gratitude journal

A Little Thankful Goes A Long Way

Gratitude seems to be on a lot of people’s minds lately. A quick scroll through my twitter feed this morning is evidence. Many tweets and blog posts encourage others to be grateful and thankful.   In a world full of negative press and fake news, it’s refreshing to see people express authentic and unconditional gratitude.

One of my favorite ways to express gratitude comes from Tisha Richmond and Tara Martin. They collaborated and developed the genius idea of #gratitudesnaps. #Gratitudesnaps is based on the idea that connecting people based on positive and uplifting feelings makes for better human interaction. The pair encourages people to take a picture of something for which they are grateful, turn it into a snap, and post on social media, one picture for 30 days.

gratitudesnapsgratitudesnaps

Finding and reflecting on gratitude can take on many forms and is not the same for everyone. I started a personal journey towards gratitude about a year ago. My daughters were seniors in high school and didn’t need me much anymore. I started working in a new environment, and my life was in a transitional phase. I needed to get my “why” back, so I started a gratitude journal.   At the end of the day, I reflect and record three things for which I am grateful. In the beginning, my list looked something like this:

  1. My family
  2. My friends
  3. My pets

Not always in that order, but that summed it up for a couple of weeks. Unhappy with the list, I started to dig deeper and did some more reflecting at the end of each day. My gratitude expanded to the many little things that happen throughout my daily routine. Here’s what I learned on this yearlong journey towards gratitude:

It’s all about relationships

After reflecting on the three things that enriched my day, I found I could find things to be thankful for even on the darkest of days. I noticed a pattern in my journal. Many of the moments I was grateful for were connected to another person, someone who made my day better in some small way. Each opportunity to interact with someone is a choice. If people choose to interact with you, be grateful and make it count.

Finding gratitude can be challenging

Don’t get me wrong, we all probably have similar list like the one above and that truly is a blessing. But on days when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss, your family is taking you for granted, or your dog just ruined your brand-new carpet, it can be hard to find three things to write in a notebook.

On a particularly bad day last week, my journal looked like this:

  1. Gentleman who waved me in the merge lane
  2. Smile from a coworker in the hall
  3. The one flower still in bloom on my outside plants

Those challenging days push you to dig deep. It’s during those moments that you realize that you can find something to be thankful for each day.

A little thankful goes a long way

After a year of journaling, my gratitude bucket is full. As I continue to record and reflect on my own day, I am now ready to express my gratitude for others in my life. My new challenge is to take time at the end of each workday to reflect on a coworker who touched my day in some way and send them a note of gratitude.

I hope sharing what I have learned during this gratitude journey helps you to recognize all the big and little things that enrich your life on a daily basis. Whether it’s a #gratitudesnap, a journal, or a handwritten note to a colleague, take a step toward identifying at least one thing every day for which you are grateful.

Ali and I are both experiencing gratitude through our blogging journey. Each comment, like, and share fulfills us and shows us that it’s okay to be imperfect. For this, we are grateful. We are grateful for hidden leaders who realize that they don’t have to be perfect in order to lead.

Is there a hidden leader that inspires you? Show them your gratitude by commenting below. It might just make their own gratitude list a little longer.

With Gratitude,

Lisa

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When You Need to Hit the Reset Button

When You Need to Hit the Reset Button

My daughter ran track during high school and will soon participate at the college level. She favors the mid-distance runs, not too short or too long. Her favorite seems to be the 800-meter run. For those non-track people like myself, that means running two times around a track as fast as you can.

It’s probably one of the most challenging events because it sits in between a sprint and longer, more endurance heavy events. The 800 meter is notoriously demanding, tricky to pace and apparently hurts like the devil. The key seems to be going hard in the first lap but not hard enough to waste all your energy for the second lap.

That’s how the month of September is for me. After 24 years of teaching, the balance of starting the school year has eluded me. Unlike my daughter, I don’t pace myself; I expend all of my energy in the first lap and crash before getting to October.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, I turn to the solace of books. I need to slow down and take some time to rest and regain my strength.

If you find that you too have crashed and burned after expending so much energy in September, you may need to push the reset button. One way I do this is to lose myself in a good book. I just recently finished an Audible book listening binge. Audible is an app that lets you listen to books while doing other things like cleaning and exercising. During my binge I didn’t do any of those things though, I just stretched out on the couch and enjoyed the sweet sounds of a good book.

If literary escapism sounds like what you need, read these titles below to escape to a meth lab farmhouse, a female concentration camp, a design firm in Scotland and ten years back in time.

eleanor

After a slow start, I found myself not wanting this story to end. Be warned; it can be dark and depressing at times. Eleanor is a prim and proper loner but believes in good manners and doing things right. She is completely alone in the world until she meets Raymond. The author pulls you into Eleanor’s life, and you find yourself rooting for Eleanor to settle her past and find true happiness. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions.

 

 

what alice forgot

If you could have a do-over of the last ten years of your life would you? That’s what Liane Moriarty wants to know in What Alice Forgot. Author of Big, Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty addresses the family unit, infertility, loss, and love. Alice is a single mother of 3 going through a messy divorce. An accident at the gym leaves her with a bump on the head and missing the last ten years of her life. She wakes up thinking she is pregnant and madly in love with her soon to be ex-husband Nick. Travel with Alice through this touching and thought-provoking story as she tries to unravel the mystery of the last ten years.

 

Lilac Girls

Martha Hall Kelly’s story is centered around three very different women with three very different situations during WWII. Their lives come together when one of them is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this novel explores the depths of love, the shared human story and uncovers secrets hidden for decades. An uplifting story during one of the most horrific times in our history.

 

all the ugly and wonderful things

This novel pulls you outside of your comfort zone and asks you to read without judgment. It reveals things that are ugly and uncomfortable like family discord and mental illness while showing you wonderful things like unconditional love and understanding. Simply put it’s about Wavy, the young daughter of a drug dealer and his abusive wife, and Kellen, a loner drug runner, and ex-con fall in love. However, there is nothing simple about this novel. Just read it, you’ll see.

 

If you sprint through September and need a breather, take a weekend and choose a book from our stack. For more titles check out our Pinterest page for a glimpse into our literary life.

Tell us what you are reading. We’d love to know!

Lisa

 

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In Leadership, Compassion Matters

 

I was three months pregnant with twins when I got a phone call at work saying I needed to come home; my mom was gravely ill. After I hung up with my dad, I tried calling my husband. The gym office was busy each time I tried. After several attempts, I gave up, closed the door to the small conference room, and with tears in my eyes told the secretary I needed to leave. I uttered the words that my father said, “your mom is very sick, and she’s asking for you. I think you need to come now.”

I left that day and didn’t return for two weeks, after my mother’s funeral.

Normally the hour and a half drive is simple and quick. That day, my racing thoughts tortured me for the entire drive. Shelly, the secretary, was able to get in touch with my husband, so he wasn’t too far behind me. His school’s response was the same as mine: “Go, now.”

Each of our respective schools offered so much love and support during our time of need. My coworkers and teammates picked up my work load, sent flowers and cards, and many made the drive to attend the funeral. One friend even reached out to my obstetrician’s office to let them know of my situation, wondering if this stress would affect the twins.

Looking back, it was the compassion and kindness of my coworkers that kept me going after losing my mom.

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I have been extremely fortunate; I have worked in organizations that value kindness and compassion in the work place. However, for many, that is not the case.

The symptoms are everywhere. Work place memes on social media often depict sad employees not wanting to go back to work. “TGIF” is something many can identify with and heard frequently in the work place. Many people dread going to work and look forward to their time outside of work. A recent Gallop poll showed less than 30% of people are engaged in their work. They feel devalued, not listened to and disrespected. How can we change this reality for so many?

Instead of creating a dog-eat-dog environment, focus on compassion, not pressure, to motivate and inspire colleagues. Hidden leaders will be more compelled to step forward in an environment that values building trusting relationships rather than the cut-throat atmosphere that is evident in many workplaces.

A compassionate environment helps create a positive work culture, improves working relationships and reduces stress. A compassionate workplace is a win-win for everyone.

Here are some simple tips to begin creating a compassionate work culture to inspire your hidden leaders.

Make Deposits

Begin making deposits into people’s emotional bank account, a metaphor coin by Stephen Covey. You can make deposits through kindness, courtesy, being honest and keeping promises. Doing this allows you to build trusting, long-lasting relationships with colleagues.

5-minute favors

Start small. According to business professor Adam Grant, the most successful ‘givers’ don’t try to be Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Creating a compassionate workplace can begin with making it a goal to smile and say good morning to every co-worker every day.

Be Kind To Yourself

Sometimes our biggest enemy is ourselves. Negative self-talk can derail our best effort to maintain kindness and compassion. The more self-compassion we have, the more we can give to others. We must also make deposits into our own emotional bank account to be able to make deposits into other’s accounts. Make time for yourself to do the things that inspire and nurture both body and mind.

Assume the best in people

It can be tempting to see negative first. Dwelling in bitterness and negativity seems to be easier than giving someone the benefit of the doubt. However, most people really do have good intentions. People often live up to your expectations. By focusing on the good intentions of others, you are creating a positive and compassionate frame of mind.

Be Reflective

Make compassionate decisions whenever possible. Before acting ask yourself some reflective questions, What is our motivation? Are there any harmful implications from this decision? How would I feel if I was on the receiving end of this decision?

Compassion is contagious. If we begin with these simple steps, creating a compassionate workplace will begin to take on a life of its own. Creating environments where people feel inspired, cared for and celebrated allow for hidden leaders to emerge and be agents of change.

Don’t wait for an illness or tragedy to bring compassion into the work place. The start of the year can be filled with uncertainty and stress. This is a time when colleagues need kindness and compassion the most. As we wrap up this first week of school, reflect on how you can fold compassion into your everyday routine. Compassion and kindness need purposeful, daily practice to become deeply rooted and valued if we want to truly inspire and cultivate leadership.

Lisa

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adversity

6 WAYS TO OVERCOME ADVERSITY

You didn’t get the promotion you wanted. You don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss. You feel unqualified in your current position.

At some point in your career, you’ve encountered adversity. I know I have.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? What steps do you take to overcome adversity?

A few years ago I was asking myself those questions. I had hit a pothole in my career. Well, maybe more like a sinkhole.

I received some feedback that left me hurt, disappointed and afraid. After the initial shock had worn off, I became angry; I wanted to quit, to give up. Then I started questioning myself; maybe I wasn’t cut out for this job. I was stuck in that sinkhole and could not see a way out.

The capacity to overcome adversity is a defining quality in a leader. Adverse experiences can become defining moments in our careers. They are the moments that you find out what you are truly made of. These are opportunities that allow you to discover your hidden leader. It’s what we do with these experiences that define us.

It wasn’t the negative feedback that changed me; it was how I responded that allowed me to grow as a leader.

What I did in the weeks following, challenged me to become a better person as well as uncover my hidden leader. These are the six things that I learned from facing adversity and eventually helped me to climb out of the sinkhole. 

Explore your feelings

When difficult things happen to us, it’s okay to explore those painful feelings for a bit. Sit in that sinkhole for a little while but don’t set up camp there. You must start your journey moving forward, it might be messy, and hard, but it’s necessary.

During my experience, my anger turned to uncertainty and left me feeling vulnerable. I took this time to examine myself, the situation and re-evaluated my core beliefs. From there I was able to establish a plan to move forward.

Learn from it

Psychiatrist Vikto Frankl’s spent years in Nazi death camps. He argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward.

How can we learn while enduring pain?

First, learn to look at challenges as valuable teaching opportunities. The pain is temporary, but the learning will last. Spend time in self-reflection, ask yourself, “How did this happen?” “What could I do differently?” “Where do I want to be in 5 years?”

Then share your learning with others. Commit to making the most of this learning opportunity for yourself and others.

Writing this blog post is one way I can help others learn from my experience. We owe it to one another to share our new understandings based on our own unique experiences.

Create a vision

For some of us, the new year starts in January, for others, it’s September when school begins. Whatever the time of year, determine a crystal clear vision of what you want to achieve in life. To set goals for yourself, you must have an understanding of what you want to accomplish. Write it down and look at it every day. Align your day-to-day actions to your vision. Set manageable goals for yourself to create winning moments. Don’t let the past be an anchor, but a platform that propels you toward the future.

I asked, “Where do I want to be in 5 years and how can I get there?” I started writing down my thoughts, and those thoughts turned into goals, which lead to action. Start writing every day, write down your goals and how you can achieve them.

Make friends-not enemies

Disappointment, fear, and anger can turn to bitterness. Bitterness can cause you to project negative feelings toward others. Don’t let disappointments stop you from trusting others and acting professionally to accomplish a goal. Choose to trust people and assume they have the best intentions until they show otherwise. You must be able to build relationships with people for them to learn from you and gain from your experience.

It would have been easy to marinate in anger. Anger can be comforting, especially if we get others to join us. But I had already written down my vision, created an action plan and decided where I wanted to be in five years. I realized anger was not going to get me there.

Take responsibility

Lou Holtz once said, “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.”   The best leaders take responsibility for their actions, regardless of the situations that created them. Recognize that you played a part in the situation. Don’t make excuses, or blame others. Take ownership and move forward. By taking responsibility, you are in control of your future. You determine your next steps.

Had I earned some of that negative feedback? Absolutely. I examined the feedback, tried it on for a while and took responsibility for it, and then I put it away. I didn’t want to be that person, the one who wore that feedback everywhere, that blamed the people that were giving the feedback. Accept it, learn from it and move forward.

See the positive

Ask yourself, “Are there any silver linings in this situation?” Constantly look for the positives, adversity strengthens character, builds resolve and endurance. The one thing you have control of is your response to adversity. Your attitude will be contagious, adopt a positive one.

Digging myself out of the sinkhole made me a stronger, more compassionate and courageous leader. I uncovered strengths I didn’t know I had. I established a career plan instead of aimlessly moving along without direction. I reached outside of my comfort zone and made new, long lasting relationships. Facing adversity can have a positive outcome.

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Life can and will knock you down every once in a while. Even push you into a sinkhole. Leaders climb out of the sinkhole as soon as possible, emerging as stronger, more compassionate leaders ready to serve others.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? What steps do you take to overcome adversity?

Lisa

 

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ted talks

5 TED Talks That Will Change the Way You Lead Tomorrow

Here at Leading with Imperfection, we believe that you can redefine yourself as a leader in small ways every single day. It doesn’t take much time to shift your perspective. That’s why we are so hooked on TED talks. They deliver big inspiration in bite-size portions. TED curator Chris Anderson describes the average length of 18 minutes as “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It’s the length of a coffee break.”

I have made it a practice to think of one clear, actionable step I can take from a TED talk and make changes that matter. Below are some of my favorite speakers and how they can change the way you approach leadership—the very next day.

  1. Brené Brown helps us embrace vulnerability

In Brené Brown’s insanely popular talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability,’ she categorizes people into two groups—those who feel worthy and those who don’t. The difference between them? The courage to be imperfect and the willingness to embrace vulnerability.

Her talk is hilarious, yet startlingly raw and honest. She urges everyone to stop chasing perfection and trying to control and predict life. You will laugh and nod in agreement through her delivery. And then in the very last minute, Brown’s steady and reassuring words will lift a burden from your shoulders that you may not have even known was there.

Lead differently tomorrow: Identify something specific that makes you uncomfortable in your work with others. Acknowledge it. Decide to be vulnerable. Choose courage and give up comfort. At the end of the day, you can’t choose both.

If this talk inspires you like it did millions of others, check out her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

 

  1. Adam Grant teaches us how to be original

In ‘The Surprising Habit of Original Thinkers,’ Grant focuses on what we can all learn from nonconformists—people who “not only have new ideas but take action to champion them.”

He puts a new spin on procrastination by renaming it “thinking.” This time that we allow ideas to develop in the back of our minds before taking action is the sweet spot for creativity. He explains, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”

Another quality of original thinkers is their fear of regret. Grant explains that we are all afraid of failing, but innovators are more afraid of not trying. “They know that in the long run, our biggest regrets are not our actions but our inactions. The things we wish we could redo, if you look at the science, are the chances not taken.”

Lead differently tomorrow: I’ve been experimenting with the word “yet” and it opens up so many opportunities to continue after failure. We started this blog in May and we don’t have a large amount of readers—yet. That one simple word gives you the freedom to be original instead of shutting down after a setback. Think of a problem you previously defined as a roadblock. Approach it again. This time around, take your time and continue to doubt yourself in order to improve. Innovators are the ones that fail the most times.

 

 

  1. Celeste Headlee reminds us to listen

We spend a lot of time avoiding conversations we don’t want to have. In ‘10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,’ Headlee encourages us to stop avoiding connections with others by teaching us how to talk and more importantly, how to listen.

She keeps it simple. “You need to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.” This can be a shift in mindset in leadership, where we often believe we must arrive armed with all of the answers.

Lead differently tomorrow: Start with her advice to genuinely be interested in other people. Make a stronger connection tomorrow by releasing everything you want someone to know about yourself—and inspire by letting them truly, and without interruption, show you who they are.

 

  1. Simon Sinek urges us to ask why

In How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, Sinek tells us to look inward and ask, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

This fascinating talk on how to move people to believe in what you do will turn your approach to leading others inside out. Give it a watch and prepare for a thought-provoking experience that will keep you reflecting on the “why.”

Lead differently tomorrow: Start just one day with this perspective in mind. Instead of mentally going through your to-do list tasks and how you are going to accomplish them, ask yourself why you are showing up in the first place.

  1. Drew Dudley puts leadership in perspective

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.

 

It’s time for that coffee break. Go get inspired 18 minutes at a time. And if you just can’t get enough of TED, add Want to Talk Like TED? to your summer reading list.

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