By Steve Beseke, Doctor of Life Resiliency at Lennick Aberman Group (Please check out my resiliency e-books and other articles at www.resiliencyfirst.com)
Gratitude is a word we know, right? We’re grateful for many things in life great and small. Most of us are thankful for our wonderful families, the friendships we cherish, the moments in life where everything has gone just right and even the Sun coming up again this morning. These are just a few we typically share.
But when was the last time you were truly grateful for who you are? I’m not talking about the status you’ve achieved in life, or about the compliments you receive from others, or even the loving actions those close show you every day.
My first series of life resiliency articles this year, including last week’s on enjoying life, are focusing on ourselves – especially our inner selfs.
I think too often we act very resilient to the outside world, but are not quite as confident about overcoming or adapting to our inner thoughts. This was never more evident to me in my recovery last year to a very delicate cervical spine operation.
Many people even outside my family thought I could not have handled the surgery/recovery any better and inspirationally. I have to say that I used my “dust myself off and get back in the game” mentality that has served me wonderfully for (now) 53 years. But inside it was an entirely different battle in trying to keep connected with my ideal self vs. real self attitude that my good friend/colleague Doug Lennick highlights in an alignment model he teaches folks worldwide, check out www.lennickaberman.com.
In a nutshell, your ideal self is the moral compass that helps point you to doing the right thing and be seen as a person of integrity. Your real self is the actual behaviors, feelings and actions that hopefully get you as close to an “ideal state” as possible.
Like at least some of you, being grateful for who I truly am has not always been part of my “ideal” and a smooth ride.
Think for a moment about examples in your life that fit into this ideal self vs. real self scenario. Most of you reading this piece have impeccable integrity with others, so I’m not talking about this. But focusing on you solely inside, have there been moments in your life where connecting the ideal with real has seemed very hard? All of us have…that is, if we are honest with ourselves.
My surgery recovery, while sometimes very painful, gave me a chance to grow resiliently inside. Not with others but with my ideal self. Instead of focusing on the outside world, I truly had to rethink my behaviors (my real self). While my brain always believed the surgery was going to be a technical success, my mind had to get past the “What Ifs.”
How have you dealt with the “What Ifs” of uncertainty? I’m sure many of you gone through such uncertainties in your world with health, family, job, happiness/fulfillment – and probably many other life facets. How have you handled such storylines to stay happy/grateful for who you are? I would very much enjoy hearing your story(ies).
I had to ask myself:
- What if I did not make it through this very serious operation?
- What if I could never walk again?
- What if I could not use my left hand I am typing with right now? I can only use my right hand for very simple tasks.
- What if I could not support my family because of this?
But the most important question, which I did not think was necessary right away, was:
- How was I going to focus on myself to help me recover faster physically and mentally?
I think this “focus on yourself” mentality is an idea all of us should think of first when facing uncertainties – whether it is health, job layoff, etc. This will help us be more grateful for ourselves. I thought through such questions as:
- What’s best for me?
- What can I do to make the road easier for me?
- What actions do I need to do to keep my spirits high?
Like many of you, I always focused on others…doing something for people. Myself? I typically just dusted myself off when challenges happened and walked on with not a whole lot of thinking about the consequences and me. Sounds absurd, I know. But you’ve probably been there with yourself at some points.
The operation forced me to rethink how thankful I was for myself and have gratitude for who I was a person. Not with others…me!
I did some soul-searching, but I was able to answer all the “What If” questions with “that’s OK and I will adapt. That is, except the question about dying on the operating table.:)
This type of resilient attitude allowed me to recover in less than four months…typical recovery is a year. This good feeling inside is becoming engrained in me now. My physical body is reacting well, too. I may not need a separate operation on a different part of my spine because of it.
Having gratitude for life and the person you are should be easy for all of us. The key, of course, is not letting yourself take a back seat to your real self.
I will keep working through it, and I hope you will find ways to be more grateful of yourself, too!
Please, again, check out my resiliency e-books on www.resiliencyfirst.com. Thanks so much for your continued readership!
I hope you are staying resilient and enjoying life today!