Monday, October 31, 2016

Daily Gratitudes: Attention

Day 25/365: I am grateful for the cycle of life that is beautiful in birth and in death, in ascendance and decline.

This image was prompted by the quote of poet Jane Hirshfield, "Zen pretty much comes down to three things: everything changes, everything is connected, pay attention."

I like simple things I can remember, and particularly commands that you instantly understand but can take a lifetime to master. It seems appropriate to pay a little more attention to "attention." So a few more quotes.

"When you approach something to photograph it, 
first be still with yourself 
until the object of your attention affirms your presence. 
Then don't leave until you have captured its essence."
  -- Minor White

"I think the one lesson I have learned is 
that there is no substitute for paying attention." 
 -- Diane Sawyer

"The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance 
is human attention." 
-- Kevin Kelly, editor "Wired"

"There is a spiritual basis to attention, 
a humility in waiting upon the emergence 
of pattern from experience."  
-- Mary Catherine Bateson, from Peripheral Vision

"Love begins with paying attention to others, 
with an act of gracious self-forgetting."-- John O'Donohue, Anam Cara


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Role of Gratitude in Making Meetings Work Better

One of the miracles from this journey into gratitude has been meeting Steve Foran, a Canadian businessman who calls himself a grateful CEO and integrates gratitude into his daily life, at home, at work, everywhere.

In addition to teaching Business Ethics and writing extensively on the subject of gratitude, Steve helps leaders build teams that are resilient and effective through a process he calls StatusGRO(TM). Steve told me a story about using gratitude in meetings and I thought it deserved to be shared.

From Steve:  Over the last 29 years I’ve seen a lot of meetings, both good ones and bad ones. Some I’ve chaired, some I’ve sat through, some I wished I was golfing, some were all over the place, and some were … all of the above.

While there isn’t a common element to what worked or what didn’t work, there’s a technique I started a few years back whenever I chair a meeting and it has a powerful impact on the discussion that follows.

Begin by sharing one gratitude.

At the outset of the meeting, I simply say, “Before we get into the agenda, let’s go around the table and share one thing we’re grateful for. It can be from here at work or from your personal life… whatever you want.” And then I start off with my gratitude first.

It has proven to be a simple and extremely effective way to create the right atmosphere for an effective discussion.

A few years back I was chairing a special meeting of a voluntary board and we were about to discuss and make a decision on what was shaping up to be a very divisive issue. While there were many contributing factors to the divisiveness (such as organizational leadership, communication, resistance to change, and fear of the unknown, differing levels of knowledge regarding the issue at hand), our task at the meeting required us to come together, listen to the respective viewpoints, make a very important decision and be unified in carrying that decision forward.

The subject area for the crunch discussion was foreign to me but I had been having great success in starting meetings by sharing gratitudes and decided that’s how we would start the meeting. There was some initial skepticism because people wanted to get straight to the issue and not waste time. With close to 30 people in the room, it took more than 10 minutes to go around the table.

By the end of the gratitude sharing, the temperature in the room had shifted. As the evening unfolded, there were some heated debates, but the tone was respectful. We had some people who repeated their points because they didn’t feel heard, but it didn’t happen as often as usual. There were some diversions away from the main issues, but, for the most part, the conversation remained focused. At the end of the evening, we made our decision and people felt good about it. It might have been the best 10 minutes we invested into preparing for a meeting.

Two days later I received a phone call from a volunteer at the center of the issue being discussed. He said, “Steve I’ve been doing this work for more than 40 years. In my entire career, I’ve never seen such a change in attitude in such a short period of time. As people started arriving and talking before the meeting, you could feel the tensions rising. But that gratitude exercise you had us do was masterful.”

I highly recommend using this technique at your next meeting. It works regardless of the setting… at work, in the community, at home. If you don’t get the miraculous results you hoped for the first time, don’t give up. Give people time to get used to it because right now, not many meetings start this way. You can change that. 

A great way to stay focused on your own gratitudes is to subscribe to Steve's daily gratitude posts ... his own and from guests. Subscribe here to receive them directly. And, you can check out StatusGRO(tm) here.

 


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Daily Gratitude: Beginnings

Day 24/365: I am grateful to live in a world where we can always begin again, start over, have a second chance.

Several years ago, I participated in an intuitive painting workshop that pushed all my buttons and set my insecurities ringing. After a great deal of frustration and tears, I made a breakthrough ... not particularly in the quality of my art, but in the way I thought about it and myself.

It prompted the following poem:




Begin Again

I stand at an expanse of white paper.
  Fears rise like a rush of ravens cawing
  my inadequacies to an indifferent world.
  “Begin!” I cry above their screechings.

I throw paint — fuchsia, chartreuse, deep purple.
   Hope for a miracle slowly sinks into gloom
   as the Muse rejects my careless offering.
   “Begin again!” she commands.

I craft a lofty scene filled with symbol and sign.
   Color and context weave an eye-pleasing cry
   for approval and recognition that does not come.
   “Begin again,” the Muse repeats.

I wildly cover the space with scribble and daub.
   Then, lost on the page, I stand frozen in fear,
   a hollow husk with no place to hide.
   “Begin again,” she whispers.

I stand — waiting, listening, attending.
   A feeling guides me to a land timeless and unplanned.
   Brush, color and hand create in unjudged harmony.
   I am awake, alive, vision vibrating through me.

Softly the Muse just repeats, “Begin again.”

 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Daily Gratitude: Music

Hot Harmonica on a Cool Night
Day 23/365: I am grateful for music that adds to the joy of life, excites us, soothes us, makes us dance, takes us to other lands.

One night in the Sierra foothills, people gathered under the stars, listening to this musician play a hot harmonica on that cool evening.

Arthur O'Shaughnessy's "Ode," is one of my favorites and the best known work of this British poet and herpetologist(!). He died too young after getting a chill walking home from the theater on a rainy night.


 Other thoughts on music:

"Where words fail, music speaks."
-- Hans Christian Anderson

“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
― Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” -- Friedrich Nietzsche


Here's the full version of "Ode."

WE are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,         5
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world forever, it seems.
  
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,  10
  And out of a fabulous story
  We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure  15
  Can trample an empire down.
  
We, in the ages lying
  In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
  And Babel itself with our mirth;  20
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
  To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
  Or one that is coming to birth.