Can We Trust the Process?

In the unpredictable journey of life, I have found the simple mantra, “trust the process,” to be invaluable. It has helped me to be open and calm and navigate many challenges and uncertainties.

For example, when I am coaching or facilitating a team and tensions simmer and doubts cloud the room, maintaining faith in the process has a remarkable way of guiding the group toward resolution and alignment. When I remember to trust the process, it always seems to work out, and there exists a path to collaboration and connection.

When I worry about someone or something, I remember to trust the process. I remind myself that I have done my best and am embracing an Open Stance–being receptive, open to learning, and seeing opportunities. This perspective helps me to be centered and open to possibilities. I believe this hopeful energy is contagious, influencing not only my outlook but also those around me.

I encourage you to experiment with trusting the process. In the face of uncertainty, let this mantra guide your steps and invite your hope and openness. Notice how this perspective shapes your experiences. Kindly share what you notice.

Do you have an experience of trusting the process to share?

How Do You React to Negative Feedback?

I recall one negative review on the course feedback forms. “This won’t work with my manager.” I could feel the sting of the feedback and a heaviness in my chest. The rest of my trip to Vienna was dimmed. I could hardly enjoy the meal or music afterward or the sightseeing days. I was disappointed that I had not reached an intelligent leader in a challenging situation. Ironically, I later heard from the participant that he did indeed have a dramatic shift in his relationship with his boss when he used the OASIS Conversation process.

It is our nature to focus on negative things disproportionately. It comes from our early days as humans when negative things could kill us. Many things that feel like threats today are not likely to snuff out our lives.

Rick Hanson says that the fear center in our brain can be a “sad amygdala” that bases our actions on fear by releasing cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress-inducing hormones that make us feel anxious and worried.

A “happy amygdala” will stimulate our nucleus accumbens, the goal-fulfilling part of our brain, to spark motivation, ambition, and optimism. We can develop a happy amygdala by savoring and exposing it to more positive experiences and toning down the fearful responses. This requires reminding ourselves of the many good things in our lives often, building the neural structure, and training our brains to recognize the good things more readily. It’s like building a new pathway or roadway that becomes the natural path.

We can rewire our brains by focusing on positive developments. Notice small positive details that are present and practice being kind and generous to others. Recall a fond memory, perhaps a day at a park or a beach with friends, and re-experience it in sensory detail. Re-enjoy the moments.

When I receive an email from a client or course participant who shares how they are using what they learned in our work together and feeling more robust and having more success in their interactions, I pause, appreciate, and savor the experience.

How do you experience negative or positive feedback?

Can We Be Grateful?

We are collectively facing a tumultuous time in the world with war, climate disruptions, polarization, and financial and technological challenges. I ask myself, and others ask me, “How can we be grateful when so many are suffering?” It is an important question.

We must be empathetic, show compassion, and do our best to support those in need. Yet, paradoxically, fostering a sense of gratitude is equally imperative. While it feels counter-intuitive, we must also be grateful and appreciate all we have. We are interconnected, emotions are contagious, and our hope and optimism can ripple out to positively influence others. If we stay focused on what is not going well in the world, we don’t have the energy to find ways to make life better for ourselves and others.

One of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, Robert Emmons, Ph.D., concurs that gratitude is indispensable. He articulates this perspective in an article for Greater Good:

“I have often been asked if people can—or even should—feel grateful under such dire circumstances. My response is that not only will a grateful attitude help—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

Acknowledging the challenges inherent in life, we recognize that suffering is an inevitable part of the human experience. Hopefully, we grow through these challenges and see many of them as opportunities and experience moments of transformation.

According to Emmons: “Trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Our national holiday of gratitude, Thanksgiving, was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.”

The celebration of Thanksgiving is a testament to the enduring power of gratitude to sustain us through hardship. As we navigate these tumultuous times, I am grateful for our connection.

I wish you hope, gratitude, and a joyful Thanksgiving.

An Open Stance Is the Best Offense

It’s counter-intuitive; our instinct is to protect ourselves and to duck for safety when the dust is flying amid a time of uncertainty and polarization. However, doing the opposite and taking an Open Stance can be transformative.

We can recognize our instinct to close down, judge, and control. Rather than assuming negative intent of others, we can choose to be curious and assume positive intent first. Imagine the impact it could have on our relationships and interactions. When a colleague proposes a new idea, don’t immediately dismiss it and question their motives. If you assumed the person was genuinely trying to improve things, you would enhance the atmosphere of trust and collaboration, leading to more positive and productive outcomes.

We can look for what is working rather than what is not working. Rather than focus on the challenges and obstacles you face on a project, focus on building on what is already effective and let yourself be more solution-oriented, seeing the possibilities and opportunities for growth.

We can choose optimism and aliveness over pessimism and despair. Emotions are contagious, and when we select optimism, the positivity creates a ripple effect for those around us.

An Open Stance is the best offense. Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. When learning to swim, we instinctively raise our head above the water to breathe. However, when swimmers learn to lower their heads in the water, they become much more efficient and faster. They learn how to counteract their initial instinct.

We can also learn to shift to being open, and with this lens, we are positioned to see more possibilities and make more optimal decisions. With an Open Stance, we can engage in positive and productive OASIS-like conversations. Our perspective broadens, and we can be more resilient. We can build the neural pathways and habits that enable joy and aliveness.

With an Open Stance, we are resilient, unlock the power of connection, and are richly rewarded. We experience and foster a greater sense of belonging and psychological safety. We benefit from connecting with our colleagues, family, and community. We widen our circle of influence and are positioned to make a difference-which is the essence of leadership and a quality the world needs more of today.

So, embrace the power of an Open Stance and watch how it transforms your connections and world.

What Can We Do?

In these tumultuous times, I have been reflecting on what I can do. The challenges we face are complex, with a myriad of perspectives and needs. It’s easy to question the impact of individual actions, wondering if they are just drops in an insurmountable bucket.

Many of us grapple with how we can make a meaningful difference in our workplaces, families, and communities. One simple yet valuable response we can each embrace is to be compassionate and kind and to spread a sense of connection rather than feed polarization. We can take an Open Stance when we want to close down.

We can acknowledge our shared humanity and that most people are doing the best they can based on their unique life experiences. Life is laden with challenges, but it’s also a canvas for growth and transformation.

A useful practice is to pause, focus on, and slow down our breath for a few moments. We can put attention on our heart. As we do, we can bring to mind someone or something we appreciate or care about– a child, a friend, a tree, a pet, or a serene place in nature. In this moment, allow feelings of compassion and kindness to grow. Then, turn that sense of compassion and kindness toward yourself. That’s right. Be kind and compassionate toward yourself, too. Experience this expanded state of being.

With this openness, we are ready to extend the same warmth and consideration to those we encounter as well as others across the globe. We can lend an empathetic ear to someone undergoing a challenging time, contribute our time or resources to a worthy cause, or simply share a smile and a word of thanks with the barista at the local coffee shop, a neighbor, or a colleague. In our mind’s eye, we can envision a ripple of kindness and compassion radiating to other drivers on the road or people strolling along a path or in another part of the world.

Indeed, our efforts are tiny drops in a vast ocean of need. However, from our place of openness, our kindness touches others and spreads the enlivening energy that is so needed.

In times of complexity, the simplicity of compassion and kindness is a force of power. Clear intention and even little acts can create a wave of positive change. It is something each of us can do now–even when we don’t know what to do.

Do Kind Acts Matter?

A leader shared that he was surprised when the barista told him another customer had paid for his morning cappuccino. This small act enriched his day, and he felt light in his heart and steps the whole day. He admitted that he was kinder to people and greeted more neighbors.

I called a friend I lost touch with to say hello and see how she was doing. I had put off calling, assuming it could be awkward and believing I was too busy. I was glad to reconnect, and I received a text from the person thanking me for reaching out and how it lifted her spirits. Often, small actions make people feel valued.

We can reflect on something nice we can do for someone. It doesn’t need much time, effort, or resources but could make someone’s day. Then, do it without expecting anything in return. True kindness comes from a genuine desire to make someone’s day better. However, kind acts seem to spread positivity.

Observe the impact on your mood. It just may make your day more enjoyable!

A Small Act with Big Impact: Choosing Openness in a Divisive World

In a world characterized by uncertainty and increasing polarization, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to respond effectively. Many of us find ourselves wondering how we can truly make a difference in such a complex landscape.

Amid these challenges, I recently participated in a monthly Open Stance Circle gathering via Zoom. Taking an Open Stance is about noticing when we are contracted, in judgment, controlling, or closed and with awareness shifting to being curious, compassionate, courageous, kind, and noticing possibilities. From this Open Stance, we can attend to the world with greater resilience and wellbeing to embrace the present moment while unlocking our full potential.

After a short reflection, each person in the gathering shared their experiences of moving from a closed stance to an open one and the remarkable impact it had on their interactions. It is inspiring to hear how the act of acknowledging our initial reactions and choosing to be open can utterly transform our relationships and conversations with colleagues and neighbors. Even when we encounter individuals with differing perspectives, we can sense when someone is genuinely open and attentive.

Our society has conditioned many of us to place a premium on being “right.” However, within the Open Stance Circle, we experienced the benefit of being in an environment where people are open, attentive, and nonjudgmental. We must create more places where people feel safe expressing themselves and exploring many possibilities. Participants in the Open Stance Circle reported the power of being in such a community with an energy that is shaping their lives.

The beauty of this practice lies in its scalability. We all have the power to create this kind of Open Stance environment in our families, communities, and workplaces. We can each make a meaningful difference in the world by fostering intention and energy that prioritizes openness. This is a small but vital step we can make in today’s complex landscape, a reminder that we must remain open to one another, especially when our perspectives seem worlds apart.

You are welcome to participate in Open Stance Circle:

Basking in the Energy of the Present Moment

Can you recall being outside on a beautiful sunny day, seeing the blue sky, and noticing that you are glad to be alive? You let yourself experience the moment of basking in the sunshine, feeling the breeze, and hearing the joyful sound of birds. You are present. You are not worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Notice what happens in your body as you experience this moment. We experience joy and aliveness in the present moment.

Observe children at a playground or zoo. They naturally know how to bask in the present moment. They don’t have a lot of past to regret and have not learned to worry about the future yet. As we grow older and life becomes more complex, it is easy to lose our sense of wonder and excitement about the world. The good news is that we can regain this energy and excitement by building the habit of being in the present moment. When we live in the present moment, we can experience life at a deeper, more meaningful, and joyful level.

We experience reality and authentic connection in the present moment. A participant in my leadership class shared that he often would think about an email he needed to write or reflect on an interaction with a colleague when eating a home-cooked meal. Only when his wife asked him if he liked the meal did he realize he was eating and what the food tasted like. He missed the experience of the delicious food as well as a real connection with his family. When he consciously tried to be present, taste his food, and experience the family connections, he felt a genuine sense of aliveness and connection. He noted that this was a new, joyful experience for him. He is not alone. Too often, we miss experiencing the joy of our present moments because we are distracted and focused on reflecting on the past or worrying about the future.

Our lives are taking place in the present moment. When not experiencing the present moment, we miss the joy of our relationships and experiences.

Of course, it is difficult to be present when we are faced with uncertainty and challenges all around us. While we may want to hide or lash out, when we are present with our sensations, thoughts, and emotions and what is happening, we can also be present with others. Our emotions influence others, and our attention and presence is a gift. It may seem like a small gesture, but connecting with our joy and aliveness enables us to connect with others, which can make a difference.

When another is present with us, we experience a sense of connection, aliveness and joy–something we all need these days. I wish you the experience of presence and JOYBeing–the joy of being alive.

Is Art Important to Your Wellbeing?

Can you recall a time when you were not focused on an endless list of to-dos and experienced the joy of life through your senses? Some of us may recall childhood when we had space to explore and create with a sense of freedom. For others, we may remember listening to music we enjoy, connecting with nature, or admiring a work of art. You may enjoy doodling, painting or making a collage.

I have always enjoyed art even though I never felt I had the talent or time to explore building art skills. I admire friends who are creative and engaged in regular art projects. I started drawing simple cartoons for my blog. I allowed myself to enjoy the process and did not focus on the outcome – which made it fun. (You may notice that I am definitely an amateur.) However, I have enjoyed creating a little space for art. It has enhanced my sense of JOYBeing – the joy of being alive. I hope to learn more about art and make it an integral part of my life.

In Your Brain on Art, authors Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross show how activities from painting and dancing to expressive writing, architecture, and more are essential to our lives.

Magsamen and Ross share research that shows how engaging in an art project for as little as forty-five minutes reduces the stress hormone cortisol, no matter your skill level, and just one art experience per month can extend your life by ten years! They show how playing music enhances learning and builds cognitive skills; attuning to the vibrations of a tuning fork creates sound waves to counteract stress; and interactive exhibits dissolve the boundaries between art and viewers, engaging all of our senses and strengthening memory. In addition to prescribing forest bathing, where people are encouraged to spend time in nature, doctors are now suggesting museum visits to address loneliness, dementia, and many other physical and mental health concerns.

Engaging in art, whether we are doodling, coloring, working with clay, or simply experiencing art, can enhance the quality of our lives. Art can create a sense of community and support our health. I encourage you to add a few weekly minutes to engage with your senses, expand your wellbeing, and possibly extend your longevity.

What can you do this week to enliven your senses and enjoy connecting with the arts? I would love to hear your experience and what you notice.

What Was Meaningful Today?

What went well today? Review your day and identify a few things. For example, here are some things I enjoyed today.

— I got outside for a walk along Lake Michigan, and it was a beautiful day with a breeze. I love walking and being in nature.
— I enjoyed lunch with my partner. It was nutritious and tasty. We had a good conversation and connection.
— I listened to a book and explored joy, an area of interest, and learned about some of the latest research.
— I connected via a phone conversation to support my sister and siblings through a challenge.

Consider your meaningful moments. Then ask yourself, “What supported these moments?”

For each, I made a choice. Each supports my values and what is meaningful for me to experience joy. I connected with nature; I walked and ate nourishing food to support my health. I supported my sister in need and connected with my siblings. I want to make a difference and help to make lives better. I love learning and sharing what I learn and value studying the latest research. I value my relationship with my family and am glad for moments of connection.

Notice that we can always make decisions that enhance our JOYBeing–the joy of being alive. When we know what we value and what is meaningful, our choices become easier.

Make it a practice to notice meaningful moments in your day. You could reflect or journal in the evening or the next morning.