Connecting to Gratitude

Connecting to gratitude is one of the keys to healing, happiness, and moving forward. Although it sounds simple, it is often overlooked and sometimes quite challenging.

 

The Easy Stuff

 

It is easy to find good in many things. For instance, having a place to live and food to eat are both good. However, often people take these things for granted or simply accept them without gratitude.

 

The first step in connecting with gratitude is to start seeing these obviously good things as blessings. Prayer, meditation, notes of gratitude, or any other gratitude ritual will help create the connection to gratitude.

 

The Challenge

 

But, what about the bad things in life? Extra work is required to search for something positive worthy of gratitude when considering something that is overall bad. The reason is simple. Being in an emotionally abusive relationship, losing a job, and having an illness rarely have an obvious reason for gratitude. However, connecting to gratitude is very important. Without doing so, truly moving forward is next to impossible.

 

Learning that these experiences have made you who you are is very important to conquering this challenge. Except in cases where a person loathes themselves, it helps a person gain an understanding that value can come in many packages. To take that next step forward, it is critical to be able to give gratitude for those experiences, no matter how negative the situation.

 

Looking For The Light

 

Sometimes it takes a lot of searching to find light in something bad. One way to look at something bad is to look at what good has happened because of the bad situation. For instance, perhaps you wouldn’t have met a certain person, moved to a new city, or looked for a different job if the bad situation hadn’t happened.

 

For example, when I was a senior in college, a company interviewed me and wanted to hire me. The problem was that because of things going on in their industry they were not allowed to hire anyone. Now, this company was ideal for me. It paid well, had previously hired a lot of people from my college, and their offices where only a couple of hours away from my family.

 

It wasn’t something terribly bad, but definitely not good either. Fortunately, at the time, I just accepted it as fact and looked at other options. In retrospect, I am grateful that it didn’t work out. If they had been hiring, I likely wouldn’t have pursued working for Bell Labs. Thus, I likely wouldn’t have ended up living in Denver and I would never have met my husband.

 

People have situations that are much worse than the one I recounted. However, there is almost always something for which to be grateful.

 

Letting Go

 

If you are really struggling with finding good about something, it is likely that there are things that you need to let go. Perhaps you haven’t fully let go of a bad relationship or you keep ties to people at a company where you had an awful experience. In these cases, you need to ask if these continued relationships are serving you.

 

The same can be asked of objects that you choose to keep. If they are a reminder of something negative, ask yourself if you need them in your life today.

 

Additionally, you may continue to have an emotional attachment to the situation – no matter how bad it was. Anger, frustration, and even love can continue to hold you to the situation.

 

Once these emotions and other connections to bad situations have been resolved, you will be able to see beyond the negative. At that point, you can see that you became stronger, that your new job really is better for you, or something positive did come from the situation.

 

It can be very difficult to reach the point of being able to find gratitude for something related to a bad situation. After all, it is all very personal to you.

 

Forgiveness is Key

 

One of the keys to being able to express gratitude in negative situations is to forgive those involved in the bad situation. Once you truly forgive them, you can find light in what happened.

 

This shouldn’t be confused with justifying what happened or forgetting what happened. Neither should it be forgiving the person for their benefit. All of these are unhealthy actions. Instead, it should be forgiving for your benefit. To make you healthy. To make you whole.

 

Connecting to Gratitude

 

Start expressing gratitude for the little things and the things that you normally take for granted. Once you are able, express gratitude for the light in the bad things. The more you express gratitude for the light in all things; the more positive things will come your way.

 

If you would like assistance moving toward gratitude, we offer private sessions Forgiving and Releasing that will help you on your way.  Additionally, we offer a group event The Power of Forgiveness.

 

 

Ivory Tower

 

 

Although originally used to reference the isolated life of a poet, the term “ivory tower” has come to be a reference to someone who is not in touch with the real world. In some references, it goes so farther.  In those instances, it indicates  that the person has a complete disregard for lowly real world issues.

 

People who speak about something or someone at a distance,  are often seen as living in an ivory tower.  Those close to the issue often feel that the perspective shared is out of touch with their own personal reality. The more distantly removed one person is from another in terms of geographical distance, cultural distance, economic distance, and educational distance, the more challenging it is to communicate without one person sounding out of touch with the other.

 

In Academia

 

Often the term ivory tower is used to refer to people in academia because they are focused on research and theories. Meanwhile, people actually working in the field are dealing with the realities of the real world.

 

Along these lines, I recall a researcher at the company where I worked who was advising a PhD candidate at one of the Ivy League schools. The corporate researcher was excited about the PhD student’s thesis and wanted to share information about it with me. I am not sure exactly how I reacted, but it was something along the lines of “And, what else?” They were shocked to know that I already “knew” that the PhD student’s hypothesis was true. I politely informed them that it was common knowledge in business, particularly high tech. It would never have occurred to me to try to get a PhD on something that was so obvious in my world. Yet, here was someone from academia doing just that.

 

In Business

 

Business has plenty of its own ivory towers that aren’t focused on research.  One of the most common ivory towers is retail corporate headquarters. On many occasions I have commented to a store employee about recent changes that made little sense. They almost always answer, “It doesn’t make sense to us either.”  Then the employee shares that someone at headquarters made the decision and that they have no choice.   It makes me wonder if the people at headquarters actually ever shop in their stores.

 

Personally, I like to see and select products in person. However, it is often easier online because finding the product in the store can be a hunting expedition. For instance, who would ever think to look for the dish-washing products in the section with animal care and food? If you would, please explain the logic to me. I am sure it is not in that section online.

 

Other kinds of businesses have ivory towers as well. The executives often believe products can be created much faster than possible. They just have no knowledge of what goes into product creation, but demand it all the same.  

 

Similarly, they will cut costs and staff at any turn while they jet around the world staying in luxury accommodations and eating fine meals. It is challenging for employees to see a connection to these executives. 

 

Elections

 

The ivory tower comes into play in elections as well. In a local election, the candidates are usually from the same area as voters and likely have similar experiences as the voters. Likewise, the candidate is either of the same culture as voters or at least has an understanding of the culture of the voters. Some situations may exist where voters view local candidates as living in an ivory tower. However, it is rarer than in a national election where there is more distance.

 

The further from home the elected official serves; the more likely they are to be seen as living in an ivory tower. This is somewhat unavoidable as the larger the group that they serve, the harder it is to relate to the group. Thus, members of Congress are challenged to represent all of their constituents. The President has an even bigger challenge to connect to the general population.

 

The Facade

 

Some people in these positions are really good at getting common people to believe that they understand the life of the factory worker, the farmer, the front line employee, or the person living in the inner city. Most of the time, this is a façade. Thus, it is important to look beyond it to see if even at a high level the person understands or if their eloquent speech is simply winning you over.

 

Breaking Out Of The Tower

 

Now, it is possible for all people who live in ivory towers to become more attuned to the real world. The first step is for them to realize that they have a lack of understanding. Until they give up the idea that they “know,” they will not make progress. Believing that one knows is not the same as having true understanding. And, when there is a lack of understanding, there is a disconnect.

 

To be successful at connecting to a broad set of people, executives, researchers, and elected officials need to reach beyond their circle of influence. They need to reach out to people in all types of positions and from all kinds of backgrounds. For instance, a politician can only truly connect with the people when he or she reaches out and, more importantly, listens to people of all political leanings. Likewise, a truly successful executive will listen to employees at every level and in a variety of jobs.

 

Listening & Understanding

 

Break out of your world and into the world of someone else by listening and really trying to understand. It is through that understanding that you can truly connect. With true connections, people can come together.

 

 

 

Hidden Connections

 

 

Have you tried finding a connection between yourself and each of the people that cross your path during the day? It is interesting to contemplate. At this point, some people may jump to the concept of six-degrees of separation. However, what I have in mind is a bit different.

 

Zero-Degrees of Separation

 

I contend that there is some type of connection between each person and every other person – no matter how completely different the two people are. These connections are sometimes obvious. For instance, two people might have the same educational background, be from the same town, or have the same religious beliefs. Other times, it is more of a challenge to find the connection.

 

Recently, I was considering my connection to various public political figures. For some of them, I could easily see a connection, since I knew we shared a similar opinion on a particular topic. For others, finding the connection was a bit more challenging. I started thinking about the person’s personality, values, background, interests, and experiences compared to my own.

 

Using this scope, I was able to identify at least one “connection” between the person and myself. I am sure there are many more connections I could make with each person if I got to know them.

 

 

Hidden Connections

 

It is not always easy to find connections between yourself and others, especially if you really don’t want to see it. Most of us don’t have a strong desire to find a connection between ourselves and Jack the Ripper or Al Capone. Still, if we took the time to look, we would find a connection. Similarly, we would find a connection with people who live in different parts of the world, have different religions, or live in very different circumstances.

 

Authenticity

 

Although I would challenge you to find a connection to even the seemingly most different person, I would also caution you to pay attention to the authenticity of the connection. For example, political candidates may state an opinion that aligns well with your own perspective. You should consider that connection carefully.

 

First, look at your own opinion and make sure it is something you truly own. Often the opinions we have are those that we believe we should have rather than our true beliefs. Second, consider the same for the candidate. Is their stated opinion really their opinion and the direction they will take if faced with questions on the topic or is it simply what they believe people want to hear. You may even find that you have a connection with someone who states a different opinion than yours because their underlying viewpoint and resulting actions may actually match your perspective.

 

Limitations

 

It is important not to be drawn in by someone’s outward statements if they are not authentic. The Benders are infamous for inviting people into their home for a nice meal, killing them, and dumping them in a field. I am sure that many of their victims initially felt a connection to them believing they were nice folks that were providing a meal to a weary traveler.  Yet, in their case, it was all a scheme to get the victims’ valuables.

 

Therefore, it is important to remember that connections must be authentic. When you consider public personalities or people that cross your path, make sure to look for the connection. They may be on a different path than you, but challenge yourself to find something you authentically have in common. Just be diligent and pay attention so you don’t become a victim of the person behind the curtain.

 

 

 

 

Out of Sight - Out of Mind

 

The age-old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is a reflection of how easy it is to disconnect from people, places and things. It is easy to feel a connection when you are physically in the presence of someone or something, or when looking at a photograph. However, it isn’t always so easy to feel that connection at other times.

 

Physical Presence

 

When you are with friends enjoying a meal on a restaurant patio looking out toward the mountains, it is easy to feel a connection to your friends, the restaurant, and the mountains. Likewise, you may see a vase or other item that your mother owns and think about memories you have when that vase sat on your grandmother’s table. This gives you a feeling of connection to both the vase and your grandmother. Likewise, you may fall in love with Rome when you visit, feel strong emotion toward a co-worker, or have a strong desire to purchase something that catches your eye.

 

Physically Disconnected

 

On the other hand, it is often far more difficult to feel this deep of a connection at a distance. A restaurant that you have never eaten at is simply a restaurant. Similarly, a vase that you have only heard about or seen in photographs is simply a vase. It might be intriguing because it belonged to your grandmother and you may be interested in it. However, it is not the same as if you have memories of it. Likewise, photos and videos of Rome may pull you into its charm. However, it is different than when you have a personal connection and memories after visiting the city.

 

This is why it is easiest to have emotions and empathy toward people you know personally. You may have emotions and empathy for others, but it is not the same as when you have a strong personal connection. Shared experiences and memories are driving factors in creating strong personal bonds.

 

Out of Sight

 

Now, what may be a very strong connection today can lose that connect when you are somewhere else, with other people, or not looking at an object. In some cases, these people, places, and things may come in and out of your conscious mind on a regular basis. In other cases, your memory may not be jogged until someone or something is mentioned. Or, alternately, you may only think of them when you next see them.

 

In these cases, you are not maintaining strong connections with these people, places, and things. When they are out of sight, they are out of mind.

 

Why?

 

A good question to ask yourself is “What have I put out of my mind?” You might want to ask yourself if there is a particular reason why you have placed that person, place, or object at a distance despite feeling a strong connection to it each time you are together.

 

Consider what things tend to slip your mind. Perhaps you occasionally talk to a friend and each time you talk about how you need to get together sometime. You plan to call and make arrangements, but it doesn’t happen. This would be a prime candidate for a person who falls into the “Out of sight, out of mind” category. Similarly, if every time you see a piece of art, you say to yourself, “I am going to save up so I can purchase that,” but then you go back to your life and forget about it until you see it again, it is also in this category. You feel a pull, but it isn’t strong enough to make you act.

 

So, are you forgetting someone, some place, or something? If so, what are you missing out on because you aren’t keeping your connection to them or it in your conscious mind?

 

 

connecting in 2020

 

 

Welcome to 2020! Or, as Barbara Walters would say, “I’m Barbara Walters, and this is 2020.

 

Twenty-twenty is a great number with the potential to be an amazing year. Only once in a century are the first two digits of the year and the second two digits of the year the same. So, this is your one chance to experience this phenomenon – unless you are currently 100 years old or plan to hang around till 2121.

 

Perfect Vision

 

Dates like 1919 and 2020 roll easily off the tongue making them candidates to be included in advertising and more. However, 2020 is much more. It is also associated with having perfect vision. Both eyesight and hindsight can be 20/20. Thus, many believe that 2020 has the potential to be a wonderful and insightful year.

 

Connect & Reconnect

 

In order to create a wonderful 2020 for yourself, consider making connecting and re-connecting a daily habit. Connecting can come in many forms: connecting with people, physically or virtually, connecting objects, connecting ideas and more.

 

When desiring to connect with people, look around you. Are there people that you encounter regularly with whom you really never connect? They are a great place to start. Try to understand their point of view, their feelings and who they really are. Extend this practice to new people that you meet. And, consider reconnecting with people from your past.

 

New Eyes

 

Similarly, look at activities, passions, and objects with new eyes. Do those things speak to you differently now than they did in the past? Connect to them in new ways. Also, consider reconnecting with an activity or a passion that you sat aside years ago when life got busy or you were encouraged to focus elsewhere.

 

Connect The Dots

 

Consider how other things are connected. Connect the dots between behaviors and actions. Look for connections between very different things and find an entirely new perspective. For example, Steve Jobs sat in on a calligraphy class where he learned about serif and sans serif typefaces (fonts). He was fascinated by the artistry of the characters. At the time, it was simply something that peaked his interest. However, later he applied what he learned and created a choice of fonts for Mac – something that was unheard of in the computing world at that time.

 

Steve Jobs’ connection between calligraphy and computer fonts not only changed the world of computing, but extended into digital media, print media, and beyond. Yet, he had no idea when he was learning calligraphy where it would lead.

 

At a graduation speech at Stanford years later he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

 

Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow

 

So, as you go through 2020 consider if something you have encountered in the past applies to what you are doing today – even if they are two very different things. Also, pay close attention to the things you are now encountering as they may apply to something tomorrow.

 

In the words of Doc Brown (Back to the Future), “Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”

 

 

past present future

 

Our past, present, and future are all strongly inter-connected. If not for the past, we would not be the people we are today or having the experiences of the moment. Likewise, without our experiences today, we would not have our future of tomorrow.

 

Accepting The Past

 

Although many people would like to change the past, it is far better to accept the past for what it is. Whether it was good or bad, it was an element that helped make you who you are. When we don’t accept the past, it continues to dominate the present. Thus, the past doesn’t simply contribute to our present, but it controls it.

 

Accepting that the past does not mean we have to approve of things that happened during that era. Neither does it mean that we ride on our laurels of the past.

 

It is best when we simply acknowledge that in the past we have been in good situations and bad situations. Likewise, we have done things we are proud of and things that we would have liked to have done differently. Still, all those things remain in the past.

 

100% Responsibility

 

Sometimes we have challenges moving past things that others have done in the past. It is important to understand that we can and should take responsibility for those things that we have done. However, it is unhealthy to take responsibility for what someone else has done to us or someone else.

 

If we perceive something was done to us, we can use that to make us stronger and to move forward. If we try to own the other person’s actions towards us, we are giving them an excuse and not allowing them to own up to their responsibility. It also gives power to their actions.

 

As humans, we want to “fix” every problem, person, and situation. The reality is that we cannot. We can only take responsibility for actions that we have taken, learn from our errors, and move forward committed to live a good life.

 

Living Today

 

We must realize that although we cannot change the past, we can take control of today. It is critical to realize that the actions we take today will shape our future and may affect the future of others, as well. This isn’t to say that every decision made each day has to be fully analyzed for impacts on the future.

It would be impossible and frankly unnecessary to analyze every decision. For example, deciding to do the dishes or wait until later isn’t likely to have a big impact on our future. However, some decisions have long-term impacts. For example, deciding to check text messages while driving could completely change multiple people’s lives. Thus, it is important to check in occasionally and ask “Am I on track to make a better tomorrow?”

 

The Future

 

This all leads us to the future, which will become the present and then the past. Living in the future is similar to living in the past. Although the past and present affect the future, focusing on the future and neglecting the present will lead us down a path of regret.  

 

We need to plan for the future and realize the impact of our actions on the future. However, if we live only for the future, we will fail to live at all. For example, if we always save every dime for tomorrow, we will never spend it as tomorrow never comes.

 

Therefore, we must understand that the past, present, and future are intertwined. Remember, although the past helps make you who you are, it does not define you. No matter your current circumstances, you have the choice to act today in a way that will create a brighter tomorrow!

 

 

 

Communities, whether it refers to people in a geographical area, a church family, a school, or another group of individuals, sometimes have a need for healing. In some cases, this is a long-term need arising from neglect, lack of work, or on-going violence. In other cases, the need arises in relationship to a specific tragedy or natural disaster.

 

Healing a community is similar to healing an individual. However, the process varies a bit and can be complicated by having a number of people involved. On the other hand, the people of the community can also be helpful in assisting each other in their healing.

 

Deciding to Heal

Just like with a person, the community first needs to decide to heal. The challenge with this is that different people are of different mindsets with regards to healing and not everyone is on the same timeline with regards to grieving over what has happened. Likewise, those that desire to heal may remain on autopilot for some time simply dealing with the things that have to be done.

 

Support from Outside

 

Each situation is different. In the case of a hurricane, for example, outside assistance may be needed for shelter, food, debris removal, and rebuilding. However, the ultimate healing comes from within the community. The Red Cross and other volunteers cannot heal for the community. Likewise, they cannot force the community to heal. The only thing they can do is support the community while they heal, much like a cast supports someone’s leg while a broken bone heals.

 

Healing Within

 

Different types of traumas require different amount of healing. Likewise, they require different amounts of time to heal. For instance, healing from an earthquake that made various structures in the community uninhabitable might not require the same level of healing as an event that takes several people’s lives.

 

Traumatic Events

 

For people outside the community, the biggest challenge is to allow the community to heal on its own timeline without imposing deadlines or expectations. After 9/11, there was tremendous support from across the country and around the world. However, over time that support for New York and the country in general waned. Thus, the expectations from outside the communities most significantly impacted changed. Yet, especially in New York City, many people are still dealing with the trauma. First responders, in particular, continue to have both emotional and physical issues as a result of their efforts that day.

 

Within the communities impacted by 9/11, the challenge from day one was that various people were impacted in different ways and to a different extent. The same is true of any community impacted by a traumatic event. Each person has a different timeline for grieving related to the event. Thus, after a year some people may be moving on with their life and really spend very little time thinking the event. Meanwhile, others may still be struggling to accept what happened.

 

Long-Term Situations

 

In situations, such as, economic depression, all of the above perspectives apply. The community may need a leg up, but will only truly heal when members of the community make a decision to heal. These situations have different challenges as the issues they are facing have often developed over generations. In these cases, it may be more difficult to gain the momentum to heal despite the desire to move forward.

 

It takes longer in these cases to attain true healing as the trauma has been reinforced over and over. People may have even lost their belief in healing, thinking that things cannot improve. One of the biggest things people outside these communities can do is to spread hope without expectation. If they help these people believe, the people will then be able to start healing.

 

Limiting Actions

 

One worst things people outside the community can do is to use these situations and the people involved to make political statements or to support some perspective that they would like others to believe.   Actions of this nature limit the healing of the communities. In some cases, actions with these types of motives may even cause additional hurt and damage.

 

The Best Action

 

The best action outsiders can take to help a community heal is to provide support and encouragement to the individuals in the community as well as to the community leaders. Within the community, it is important for each person to remember that each person will heal on his or her own schedule. No person can speed up another person’s healing nor should they judge that someone has healed too fast. As each individual focuses on their own healing, they will create an environment for those around them to heal more quickly allowing the community to gain overall momentum in its healing.

 

Remember, healing is possible. It just takes time.

Invest In Yourself

 

 Investing In Others

 

People often put others head of themselves. They see friends, family and strangers struggling financially, emotionally or in some other manner. When this comes to a person’s attention, they often jump right in to help even if it comes at a great personal cost. For instance, a family member may help a cousin that is going through surgery or illness. This is fine, if the person has the time and energy to invest. However, if they are not overly well, this additional burden may take a toll on their health.

 

Other times people observe or believe they observe something in others where they believe the other person needs to address some type of personal issue. For example, we have had numerous people that attended a class and remarked how someone they knew needed that class or an upcoming class. They proceed to attempt to get that person to attend future events. Often the person is not ready or simply not interested in making a change and the person fails to get them to attend. The person who tries to encourage them may become emotionally drained in their effort.

 

Other times, people feel driven to help people on the other side of the globe. They often donate time and money to these causes without knowing if the money and supplies will actually reach the people in need. The only way to know for sure is to participate in the delivery of services and goods, which can be quite time consuming, potentially risky, and at times expensive.

 

Knowing Your Limits

 

Helping others is a wonderful thing to do. It is important, however, for people to know their limits. Whenever possible people should match their skills, time availability, and financial situation to how they help people. For instance, I help people who are adopted find their birth families. This is something that brings them joy and for which I have skills. I would be far less efficient and far more stressed trying to build wells or homes in a third world country. Meanwhile, a carpenter might have no idea how to find a birth family. By choosing to help within one’s skills and limits, the person is helping others while also taking care of him or her self.

 

Still, there are times when a person has to simply take time for him or her self and not help others – even their friends or family. For people that say, “I can’t do that,” I remind them of the airline safety instructions. They tell you that if the oxygen masks are deployed you should secure your mask before placing a mask on someone that might need assistance. The reason, of course, is that if you can’t breathe, you can’t assist someone else.

 

The same is true in life, if a person runs out of steam and become wore down, ill, financially ruined, etc., they can’t help others. However, if they take time to invest in themselves, they have a higher chance of being healthy and vibrant. Thus, they will be in a much better position to help others.

 

Invest In You

 

Investing in oneself doesn’t require a lot of time or money. However, it should occur regularly. It can be as simple as meditating for 10 minutes per day, taking a bath and shutting out the entire world, listening to music that you really love, or reading for pleasure. If the calendar and bank account allows, it is desirable to include occasional bigger investments, such as, long hikes, energy work, classes, or retreats.

 

For people that have a difficult time investing in themselves, they need to realize that all people need some self-care. They may not feel they need it. Perhaps, they feel they don’t deserve it. Maybe they feel there are others that need it more. No matter the argument, they need to go back to the basic concept, put your oxygen mask on before assisting someone else. That tells them everything they need to know. Care of self must come first before one can care for others.

 

Do You Invest In You?

 

So, the question is “How often do you invest in yourself?” If you don’t invest in yourself regularly, consider adding some self-care to your calendar. Remember, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time or money. You do, however, need to make an effort. No one else can do it for you.