I’m hoping today’s post will get you thinking…and better yet, practicing what I’m about to describe!
The germ of this idea came to me after President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week – and trust me I’m NOT going reference any content in the speech, or get into where I or anyone else stands on which issues! That’s not the point of this post…though the knee-jerk impulse to offer that very disclaimer upfront, to defray in advance any potentially aggravated nerves in some readers, is very much the point!
I don’t know if you watched the SOTU address, but as I thought about what a shame it is that our politics is so incredibly divisive in this country right now, I just had to share a thought that came to me:
“What if we all started EVERY conversation feeling powerful gratitude?”
What sort of a difference could that make, even in the most fractious* of families or groups…yes, even the United States Congress!
(*NOTE: Definition of fractious = “obstinately resistant to authority or control; unruly; readily angered; peevish; irritable; quarrelsome….” Sound familiar?!)
For example, it’s easy for me to imagine how I might use gratitude to prepare for a meeting with, let’s say, a teacher who I felt had been grossly unfair to my child in some way. In an apparent total contradiction to the circumstances, I could quickly create in myself a wonderful, warm, open and generous attitude.
No matter what sort of additional “pop quizzes” might be going on around me that day, if I paused for just 15 seconds or so, I could completely change how I feel going into that meeting. I might say to myself something like the following:
“How wonderful is it that in this country, my child can receive a quality education from people who have made teaching their calling, and have dedicated their lives to educating the citizens, parents, business people and leaders of tomorrow?
I wonder how it can get even better than this! I wonder how this unexpected misunderstanding with my child’s teacher can turn out to be the exact best thing that could possibly have happened….”
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “ok that just sounds like denial!” But that’s not what I’m talking about – I don’t mean pretending the teacher didn’t do something that was bothering me up until this moment, when I’m taking the time to clear my thoughts. Neither is it just (somewhat delusional) positive thinking – wishing everything was perfect and rosy.
It’s neither of those – instead, it’s actually a great way of powerfully altering what is about to happen, so it can go MUCH better than you thought it would.
That pause allows me to do several things:
- The first sentence gives me a chance to bring into my awareness something for which I am honestly very grateful, and celebrate it for a moment to myself. That sets the stage for the second sentence.
- The second sentence is where the magic happens, in my experience. It declares that, even though I can’t possibly see how yet, the “problem” I am about to engage with is actually a wonderful blessing that came in a surprise package. It establishes that intention as a belief that I am choosing to hold.
- The third sentence is the real key. It creates complete openness to whatever delightful new surprise will show up, simply because I am choosing to have the upcoming conversation. I don’t have to try to imagine what that could be – and if a thought of a desired outcome does pop into my head, that’s great too. That will give me something to work toward as I choose my words in the conversation.
But even without a specific outcome in mind, in the completely open “invitation to the universe” statement all by itself, I am allowing for the outcome of my conversation to be absolutely wonderful, and to surprise me with a benefit I could never have predicted.
If the teacher did that too prior to our talk, can you just imagine the love and good will we would feel toward each other before uttering any words at all? Can you see how, even if just one of us does that, the adversarial nature of the conversation would melt away, so it wouldn’t feel like an argument?
If the teacher saw my genuine smile, and felt the peacefulness in my demeanor, it’s far less likely she would feel as though she had to “man the barricades” to protect herself from “another angry parent” – or even take the first swing!
I’d love to believe that there is some version of this that even the most contentious political adversaries in our current Congress could come up with before beginning negotiations on hot-button issues. Something they could also use before appearing on the nightly news to answer questions – even those custom-designed to stir up their irritation with their “adversary” or their opposing position.
What if in the back of their minds our representatives were ALWAYS asking themselves, and especially right before every conversation:
“How can this remarkable good fortune, that has put me right here, right now, in this role and serving the wonderful people I represent, get any better than how wonderful it already is?
What incredible blessing can I work together with this other person to create, in order to serve the people of this amazing country? How can we use all of the information and knowledge we have, to come up with the very best possible solution for the complex challenges facing everyone in our national and global community?
I am open to receiving the understanding of that which I do not already know, and cannot yet see, which will help me deliver an even better solution for everyone than any I have imagined before now.”
Doesn’t seem inevitable that if they made it a practice to do this, all members of Congress would work together with a stronger sense of purpose, come up with better ideas faster, speak with more authenticity, and feel more enthusiasm for the results they are producing together??
We can dream, can’t we?