Provision #645: The Power of Appreciation

Laser Provision

What have we learned about appreciation in the past fourteen weeks? There are two ways to find out. One would be to go back and read each of the past fourteen issues in the Provision Archiveon our website. The other would be to read this one Provision which reviews and summarizes them all. Why not let me do that work for you! Scroll down to read in one fell swoop how you can put the power of appreciation to work for you.

LifeTrek Provision

It is both interesting and wonderful that my series on the power of appreciation has run its course and wraps up today, the Sunday of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the United States. Thanksgiving. Gratitude. Appreciation. Wonder. They all go hand in hand, representing different aspects of the same generative energy we have been writing about since last August. Like all our Provision series, you can read every past issue in the Provision Archive on our website.

Just in case you missed an issue in this series, however, I went back through them to capture the main points in highlight form. I seldom know what those points will be in advance of writing my series. They just kind of emerge and take on a life of their own. So I enjoy these summaries as much as anyone else. I hope you will take away a few points that can make a difference in your life today and stay with you over time. The power of appreciation is not a last resort; it’s a lifestyle one cultivates and embodies on a daily basis. I hope you join the quest to make it so.

1. Appreciation Appreciates. By definition, what we focus on gets more of our attention. If we focus on problems, what’s wrong, and what we don’t like, then that will get more of our attention. That’s the way the world will be for us. If we focus on possibilities, what’s right, and what we do like, then that will get more of our attention and that will be the way the world is for us. What we appreciate, appreciates. So what kind of world do you want to live in? I, for one, choose life. That’s where I put my attention and I enjoy the way it grows.

2. Frame the Positive. It’s easy for the positive to go by unnoticed. That’s partly because of the “squeaky-wheel” phenomenon: pain and problems speak loudly and carry a big stick. It’s easy to forget all about the good stuff. Appreciative people, however, do not succumb to this temptation. We look for, celebrate, and frame the positive no matter what. Do you want to learn how to do that for yourself? Carry a camera. When we look for things to photograph, we naturally seek to frame the positive. It works every time; it cultivates the appreciative eye that makes all the difference in life.

3. Reframe the Negative. So what do we do with all those pains and problems that speak loudly and carry a big stick? The power of appreciation does not suggest that we ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. Appreciation is not a Pollyanna approach to life. Even as we work on them, however, it’s possible to keep them in perspective by noticing what else there is to celebrate. In every situation, no matter how bleak and barren, something always works that we can leverage, build on, and appreciate. From optimistic vantage points we can reframe and even transform the negative.

4. Play With Possibilities. Research documents that we see more possibilities when we’re feeling positive. That’s not exactly breaking news. When we feel good, we’re more open and receptive to new approaches and directions in life and work. But did you know it works the other way around as well? If we’re feeling discouraged, troubled, constricted, and negative, we can shift our attitude by playing with possibilities. The mere consideration of alternatives is enough to put us on the right path. We may have to “fake it until we make it,” but brainstorming possibilities is a great way to feel better and move forward.

5. Broaden Your Focus. It can be hard to play with possibilities in the thick of the fray; that’s when it’s time to step back and look the situation over from a distance. Viewed from the right vantage point, opportunities become visible in ways that might be otherwise unimaginable. When we unplug from the daily grind, stepping back to the 10,000 foot level, we can better appreciate our strategic advantages and better maintain our positive attitude. When broadening our focus generates positive energy and emotion, our zest for life returns and our engagement becomes much more productive.

6. Narrow Your Focus. Ironically, we can accomplish the exact same thing by zeroing in on and paying attention to whatever is in front of us directly. Like a horse wearing blinders, we can exclude peripheral distractions in order to embrace mindful engagement. By setting aside those worrisome, nay-saying voices, and by focusing on whatever is going on in the present moment that we can learn from, influence, and play with, we calm down and become more willing and able to live our lives the best we can.

7. Deepen Your Focus. There’s at least one more way to focus our attention. In addition to stepping back and zooming in, we can also go deep. This is where we learn to appreciate the wonder of life, no matter what. We can connect with its deep mystery and get lost in its magical unity. If those notions sound rather lofty and poetic, that’s because they are. To see the inner wisdom of life is to go beyond surface level descriptions as to whether things are working or not. It is to appreciate the perfection of life, even when life is obviously not perfect. That may not be easy, but it makes a huge difference whenever we are able to come from that place.

8. The Gratitude Gain. When I’m running a marathon, I like to thank the spectators. I don’t just mean in my mind; I mean vocally, with a “High Five,” and a smile. Connecting in this way with a young child buoys my spirit and gives me strength. It takes my mind off the challenge of the race and puts my mind on the collective will to see it through to the end. I’ve never not finished a marathon, and I think it has to do with the gratitude gain. Such appreciation gives me a boost in running as well as in any other endeavor. Don’t just feel gratitude • let it out and watch it work.

9. The Novelty Nudge. It’s great to look around and notice something wonderful, but gratitude is not the only way to put the power of appreciation to work. We can also look around and notice something new. Most of the time, we go through life on autopilot. We see what we’ve always seen and what we expect to see. There’s no way to change that, but we can interrupt the pattern by intentionally noticing novelty. New things surprise, confound, teach, uplift, confuse, challenge, and disorient us. And that’s just for starters. If we suspend the urge to judge and evaluate those things, if we become more mindful and curious, there’s no telling what things we will learn to appreciate.

10. The Help of Hope. In addition to gratitude and novelty, hope plays a major role when it comes to the power of appreciation. In the absence of hope, the spirit dies. In the presence of hope, the spirit thrives. We become more confident and competent in life and work. The key, then is to define a winnable game so that we can throw ourselves into life with enthusiasm. That is always possible to do, no matter what situation we may find ourselves in. It may take major tweaking, but there’s no substitute for cultivating the hope that everything is going to be all right.

11. It’s All Good! That’s another way to talk about the perfection of life, even when life is obviously not perfect. How can we say that? Try it this way: life can always be appreciated as a learning laboratory. No matter what happens, we can learn, grow, and stretch for the stars. “It’s all good!” communicates that sense of wonder that I seek to cultivate on a daily basis; I would invite you to do the same through meditation, prayer, breathwork, visualization, relaxation, or whatever practices speak to your spirit.

12. Work Your Attitude. My practice of thanking the spectators that line the routes of major marathons is but one example of working our attitude. It’s not enough just to feel appreciation on the inside; we also have to communicate appreciation on the outside. We saw that in so many ways during our trip to southeast Asia. Time after time, people were smiling and going out of their way to be friendly. That may sound like a small thing, but it made a big difference to us and, I hope, to them. For appreciation to take hold, we have actively and courageously work that attitude.

13. Appreciate Beauty. We can always notice beauty because beauty is everywhere. If we fail to notice beauty it’s not because there is nothing beautiful to see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. It’s just because we are choosing to look the other way. Don’t do that. Don’t let that happen. Step back and smell the roses. Find something beautiful to appreciate. Then find ways to enhance that through your own effort, choice, and creativity. You and the world will be glad you did.

14. Like Attracts Like. You may have heard about “the law of attraction.” It’s the simple notion that our attitude, intention, and energy influence and attract the things that come our way. Although some people reduce this “law” to what sounds like a magical formula for getting more stuff, the power of appreciation makes clear how it really works. What we appreciate, appreciates. When we orient ourselves around the good things in life, when we connect with and trust that our needs can and will be met in life and work, then all kinds of good things happen. It may not go exactly as we have planned, but it will go and it will be wonderful.

That’s the energy I have been writing about and encouraging for the past fourteen weeks. I hope it resonates with you and I hope you learn to become more appreciative. It is the universal key to a wonderful life, and it is available to us all. I hope you join me on the quest.

Coaching Inquiries: What does the power of appreciation mean to you? How have you seen it working in your life? What could you do to cultivate an even more appreciative spirit? Who could become your appreciation buddy in life and work? How can you make it so today?

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

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 just finished reading my first issue of Provisions, “Like Attracts Like” • great stuff! I really liked your take on The Secret. I’m actually working with my two children (6 and 11) on the Ask > Believe > Receive concept and the appreciation overlay you suggest is a great one to put in the mix. Thanks.

I’m just finishing up an eBook called •Finding Time for Fitness.• In one of the chapters where I’m writing about staying inspired for regular physical activity, I cite an example you wrote about in one of your Provisions several years ago. I’d like to get your permission to use this summary in the eBook before publishing it. Copied below is the paragraph as I’d like to include it. When you have a chance, please let me know if you•re OK with me including this. If you need to see a draft of the entire eBook before deciding, I’ll be happy to send you a copy. (Ed. Note: Permission granted. We appreciate it when people see value in our work and seek to share it with others. Thanks.) 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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