I’ve been writing about the power of appreciation and for several weeks we have been exploring the power of focus to enhance appreciation. Two weeks ago I urged you to step back and broaden your focus to gain perspective on the good stuff. Last week I urged you zoom in and narrow your focus to gain engagement with the good stuff. This week I urge you to drop down and deepen your focus to gain wisdom about the good stuff. No matter what is going on, our focus determines what we appreciate. Go deep, and you’ll appreciate the mystery behind it all.
We’re going to have a short Provision today for two reasons: first, my wife and I have less than three days to finish the final draft of our book before it’s due at the publisher. It’s close; very close. In fact, as I mentioned to my daughter-in-law today, if this were a 26.2 mile marathon, we’ve reached the 26 mile marker. We probably have about 4 more pages to write, and it’s done. But right now that’s where all my writing energy is going.
Interesting story about that. I was attending my Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday (Kiwanis is an international service organization focused on the needs of children) and I happened to sit next to a German professor from the College of William & Mary. She overheard me mentioning to someone that I was going to bow out of a social function because of our book deadline. “Right now,” I observed, “about all I do is eat, sleep, and write.” I received a lot of empathy for that.
Overhearing this banter, the German professor looked at me and said, “When you’re done, you’re going to miss that.” It sounds crazy, but she’s right. And it all has to do with the experience of “flow.” “Flow” is the word Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a distinguished positive psychologist, has used to describe the experience of full engagement. It can occur whenever we are involved with a project with clear parameters and clear goals that are perfectly suited for our abilities. They challenge us to the limit, but not beyond that limit.
Writing is definitely a “flow” activity for me. I get into “flow” with these Provisions every week. People ask me how I come up with all this stuff, and I do not know. I just sit down, open my mind, put my fingers to the keyboard, and let the words flow. The flow of words leads me into “flow” just about every time. I feel it right now. I had no idea what I was going to write about this week, in part because of our book deadline, but the words are flowing and I am having fun. I enjoy appreciating my experiences and discovering new truths. Writing enables me to do that.
Another way to frame this is that I feel like a conduit when I sit down to write. I discover what wants to be written, I don’t write what I want to write. It’s not about me making something happen, it’s me allowing something to happen. And when that happens, I feel very grateful indeed.
So today I want to encourage you to experience the gratitude gain in your own life with one more example as to how that works for me. Contrary to what I said at Kiwanis, I have actually been doing at least one more thing other than eating, sleeping, and writing. I have also been running. In fact, running is another way that I open myself to the channel of what wants to be written. It’s not unusual for me to come back from a long run so inspired and so full of ideas that I burst in the door, saying to my wife, “Quick, get a pencil and write down whatever I say.” I’m so full that it just spills out.
On top of all the pressure with our book, then, I ran the Baltimore marathon yesterday as the leader of the 4:45 pace team. This is an annual event for me and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, except I did miss it once when my son had a potential medical emergency on the night before the race. I decided to can the race and tend to the family; as it turned out, the medical emergency was a false alarm and I’m grateful for that.
Other than something like that, however, not even a looming book deadline can keep me away from the event. So up we came. This year we had about 50 people in my pace group and it was our best experience ever. We didn’t hit our time exactly on the mark (finishing about 42 seconds too fast) but we had more people stay with us for the entire race than ever before. Most of the time, people drop off the pace, especially after mile 20. This time, a large percentage (probably around 25%) stayed with us all the way through to the end. I’m grateful for that as well.
What made the difference? Why did it turn out like that? It has a lot to do with the social / emotional bond we created in the first 13 miles. We ran. We walked. We talked. We told stories. We breathed together, laughed together, and did funny stuff together (the Zen of running). But most of all we leveraged the gratitude gain.
Early on I explained to the team how the gratitude gain works. “Every time you thank a spectator for coming out and cheering, every time you ‘High 5’ a child, every time you acknowledge a race volunteer or a security guard, you get back more energy than you give. Their energy transfers over to you, and it helps you run stronger.” They had never heard of the gratitude gain before and it seemed to kick in. People were thanking everyone, at every opportunity, and they ran together longer than any pace team I’ve ever led.
This Provision series is on the power of appreciation, and the gratitude gain is a direct expression of how that power works. The more gratitude we give, the more energy we receive. What goes around comes around. I hope you take advantage of that power for yourself today.
Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time you said “Thank you” to someone? What are you grateful for right now? How could you capture that gratitude and share it with others? Who could become your gratitude buddy on the trek of life?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I really liked your Provision last week and forwarded it to a number of people. Thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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