smell? (Have a scent that they like already around them.)
  • What do you feel in your hands? (Have them hold a stress ball or favorite stuffy.)

Help them to create an awe inspiring and strong visual, just as you did.

As children start to experience grounding, their bodies will more readily begin to relax and they will equate that with safety.

It bears repeating one more time. Grounding happens more easily when you change your physiology and purposely add in some fun, a visualization, or a deliberate feeling of strength!

Grounding: Calm in a Chaotic World

The world news has been far from stabilizing. We’ve been rocked multiple times in the last few months. It hasn’t been about sports, weather, a career, a healthy diet, an exercise program, or likes on social media.

No, on a scale from one to ten we’ve teetered in the ten area for an extended period of time, rocking and rolling as we grapple with the life and death situations of a global pandemic.

And that’s only part of the picture.

We are in the perfect storm with political discord, racial and gender inequality, failing businesses, and last in my list but hardly least is the welfare of our little ones’ health and education—all on the front burner, all at the same time!

What support are people reaching for during these times? A short answer is stillness, quiet, space— to find strength and clarity. We all need some balance to negotiate the risks, discord, and fear that is pervading our beings.

Recently, one of my more lighthearted clients was seriously in need of feeling and being grounded. There were way too many thoughts and challenges rocking her world. Each area of her life was affected, and she needed a sense of calm.

We loved playing with the word discombobulated to define this feeling of being unsafe, unsettled, and therefore too confused to find her best direction. And as she became more grounded, we referred to her calm state as being combobulated. Now, is that even a word? We didn’t care, we just wanted to get to where she needed to be, and to have a fun word to use along the way!

And actually, combobulate is a word, and a good one for grounding. It means to put together in a somewhat mysterious manner; to bring something out of a state of confusion or disarray.

Grounding is a recharging, stabilizing energy. Feeling stable allows for an inquisitive and open mind with the desired side effects of self-esteem and confidence. It creates a safe space for you to question thoughts, perhaps change direction if it makes sense to do so.

When you are enjoying yourself, chances are you are grounded. When you are in the zone, doing what you do best, again, you are grounded. But, what about when you are confused, ramped up, and fear is getting the best of you?

That is the time to consciously and systematically pull your grounding rituals out to play. These can include:

Walking, Hiking in natureVisualizingWarrior posing
YogaLaughingSewing, Carpentry
Strength postingSingingPraying
GardeningDanceMeditating
PaintingScented salt bathPaying something forward

Use your five senses as much as possible. Be cognizant of what you see, hear, feel, taste, touch. Being aware of our senses is stabilizing and gives us that “safe, back-to-earth feeling!”

Eventually, the life scale will come down from ten. Grounding is a great tool to employ while we wait.

Re-routing the Path to Our Goals

Paths to Goals“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

  • How are you?
  • What are you most concerned about during this time?
  • What can you focus on?
  • What are you excited about?
  • What are you inspired to do?

Whether they were big and adventurous or small and steady, I’ll bet you had plans for 2020. I sure did! Then—we hear whispers of a virus in China and boom, Covid-19 and our entire world seemed to change overnight.

We are all dealing and reeling from a global pandemic, and this isn’t a quick flash in the pan occurrence. Time to create a new normal.

Initially, we rushed to find what feels safe. We saturated ourselves with Netflix, chocolate, carbs, and lots of other stuff. I even found myself partaking of hot dogs and beans, an old childhood Saturday night staple. All that was missing was the brown bread! I haven’t eaten hot dogs and beans for years, but here I was looking forward to them.

Oh, and did you happen to binge on the movie “Ground Hog Day?” If not, I’d highly recommend it. There’s a nice message that we can take away from it. But no pressure! It’s not a good time to add pressure. It’s just time to find quality in our life, where ever that may be for each of us right now.

These distractions helped us to slowly absorb what our intellect already knew…that life has changed. There are still many unknown layers to this virus. We can’t do all that we’re used to doing. The experts say a treatment, cure, and vaccine are not imminent. We need to change how we approach life—and change can sometimes be hard work.

As for our 2020 resolutions, they may need to be reevaluated. Let’s focus on what we can do! Safety first, and then some strategizing. Use what we “cannot” do right now to gain knowledge/clarity of what’s really important to us at this time. This knowledge will help to create the motivation to make some desired changes. There are new rules with new ways of being—and even these new ways will continue to change.

Yes, let’s make a new healthy and bolder set of goals for ourselves—that’s where our focus can go. Our dreams are still alive and well. It is the path to them that must change.

Power of Collaboration

It is a well-known fact that individuals and groups of people (large and small) benefit from better collaboration, although collaboration means different things for different people. To some it just means coordination, to others it is a stepping stone to innovation. Whatever your definition of the word may be, one of the easiest ways to facilitate creativity to naturally flow is to form meaningful relationships with the right minded people around you. This way when you are faced with a challenge (and you often will, especially when you are on a path of progression) you have more people to ask for help and it is likely that these people would want to help you out.

Innovators know that sharing isn’t just caring, but rather a key measure or reflection of success. In numerous studies conducted over the years, collaboration has emerged as a crucial characteristic of creativity, innovation and massive growth in nearly all areas of personal & professional development and industries. The singular genius who works alone is an extremely rare finding in today’s highly “connected” world. Today, the biggest breakthroughs happen when networks of self-motivated people with a collective vision join together and share ideas, information, and work.

But with each of these upsides talked about, also comes with some downsides – the chaos of execution, the ever changing nature and thus disruptive power of clients, the daunting task of serving solutions, the uncertainty of a dynamic, evolving, constantly changing path. Below I have summarized three key points to keep in mind while practicing collaboration that will help you enjoy numerous benefits of teamwork while avoiding the pitfalls:
Data and Facts are merely suggestions: When a group of people come together to share ideas there’s a higher probability that many, if not everyone, might get pulled to the center and be reduced to something threadbare. Don’t let the multiplicity of ideas at a brainstorming session taper out into a pile of mediocrity. Remember, the idea is to “think outside of the box”. So don’t be shy to challenge yourself and those around you to go outside of the known limits and boundaries of what has already been done. What’s already been done (facts and data) are suggestions, not a manual – not unless you’ve accepted them to be so.

Surround yourself with people unlike you. Find the people who can fill in your blind spots and help you with things you don’t know about. This means networking, collaborating and embracing individuals you may have absolutely nothing in common with. People that see the world a lot differently than you do. Gather the talents of those who can teach you and give you things that you cannot give yourself. This is collaboration at its best right here – in word and spirit.

Recognize the significance of the SME or Subject Matter Expert. With collaboration often comes a level of flatness in creativity of activities. This means, everyone involved is at some point in time, at the same level. This symmetrical attitude is good, yet we need to recognize the importance of expertise. As an example, you could ask all the people on your social network on home based remedies for a bacterial infection, but you would always go to a professional doctor for anti-biotics, and to an expert coach for strategies that will help you achieve more. Soliciting the opinion of members of the family and friends all have their place, but don’t stop there. When you’re building your innovation team–find the people that are practitioners of certain subject areas in the fields relevant to your initiative.
Collaboration offers us a whole new set of opportunities for growth, yet with its numerous branches of opportunities, it could often become complicated if not properly planned and managed. So be strategic in the groups you enlist and create. The challenge to achieve equality without regularity or sameness, variety without disharmony, cooperation without consensus. In essence, collaboration doesn’t have to mean groupthink.
My friend, motivational speaker, Strategic Intervention coach and author of “A Middle Class Dream” AND the ultimate collaborator –Kamlesh Thakur