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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I was recently listening to a wisdom teacher on a podcast who used a phrase I found very interesting which also connects back to my recent messages on Powerful Agreements and Gardens of Kindness & Compassion.  They said, "It's important that we take time to reflect on some key questions in our lives. Two powerful ones are 'Who are we?' and 'Who are they?' I find that much of our maturing work in life is learning how to move whoever is in the 'They' category into the 'We' category." 


That has really got me thinking deeply about a number of things.


Who are We?

Most of the time when I answer this question for myself, I tend to start with the groups who are similar to me in some way (race, religion, culture, family, etc.), and who I feel the most comfortable with in my life (my family, my political party, my religion, my cultural heritage, etc.).  Truthfully, having these types of identifying markers isn't all bad.  They help me better understand myself and my world.


Who are They?

When I shift my attention to this group, it often starts with everyone who isn't in the "We" group.  Basically, everyone else that I don't naturally identify with in my life. Again, having characteristics that acknowledge distinctives and differences between groups isn't all bad because they can also help me better understand myself and my world.


Our Tendency

I believe part of what this wisdom teacher was trying to illustrate is that our tendency is for the "We" group to get smaller and smaller, while "They" gets larger.  It's just so easy for us to become so focused on the differences between us, that those distinctives no longer become helpful to understanding ourselves and our world better.  When I am paying more attention to the distinctives that separate us and my "We" group gets too small, it can actually become like an echo-chamber that just resonates and reverberates back our same messages and understandings over and over again.  


Our Work

Instead, what this teacher was calling for was learning how to expand our "We" to make it larger, thereby decreasing the size of who "They" are. If I can continue to open myself up to learning more about "Them," I begin to discover that while differences still exist, there is actually more that unites us than separates us. Expanding who "We" are doesn't eliminate our distinctives, but instead celebrates the beauty of the diversity of who "We" are in the world.  It's like going from watching TV in black and white to color (old school reference there!).


When was the last time you asked, "Who are We?" and "Who are They?" Which direction do you think your circles are expanding and decreasing?  Is there a situation in your life right now (work, family, leadership, etc.) in which you are paying more attention to the differences between "Us" and "Them?"  What would it take in that situation for you to mature in your understandings in a way that allows an expansion of who "We" are?  


Here's to growing this week so we have more "We" and less "They" in our lives!


Be Well,

Stephen


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Since I live in the US, this week brings the holiday of Thanksgiving.  While I know this holiday can bring lots of mixed emotions with it, I also know that anytime we practice gratitude it can have an immediate impact on our overall well being.  



So what does it really mean to practice gratitude?


I'm so glad you asked!


Practicing gratitude is simply being intentional about anything we have in our lives that we can be grateful for, and then finding a way to express that gratitude outwardly.  For example, I am so thankful for my new granddaughter and the beauty and simplicity of her smile, and here I am telling all of you about that gratitude!  


When it comes to outwardly expressing our gratitude, it could be in the form of a conversation with someone, or an email, or maybe we can write it in a journal, or just say it out loud while we are on a walk (don't worry, these days people will think you are on the phone with earbuds!).  The medium isn't as critical as just finding a way to be mindful of our gratitude and then expressing it in some outward form.  


If you were to be mindful of your gratitudes this week, and then you were going to outwardly express them, what would you come up with and how would you express it?  


Now that you have the idea, why not go ahead and practice gratitude this week?!?  I promise it will have a positive impact on your well being, no matter how challenging this week may be for you!


Be Well,

Stephen


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I recently came across a quote (can't figure out exactly where!), that is a great follow up to last week's message about Powerful Agreements.


It's possible to "Create Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are - this is our act of resistance."  


I've been thinking about that idea ever since I found it.  There is something truly powerful about the metaphor of the garden. Gardens aren't just created by chance - they are planted with purpose and intention.  Consideration must be given to things like the soil, access to water, sun, shade, types of plants, and even how something as nasty as fertilizer can be used as a source of goodness and growth to allow the garden to flourish.


If we take that idea of the flourishing garden and realize the "plants" we want to grow and develop are Kindness and Compassion, that pushes us to have to think about what we need to pay attention to in order for those "plants" to actually be healthy.  Allow me to mention two environments where we can pay attention in order to help our Gardens of Kindness and Compassion flourish.


Hard Conversations

Hard conversations are inevitable in our lives. Sometimes we just have to "go there" with someone, and for a person like me who likes to avoid conflict at all costs, they can often feel like walking through a minefield rather than a stroll through a garden.  But if I pay attention to how I can plant kindness and compassion in this hard conversation, it may help it be a garden instead of a minefield.  For example, maybe it's something as simple as the tone I am using.  I need to say something hard to someone that I know is going to be difficult for them to hear, but if I approach it with a tone of kindness and compassion, there's a better chance that's what will grow through the conversation. By paying attention to something as simple as my tone, I can create a better environment for a minefield to be transformed into a garden.


Hard Individuals

You know who I am talking about! All of us have those certain people who are just hard for us. Most of the time it has more to do with personalities and backgrounds than anything else, so it really isn't about me being right and them being wrong - it's just about us being different. Two of the tools I have found help me plant kindness and compassion with these individuals are curiosity and boundaries. If I can approach an engagement with them from a place of curiosity rather than pre-judgement (prejudice), sometimes I can learn something about them that helps me see our shared humanity, which in turn helps kindness and compassion grow.  It's also possible there are times it's better for both of us if we maintain healthy and appropriate boundaries with each other.  Boundaries aren't barriers to growth, but sometimes are absolutely necessary to allow what's on either side of the "fence" to really flourish! By paying attention to how I use the tools of curiosity and boundaries, I give my relationship with those hard individuals a better chance for the garden of kindness and compassion to grow between us.


Perhaps you have to engage in a hard conversation (or two!) this week, or you know you are going to encounter one (or more) of those hard individuals. How could you approach those situations with the intention of cultivating a garden of kindness and compassion there?  What do you need to pay attention to within yourself that will create the best opportunity for a flourishing garden?  Are there ways you might be able to see even the hardness of those conversations or individuals as fertilizer to help you grow into a more healthy person yourself?  


One final thought. Gardens don't grow overnight (through one conversation or encounter with a person), so maybe one of your greatest cultivation tools you can use is the gift of patience. A willingness to be patient while you engage in regular tending to this garden, will eventually produce something extraordinary!


Here's to creating Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are this week!


Be Well,

Stephen


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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