try something new: appreciations

A few years ago, I began a practice that would radically alter my life: appreciations.

I stopped assuming that people in my life knew how I felt about them.

I stopped assuming that someone knew that I valued their time, their work, their input.

I stopped assuming that the cashiers or the sales workers on the floor didn’t need to hear my sincere thank-you, because after all, it was “their job.”

I stopped assuming that the people I randomly interacted with who had beautiful smiles or a fun outfit knew that they looked fantastic.

I stopped assuming that the mothers who were taking care of kids walked with a belief that of course they were good mothers, of course they were doing a great job with their kids.

So I stepped into a practice of appreciations.

It felt incredibly strange at first–oddly, my biggest fear that kept me from wanting to make the appreciation was a fear that the person was thinking I was kissing up or just trying to get something out of them. But I tried it a few times and noticed how the person’s face would just light up entirely (usually), and I liked that moment of connection. I grew up watching my Dad chat up cashiers–he would always ask how much time they had left at work, and ask how they were doing in such a sincere way, and I noticed that it made it such a nice experience.

Working with the Challenge Day organization has reinforced this all the more–co-founders Rich and Yvonne encourage people to ask strangers, “What are you grateful for?” or “What’s your biggest dream?”

Asked with a simple, casual and conversational tone, these needn’t be questions that are “too deep” for everyday conversation, but rather quick questions that can inspire this little hit of connection between people.

Try Something New: experiment with telling everyone, from the casual encounters to the people who mean the most to you, something you appreciate about them. Acknowledge them for all things big or small, even if you think that they probably “already know” this about themselves.

Who’s the first person you would like to acknowledge, and what would you like to say? Do you notice a difference in your day if you make interactions with the more “casual relationships of your day,” like cashiers or service staff, more personal?

Click to tweet: Practice radical and abundant appreciation.
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lightening up

thehero

It can be so easy to assume that we are the only ones struggling, the only ones who are trying to carve out a space for ourselves and then being met with challenges.

While the voices that tell us that we are alone/the only one might not be the same as those that directly criticize us for not doing/being/having more, I think it all comes from the same place. At the end of the day, the internalized messages that we are not doing/being/having more are about separation–separating ourselves from others–and the messages about being alone, that other people’s outsides are an accurate reflection of their insides, are also about separation.

Recently, I had a rough day. It had been a rough couple of days, compounded in part because I’d thrown out my neck the week before and it kept aching and spasming and I was not really sure what was wrong or why it was not responding to ice, heat, aleve, etc. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled but couldn’t get in until Thursday. Then I had a phone call that left me feeling drained and depleted and sad, and I noticed that the old story of not-enoughness was starting to play in my head.

I decided to get out of the house.

It was then that I toddled into a nearby Paper Source and spied a package of self-adhesive mustaches. Here is how The Brain reacted:

That would be fun.

You can’t get those.

What would be the point.

Waste of money.

But wouldn’t it be hilarious?

What if you bought them?

What if you walked around in them while you were still at the shops?

Do it.

You so have to do this.

DO IT!

You’ll feel like a total fool.

That’s not true–you actually don’t give a shit. It would just be silly to wear a mustache. Do it!

— And with that, a smile crossed my lips and I knew that I was on to something. I bought them and tried on the first, The Hollywood. I liked it. I hopped into my car and drove down the highway heading back home, and was laughing the whole time, feeling more rested and restored.

All of it practice–practice in noticing what I needed in a given moment. Practice in seeing resistance to that crop up and practice in diving in. I simply could not take myself seriously any longer.

The Resistance

The resistance that crops up for us in these moments is the most pernicious of all–that to forcibly make myself do something other than wallow would mean I’m being “fake,” or that it’s “fake” to embrace happiness in this way.

I try to just notice how that is another piece of separation, and that when I’m choosing to step into something, it usually doesn’t feel good right away. At first, it usually feels forced until I find my rhythm with it.

What’s powerful is when we make a choice to change what we’re doing, anyway–despite the heaviness of that voice.

It’s a fine line–someone could just as easily read this post and accuse me of trying to push people to not be where they’re at–but that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m getting at an experience of noticing where we’re at, being in it for awhile, accepting it, even embracing it, and then noticing when the conditions seem right to release that and let go.

Can you give that gift to yourself?

After all, if it’s truly not yet time to let go, it won’t release.

We can all lighten up just a bit. We needn’t take all of this so seriously. There are bad days to be had, and for every one of them, there’s an adhesive moustache right around the corner.

Stop the Job Suckage: Day Three

* This ten-day series is designed to help you kickstart a new way of approaching your job or career. Over ten days, we’ll explore how to look objectively at the job/career situation you’re in, and clarify where to go next. For some, that might mean not leaving a job but drastically improving it in some meaningful way. For others, this series will provide some help with clarifying your next career move or pave the way to a transition. You’re strongly encouraged to complete all ten steps, in order, to see what answers you arrive at.

Badda-bing, Badda-boom! You have now…

1.) Written out your ideal day, from start to finish

2.) Identified the most important qualities of that ideal day.

(If you haven’t done these first two steps and want to see the previous days, click the “job suckage” category to the left of this entry)

Today, Day Three, it’s time to get pro-active.

Exercise: Brainstorm at least 3 different ways that each quality could some how be incorporated into your current job situation. Brainstorm solutions even if you think that they aren’t likely to happen (note: fire-bombing is not an option).

For instance, perhaps you work for a large corporate entity and you have identified that “creativity” is a quality to bring into your ideal day. Perhaps you are a receptionist, and the idea that you will ever be able to fulfill your longing to become a mixed-media artist while somehow sitting at that desk seems like it’s a total pipe dream. The goal with this exercise is to bring the quality of creativity into your current workspace, because bringing the qualities that are important to you into your current job will make the job seem just a smidge better. It empowers you to create the life you want, with the circumstances you’ve got–and that is Powerful with a big, phat-ass “P.”

Here are some possible brainstorms for such a hypothetical situation:

1.) make art on my lunch break

2.) organize people from work into a monthly art group

3.) carry around art in my wallet/purse/briefcase and look at it often

4.) creatively answer the phone–make it a game to see how many creative ways I can think of to make everyone I talk to feel really great as a result of talking to me

5.) create a piece of artwork, scan it, set it as my desktop screensaver.

Those are just a few random ideas for one quality–creativity. Brainstorm at least three ideas for each quality you’d like to bring into your current job/workplace. The value of how the small things add up is best explained in a quote I heard once. A CEO had turned around a failing company and people asked him how he did it. He replied, “It’s not that we did one thing, 100% better. We did 100 things, just 1% better.”

Lots of “1% betters” can add up to “100% better.”

Now why would you do this, if you know for absolute certain that you are in the WRONG JOB?

I encourage you to do this because this is the 100% fail-safe way to a.) test out whether the jobby-job is the real issue or the scapegoat issue for why life is not working, and b.) because it’s more powerful to make positive shifts even in situations you dislike than it is to wallow, and c.) because if you’re still in the WRONG JOB, theoretically you have not up and quit because you need to wait to do that…you need another job, or to build up your biz on the side, or for Obama to push universal health coverage through so that your kidlets won’t end up with untreated cases of rickets because you jumped ship from that employer HMO. And if you’re in the WRONG JOB for the next three months or year or whatever, why not make it a little more palatable? Why not build some character? Why wallow when there is possibility around every corner?

I’m kind of laughing at myself as I type this, because I absolutely know that when I started to do this work myself, I was all, “Are you kidding me?” It seemed like a colossal waste of time.

And now, on the other side of all of that, having taken these steps, I see how important it was that I acted with all of the integrity I could muster. I felt stronger and more powerful every time I made a choice to put my all into what I was doing. For someone having doubts, I’d ask–what would that feel like for you?

I’ll also add that tomorrow, I’m going to address the “Can’ts” that might have come up for some of you in response to this call for action.

Get started–no need to wait for the right time, the right MOOD, the right pencil, the right…just dive right in and brainstorm at least 3 solutions for each quality that you identified in the previous exercise. Left your qualities list at home? Lost it? The dog ate it? Start brainstorming just based on what you remember, and fill in the blanks later.

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