In Canada this coming weekend is Thanksgiving. It has always been a happy time of the year for me, a time to measure what I am grateful for and why. This year I have been thinking about it within the context of leadership and emotional intelligence, both within a broad context and as it applies directly to my work/life. The world can always use more gratitude, an awareness of all that is good, so I decided I wanted to share with my colleagues and clients why I am grateful for their support and how knowing them has helped me be a better person and a better coach…and then I paused. I do this with my family and friends (probably not regularly enough but it is there). Why then did I have second thoughts when I sat down to reach out to these other two very important groups of people in my life?
Not content to dismiss it as being “touchy feely” or too personal (because a bit of time and effort could ensure the effect of giving grateful thanks to professional contacts would not be mushy) I had to look more deeply for the answer. And it came down to this…offering gratitude, in a meaningful way, requires an act of vulnerability. I paused because I was feeling vulnerable about sending out even carefully crafted messages of gratitude to people in my life whom I trust and who have extended trust to me. That was a bit mind-blowing (to say the least).
A search of resources from colleagues on vulnerability brought me to re-visit a TEDTalk by Bréné Brown (The Power of Vulnerability https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en). If you have never seen or read any of her work, Bréné Brown is hilarious and very real – she “gets it”, whatever your “it” is, and I encourage you to watch the video. It was very useful in unlocking my own understanding of why I paused and why I was feeling vulnerable. For me it comes down to an internal battle between “worthiness” and “wholeheartedness”. Sitting alone in my office at 5:30 in the morning, staring at the still screen after the video had ended, I realized I needed to make a decision that had more to do with how I felt about myself then simply expressing gratitude.
As it turns out, when we feel worthy of others trust, esteem, love, etc. we are able to be wholehearted and express joy, be creative, and sit with discomfort – in particular the discomfort of not knowing. That is what had me stuck – I couldn’t predict if expressing gratitude would be welcomed by my business contacts, after all it is the professional equivalent of saying “I love you” first in a relationship; maybe not quite that emotional, but with feeling all the same, and is a departure from the usual modus operandi in business. And then something really interesting happened. I realized what was most important to me was the way I want to conduct my life and my work with wholeheartedness, vulnerability and all. How gratitude would be received became less tangential than ensuring it was expressed and it could then help others to know how they have made a real difference.
It also awoke the realization that Thanksgiving is more than a long weekend to see family or an excuse to eat really great comfort food. It is a yearly reminder to make ourselves more vulnerable, even in circumstances (or with people) we typically wouldn’t, and to express genuine gratitude. It is a chance to stretch ourselves and to do so in a meaningful way that touches others. The world could use a lot more gratitude and so I will start here, letting you know I am grateful for your time in reading my blog, especially as I appreciate blog reading is something we choose to do in what little free time we have. I am grateful that you extend your trust in me, reading what I write, and I hope it gives you much in return.
My deepest thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.