Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

How to Win on One of Those Days 

Joshua Earle via UpSplashphoto -

Your long awaited vacation is mere days away. Carly Simon’s hit song, “Anticipation” — although unrelated to your life — becomes your theme song.

You imagine sunrise walks with stunning picture-perfect moments … moments when you devour delicious local food; so fresh, so good. Calmed by the sounds of nature, you plan to power up with an afternoon nap.

How do you feel?

But, (don’t you hate it when the sentence begins with that word?) But the day you arrive it’s cloudy, with rain in the forecast. Your dream of perfect has been struck by lightning.

Life in everyday mode

That can easily be an ordinary day at work. You wake up intentional, committed, mindful, goal-focused, and engaged. “Today’s the day! Today, I’m going to be so very productive,” you almost shout in anticipation.

Linda calls in sick. The server is down. The phone is ringing with customer “unhappiness.” And it’s 8:15 a.m., right?

The sun is always shining

One of the things I love about flying is when somewhere around 25,000 feet the plane breaks through the cloud ceiling. It can be raining or just overcast below, but above … the sun is always shining.

Sunshine is good for you. Just some of the benefits of appropriate exposure include: 1) better sleep, 2) enhanced mood, 3) lowered blood pressure, and 4) a boost to your body’s vitamin D supply.

But how do you get above the clouds?

Gratitude, the lift for any day

Cultivate the positive emotion of gratitude and you’ll live in the sunshine and reap a bountiful harvest. Grateful people — those who see being thankful as a virtue — have an edge.

What would you like more of in your Story? Research suggests the following benefits of gratitude:

  • Stress Buster – Stress can make you sick; gratitude helps you better manage stress
  • Immune Booster – Optimism tends to associate with grateful people, which in turn supports your immune system
  • Ability to Face Loss“So much of gratitude is about one’s perspective and framework for looking at the world and at self. People who tend to be more mindful of the benefits they’ve received tend to focus their attention outward.”  – Robert Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California Davis

And yes, this blog is for today, not this fall. Gratefulness is a character quality – it means you let others know by your words and actions how they have benefited your life.

Create Space for Reflection

The rain may change your plans but it doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. And so it is in life, gratitude helps you rise above the cloud ceiling of discouragement, disappointment, frustration due to unfulfilled expectations, unnecessary stress and conflict, and relationship conflict.

Here is an exercise to help you experience more sunshine.

  • What relationship is challenging for you today? Make a list of 5 – 7 things you can be grateful for in that relationship. What do you appreciate about the person?
  • What’s the hard part of your Story right now? While embracing the reality of the situation, what can you be grateful for?
  • Who could you reach out to, by your words or actions, to say thanks for their influence in your life?

Here’s to your breakthrough,


Photo Credit: Joshua Earle via UpSplash

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What about your adventure?

Cody Townsend took his passion to the next level – a new level. Watch as he straight-lines a vertical chute deep in Alaska’s Tordrillos Mountain Range at about 60 miles per hour.

Cody made that run for a new film, “Days of My Youth.” The movie offers “a unique glimpse into the journey of self-discovery that every skier experiences.”

What will you discover?

Today, an adventure awaits you. So, please join me as we welcome …

2015 – The Year of Adventure

[Applause. Cheers. Nervous laughter.]

An adventure can be “an undertaking involving danger and unknown risks.” If that’s what you want, go for it. Or an adventure can be an “exciting or remarkable experience.” You get to choose.

However, the adventure I propose requires marching out of your comfort zone. It requires the willingness to see the risk and go for it. It concerns your leadership in the weeks ahead. It means something must change or you’ll be stuck.

Three questions

The time to release 2014 is coming. But first, I encourage you to create space and reflect on these three questions. Your answers become your Story. And yes, this exercise is best completed with pen and paper in hand…

  1. What got you here?

What will you celebrate? What did you achieve?

Who and what are you grateful for?

Who do you appreciate? Who helped you get here? How will they know?

What didn’t work out as you hoped? What did you learn from it?

  1. What does there look like?

Two things set us up for a next level breakthrough:

PROMISE – hope for the future, potential, possibilities, and significance.

PAIN – disappointment, frustration, discomfort.

PAIN and PROMISE drive the desire for change.

What behavior limits your positive influence with others?

How might your thinking hold you back?

What can you learn from the truth in your Story – from the feedback, experience, success, and failures?

What does success look like?

  1. How will you get there?

What support do you have? Need? Who? When?

What happens if you don’t get there?

Why does it matter that you change…?

What’s the scariest thing you’ll do?

Cody Townsend earned Powder Magazine’s award: “Best Ski Line 2014” with his run. The 89-second challenge exposed both his hope and fears. Did you hear what he said off camera at the end of the run? “That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

The adventure that calls you engages your ability and willingness to learn and change and exposes you to both hope and fear. To change ancient behavior is hard work and it can be scary. It means you must leave your comfort zone.

What must you change to expand your influence?

The gift of a fresh start is before you choose wisely.

Here’s to your 2015: The Year of Adventure!


PS: Let me know, will you join me and make 2015 – The Year of Adventure?

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What if you’ve been burned?

Greased Gears Rob Brewer flickr

For some it’s a tradition – deep-fried turkey – for others it’s a costly and painful accident. They get burned!

Speaking of pain, did you know Texas wins the dubious title of: most grease and cooking-related accident claims on Thanksgiving Day? According to State Farm Insurance the top five are Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.

Yep, more cooking fires occurred in Texas on Thanksgiving Day than any other day with over 30% started in a garage or on the patio. More than $15 million in property damage each year, plus the pain people experience due to burn injuries.

A different type of “burn”

Every day, people get burned – not deep-frying a turkey – but in relationships. They experience pain through some interaction in the workplace, even on their team.

People will be “burned” today when someone …

  • Breaks trust showing no vulnerability even though they dropped the ball
  • Ineffectively communicates, dismissing the real issues in favor of a personal agenda
  • Fakes his or her commitment to the decision, with a nod, but with no intention to follow through
  • Shirks personal responsibility for his or her work and accountability to the team
  • Fails to focus on team results in favor of personal gain

Beyond such team-based burns, there’s the additional frustration blister raised by unfulfilled expectations.

When burned by someone, sparks fly and friction heats things up.

Another type of grease

Think about what happens when iron gears mesh together. Iron on iron creates friction. The friction between the cogs heats up and wears them down. In time, the powerful gears no longer work and progress is stopped … unless grease is applied.

Gears are a simple way to increase speed or power or to change direction. To keep gears from wearing down, grease must be applied.

Gratitude, the grease for team relationships

Like a gearbox, teams transfer power from one part to another. Friction and tension, the wear and tear of use eliminates the lubrication.

Of course, teams cannot avoid frustration, tension, stress or conflict – that’s life. Whether the friction comes from interacting with others or set backs in life things can heat up. This is where the grease of gratitude is applied.

Said another way, it’s hard to be at odds with and grateful for a teammate at the same time. Gratitude may not prevent the relationship “burn” caused by tension, stress, and conflict, but it can help bring healing.

When you experience friction, see what happens when you focus on the positive aspects and qualities of the other person or situation. Then, move forward with achieving the collective results of the team.

Simple precautions

So if you want to deep-fry a turkey, perhaps for Christmas, avoid a call to 911 by following these safety steps: 1) Place the fryer away from anything combustible. 2) Don’t overfill the fryer; leave room for the turkey. 3) Do not overheat the oil; 350 degrees is the limit. And 4) Completely thaw your turkey before immersing in hot oil.

Grease your relationships

Now, back to those “turkeys” you work with….

Squirt some gratitude grease in your relationship-gearbox. I know we just celebrated Thanksgiving in the USA, but the challenge remains, right?

  1. Where are you frustrated in life? Where does life not seem fair right now?

Take your journal and complete the following statement. List at least five things.

When it comes to (insert your situation) I’m grateful for ___________

  1. Who are you frustrated with? What person are you experiencing conflict, tension, or stress with…?

Write your answer to the following…

When I think of (person) I appreciate ______________

Applying the grease of gratitude and appreciation is soothing and liberating. Repeat daily or more often as required.

Here’s to your Next Level,


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Gratitude the Grease for Life

Gears Mike Hoff

This week, I offer a quick reminder in support of your Thanksgiving Day celebration. Actually, this simple exercise is effective whenever you need to shift your thinking about your Story or someone in your Story.

Perhaps you are frustrated because of unfulfilled expectations. Maybe you dropped the ball or missed the mark. Or something happened in your Story that “isn’t fair.”

Create space to build perspective, to think, or re-consider your Story. Use this reflective exercise and watch what happens.

Get started

Take your journal or a piece of paper and complete this statement:

         Today, I’m grateful for…(List at least seven things.)

Add more grease

Question ONE: Where are you frustrated?Where does life not seem fair today? What disappoints you right now?

Now, complete the following:

When it comes to (name the situation) I’m grateful …

Question TWO: Think of someone you are frustrated with, at odds with, or in conflict with …

Complete the following:

When I think of (person) I appreciate ______________

Gratitude and appreciation grease the gears of life.

Use liberally to support a positive outlook on your Story. Simple but effective; repeat daily.

Grateful for you,


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How to counter-attack fear

Basingstoke Office Staff Desk "No computer"

Alan Webber sat at the end of the boardroom table. After a lot of hard work, he had landed an interview with former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt for Harvard Business Review.

“I’ve got my questions written,” he thought running through his mental checklist. “Recorder is set, last thing I need is a technical glitch and miss this whole thing. Man, this jet lag is killing me – what was I thinking…?”

And with that fear began its subtle assault.

His mind fully cooperated, “What will the editor think if I screw up this interview? What would happen to my job? What if Helmut Schmidt thinks my questions are stupid? What if…?”

Game changer

Fear is the defeater of many initiatives: make the phone call. Launch the project. Re-engage the strained relationship. Speak up in the meeting. Fear challenges forward progress in ordinary work of life on a daily basis.

Here are three steps to support your victory over fear:

  1. Gratitude – What is the unique opportunity before you? How is the problem, challenge or assignment an opportunity? What are you grateful for in this situation?
  2. Smile – Bring smile power to your aid. As Leo Widrich points out, “Smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel … (it) helps to generate more positive emotions within you.” Smile fear in the face.
  3. Let go – What happens when you try to control something or someone who is out of your control? You lose control, self-control. Lack of self-control leads to unproductive behavior. The need to control produces frustration, which fertilizes your fear.

What if it doesn’t go as you expected? What if it does?

First you, then the others

Victory over fear resides within you. Gratitude re-sets perspective, smiling generates positive emotion, and releasing control liberates you to expand your influence. Your victory over fear builds a positive environment for your team.

In his book, Out of the Crisis, W. Edwards Deming offered fourteen key principles for transforming business effectiveness. One of his management principles states:

Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.

Fear not only gets in your way but also creates a fear-based workplace. Fear of failure destroys freedom and innovation. The fear of doing it wrong disengages a team and hinders productivity. Fear limits progress.

Alan took his note pad and wrote across the top of the page:

Relax! Smile! This is a blessing, a treat, and an honor. It’s not a punishment to be endured.

Just then, the door opened and Helmut Schmidt walked in for the interview.

 We shook hands. I introduced myself and briefly explained the project. I got ready to ask my first question. But first I smiled. He smiled back.  (Rules of Thumb,  p. 4)

Where is fear having its way with you and holding you back? Think of the situation.

What are you grateful for? Make your list of 3 – 5 things.


Smile again…

Ready to let go? How will you exert influence instead of trying to control?

Here’s to your victory!


PS: Addressing fear and overcoming is just one of the skills we practice in Next Generation Leaders team-based coaching.  If you’d like to see more details of how we unite employees into teams of self-managed leaders, see the team-based coaching page.

Photo credit: Cross Duck via Compfight

What don’t you see?

Looking outside

To explore the world outside you requires a change of pace and perspective; yes, an open heart and mind.

So, how curious are you about what lies outside you? What about the people you work with, curious about their weekend? What about the work you do, wonder how to be more effective?

What might you be missing?

What inspires and recharges your batteries? Now, how often do you engage in those activities?

What might happen if you create a little space to see, to think, to notice … to breathe?

Here’s to seeing life and the people in your story with new eyes  with appreciation and gratitude.

May you be filled with awe today,


What’s the nitty-gritty behind successful people?

secret tip of pinewood derby: sand your car

Imagine an old table. The current finish covers three other layers of paint hiding the beautiful red oak grain. Your goal: to restore the natural wood with a hand rubbed finish.

The paint surrenders to the abrasive aluminum oxide 60-grit sandpaper. With time, the wood grain is revealed confirming the value of your second-hand store snag.

The oak wood has smaller imperfections requiring additional preparation. You grab a sheet of 120-grit sandpaper. Energized by the progress the surface is ready for the stain, sealer, and finish coat.

The vision breaks into the reality of a dusty workplace.

Speaking of goal achievement

We are in season of new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s time to re-visit the dream or dream again. As you engage the moment, may I encourage you to create space for reflection on Chapter 2013 first? Remember that

The Best Predictor of Future Success

is the ability and willingness to learn and change,

achieved through consistent reflection

on truth found in the Story.

Come on, let’s celebrate!

Unleashing a heart of gratitude it’s time to rehearse and celebrate your 2013 achievements. How easy it is to magnify the misses and those times we fell short. What happens if we do? We lose the encouragement and energy that comes from making progress.

When will you create space to celebrate your victories?

What to do to get there

As you dream about Chapter 2014 in your story, here’s some help regarding how to reach your goals. In her book 9 Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant Halvorson offers strategies that support high performance.   Here are the 9 things:

  1.  Get specific – What does success look like for you?
  2.  Seize the moment to act – pre-determine what you will do, when, and where you will take action
  3.  Know exactly how far you have left to go – monitor your progress
  4.  Be a realistic optimist – see the obstacles and prepare how you will overcome them
  5.  Focus on getting better, rather than being good – goals are seen as opportunities to improve, rather than prove yourself
  6.  Have grit – persistence over the long haul
  7.  Build your willpower muscle – self-control needs to be exercised in order to strengthen it
  8.  Don’t tempt fate – no one has willpower all the time, don’t push your luck
  9.  Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do – instead of focusing on bad habits, its more effective to replace them with better ones

Remember, goal accomplishment is about what you do, not who you are.

What about grit?

Heidi Halvorson created the Nine Things Diagnostics – a free, online set of questionnaires designed to measure how you use the nine things in pursuit of personal and professional goals. Reviewing some 7,000 responses she discovered the most impactful strategy: have grit. That’s right, persistence is at the top of the list.

Think of a time when you did not achieve a realistic goal.

How much consideration did you give to the possibility: “I just didn’t hang in there long enough?”  People often believe it is their lack of ability that limits success, more often than not, it is too little grit to get the job done.

Here’s the nitty-gritty. The four most impactful strategies are…

  1. Have grit
  2. Know exactly how far you have left to go
  3. Get specific on what success looks like
  4. Seize the moment to act on your goals

Back to our painted oak table … success was the result of persistence, monitoring of progress, knowing what success looks like, and setting aside time to work on the project. And the reward? A beautiful oak piece of furniture and satisfaction of a job well done.

Now, just so you don’t forget …

  • What are your top five achievements during Chapter 2013?
  • How will you celebrate?
  • Who will be there? When? Where?

Here’s to your dream and grit,


Photo credit: Creative Commons Licensewoodleywonderworks via Compfight
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