Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 8, Issue 48;   November 26, 2008:

It's a Wonderful Day!

by

Most knowledge workers are problem solvers. We work towards goals. We anticipate problems as best we can, and when problems appear, we solve them. But our focus on anticipating problems can become a problem in itself — at work and in Life.
A wild turkey

A wild turkey. People of the United States celebrate a national day called Thanks­giving on the fourth Thursday in November each year. There are special foods associated with that day, as there are for many holidays around the world. On this day, roast turkey is one of those foods. The day commemorates a three-day harvest feast held in 1621 in what is now the US state of Massachusetts, and attended by the Puritan immigrants and the native Wampanoag Indians.

Setting aside a special day for giving, for appreciating the gifts we've received, helps to remind us of the big gifts — we've come through another year, we're all here together, and we're happy to be here. But celebrating the many little gifts we receive, much more often (every week or every day), can be just as important and wonderful. The celebrating can help you every time you celebrate. Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

Towards the end of my mother's life, she fell ill, and my brothers and I rotated care-giving duties. For some weeks, she made daily trips to a local hospital for outpatient treatment. During one of my rotations, I chauffeured her to the hospital. I lost count of how many times.

This particular hospital offered valet parking service for outpatients, and we came to know the parking valets as people. One man was an extremely energetic, voluble, happy guy who I figure was aged somewhere in his seventies. When we pulled into the driveway to give him the car, he'd greet us. Then began the repartee. Somehow, we learned quite a bit about him. Four kids, a stint in the Army, and some aches and pains, but he wasn't complaining: "The usual things, ya know."

One morning, he said something I'll never forget. He asked how we were today, and I said my usual, "Pretty good, how about you?"

Smiling broadly, he answered, "Oh, pretty good myself, thanks, but ya know, at my age, every day that I wake up and I'm still alive…that's a wonderful day!"

How true.

Many of us have jobs that compel us to focus on defects in products or processes, or tasks frustratingly incomplete, or insubordinate subordinates, or any of myriads of other unexpected difficulties or disasters. We're fixated on what's wrong or troubling, rather than what's going well, or even better than well.

And from our employers' perspectives, that is as it should be. Our responsibility is to make desirable things happen. When they don't, we figure out why, and we make adjustments.

But this pattern, so useful in our work, has a risk for us personally. Our uninterrupted focus on what's wrong at work can interfere with our ability to appreciate what's right — at work or in Life.

Ironically, appreciating what's right can help us fix what isn't. The experience of appreciating gives us ideas, hope, and renewed energy. It brings us together, and working Appreciating what's right and
working well, when we're
in the midst of tangled
confusion with no clear
way through, takes skill
together we find new insight. But appreciating what's right, when we're in the midst of tangled confusion with no clear way through, takes skill.

Fortunately, skill comes with practice. Start with something — anything — that seems troubling, or you feel confused about, but not totally hopeless. Try finding three things about it that are right, wonderful, and working fine. It might take time. When you find one, contemplate it for a while. Give yourself time to appreciate it. Then look for another. I like to write them down as I go. You'll be surprised how fast the list grows.

When you get really good at it, one morning, you'll wake up, and you'll say, "I woke up alive today…it's a wonderful day." Go to top Top  Next issue: The Injured Teammate: I  Next Issue

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