At this time of year gratitude and thankfulness are everywhere. So I have been reflecting on how gratitude serves us, particularly when times are tough.
Gratitude in times of Transition
Transition and change, whether they are wanted or not, are uncomfortable and challenging. They rock our world and throw us into unfamiliar and even more uncertain than usual territory. Recently having gone through a big move, I’ve had a chance to feel this earth-shattering reality, even though I was making a change I very much wanted.
One of the things that kept me grounded throughout the ups and downs of house buying and selling was my daily gratitude practice. Why? Because at times when I was irrationally terrified, it balanced my perspective with a look at the things that were at least all right in my daily life. It offset the natural human tendency to look at what’s wrong or anticipate the next disaster that might be lurking just around the corner.
When I was filled with excitement, joy, and eager anticipation, gratitude helped me to celebrate and take that in. As much as we have a tendency to notice the “negative,” we also often seem to be conditioned to downplay or dismiss “positive” moments. The pause of appreciative reflection allows us to take in and enjoy these happy moments.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is about noticing things we appreciate and coming into relationship with what IS. Sometimes we can even be grateful for fear, anger, or sadness because they reveal something to me that needs to be seen – they uncover a layer of reality. Gratitude isn’t always about sunshine and rainbows! It also isn’t about jumping over sad, angry or fearful feelings to get to a place of feeling good or looking for the silver lining. But, it can help open us to see beyond what’s right in front of us that may feel all-consuming.
How Can Gratitude Support Me?
So, how might gratitude support you if you are going through a transition? If you’ve recently lost a job or a relationship, and you’re not sure what lies ahead, it might be tough to see or feel anything positive. But if you were to take a few moments each day to find even the smallest thing to appreciate, it could shift not only your view of life but how you show up in life, to your family, and to the world at large (including to people you might be interviewing with or asking for support).
Research has shown that people who practice gratitude are healthier, have more optimism and happiness, create stronger relationships, and are more generous. These sound like traits of someone I’d want to be around (or hire!) … how about you?
What IS a Gratitude Practice?
What’s a gratitude practice look like? Whatever you want it to! The key is to not make it a big “to do” or one more thing to add to your list of tasks to complete. Find a way to bring in gratitude that feels supportive and nourishing for you. Different things work for different people. The first step is to slow down enough to even make the inquiry and notice what am I grateful for? If you’re not in the habit of thinking this way or asking yourself that question, it may take a while to shift from your regularly programmed thinking.
Here are some ideas to get you started. Maybe upon waking you reflect on a few things you are grateful for before you even get out of bed; this is a beautiful way to start your day and can really influence how you approach whatever is before you. You might want to keep a gratitude journal and jot down things you appreciate throughout the day. Perhaps what works for you is an evening reflection before bed. It’s a soothing bedtime routine and a great counter to the all too common thought that often creeps in that says “That day was a waste.” or “Wow, what a horrible day I had!” It doesn’t matter whether you write, mentally note, or speak out loud your gratitude as long as you’ve taken some time to notice and acknowledge it.
Even on some of my most horrible days, I’ve been able to find things that I am truly, honestly grateful for – the cleansing tears that allowed my broken heart to crack open a little bit more and relieved me of having to hold it together; having a pillow to scream into and punch when my anger consumed me; loud music and a good car scream; the friend who made me laugh even when I wanted to cry or the friend who simply sat with me and let me feel what I was feeling.
Don’t know where to get started? How about appreciating having clean air to breathe, fresh running water to drink, sunshine, a roof over your head, a fresh idea, or the beauty of birdsong. Don’t force it. Begin with what feels true to you. Notice something you truly do appreciate. Then mentally reflect, write it, draw it, paint it, sing it, share it with a loved one… whatever works for you!
If you’d like some practices to support you in cultivating gratitude, you might visit Greater Good In Action, where you will find several simple meditations and exercises to get you started or to enhance an existing practice.
Have fun exploring how gratitude might support you. Please let us know what you discover!!
“I know what I want to do, but it won’t pay the bills!”
My answer to that is “It may not pay them all right away, but don’t let that be a reason to stay stuck.”
One of the biggest obstacles to people making a change (when they DO know what they want to do) is math. The math doesn’t add up to making the monthly/annual nut from day one.
“Yes, that’s true. AND… .?”
It could add up after the first year
It could make you enough money on the side to create some savings for when you attempt full time
It could put you in the position to create an alliance with someone else where you can get paid right away
It could take longer than you’d like to make the change, but you can use that time to pave the path in the new direction
It could leverage you for new opportunities that you can’t even imagine yet
It could work right away!
This is not Pollyanna speaking. This is 25 years of evidence doing the talking.
I’ve seen artists leave teaching jobs to make it creating their art full time.
I’ve seen doctors move on to related fields and be successful after much angst
over possibly losing their credibility
I’ve seen musicians leave their day jobs and develop their own unique opportunities.
I’ve seen executives change fields successfully, having no experience in the new one
I’ve seen lawyers use their training in a way that was a benefit in non-law jobs
They all made the math work … eventually.
How do you DO that?
Prepare: If you know you are ready to do something else and you know what it is despite HUGE reasons to stay put, you must start preparing.
- If you don’t have what Stephen Covey called a “possibilities account,” aka savings to invest in yourself, start cutting back on expenses in order to create a cushion.
- If your new direction offers an opportunity to start making money right away, start! And bank all that money to support a future leap.
- Involve family and friends in setting the stage for a new direction. Support makes a difference and holds you accountable.
- Complete any training or studying you need for your new direction BEFORE dropping your income.
I’m working with a woman on the operational side of show business who wants to move into another aspect of the field. She has started delegating to more junior people in her office to free up her time. She has begun asking for introductions and meeting with relevant contacts. She takes an extra hour before work studying up on people and projects she wants to be knowledgeable about. Over the course of a few short weeks, she has made solid progress toward making a change. Preparation is making a huge difference, and she is moving very quickly towards solidifying her first opportunity to make money in the new area.
Execute: Start making inroads
- If you need to become known in a new field, start asking for introductions and contacting strangers to gain information and to let them know what you are interested in.
- Volunteer in your desired field to get experience and meet as many people as you can while doing so
- Do what you want to do. Just do it. Start blogging, creating your art, volunteering your expertise or even charging for it. Just get going!
- Get your resume ready, design the website, order the new business card. Just take steps in the new direction, no matter how big or small.
- Explore the many possible ways your desired direction could provide income. For example, my son who started in music playing only one instrument, has no intention of being a poor musician. He’s learned how to program synthesizers, taught himself how to operate sound equipment and musical computer programs, jumped into musically directing musicals, volunteered as musical coordinator, contacted people who play on Broadway who have let him sit in on their show, and taught himself other instruments. He has been making money at most of these things since before his junior year of college. I’ve seen adults successfully take similarly fruitful steps in non-artistic contexts. Diversifying makes it likely you’ll work in the field of your dreams.
Leap: When the day job is getting in the way of the new thing … LEAP.
- If you’ve prepared and executed, there may come an obvious moment where the math still isn’t quite right, but jumping in with full attention is now the only way it has any hope of ever adding up.
In closing, I’m reminded about a very likely obstacle that might be making you resistant to everything I’m suggesting here. TIME. You might be thinking: “I haven’t got time to do all this.” Yes. And? That’s for a whole other post.
I’ll leave you with this:
“We make time for what we want to make time for.”
Now go run those numbers again … let me know how we can help.
Some professions require an intense investment of time, energy, and money simply to get the degree. Then, if you’ve put time into advancing up the ladder in a given field, the investment runs even deeper. No wonder people in those situations feel extra obligated to hang tight even if they’re miserable.
Is staying put the right call or might it still be a wiser decision to move on?
Midlife is a natural time for many to ponder what they’re doing with their lives.
Wondering if you’re locked into a career you’ve devoted decades to? Not necessarily!
These folks share how they’ve made a change with no regrets.