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About gratitude again, thankfully

I write a lot about betterment on my professional channels. More than meets the eye, in fact. On LinkedIn, I have two weekly newsletters — a Monday one called “Chasing Psychological Safety” about the topic of Psychological Safety in general and the journey that our software company is on to create and improve it in particular, and a Wednesday one called “The Future Is Agile” is which all about the future of work and technology with an “Agile-anthropologist” hat on.

On the surface, they seem to be dry, pure science and business topics but to me, they are simply facets of a betterment journey. One at a team level and one at an organisational and mindset level, but none possible or long-lasting with work being done at the individual level and that is why on here, I often go on and on about topics such as gratitude, positivity, flexibility and generally, all that should go into the practice of always striving to be a better version of ourselves.

Something I find fascinating is how stigmatized of a concept this entire topic is. Something in our collective psyche as professionals enables us to dissociate between our work persona and ourselves as a mere mortal, a regular human. Furthermore, something or other dictates that everything I quoted above, the mental and emotional equivalent of going to the gym are the apanage of washed-up second rate consultants not the hallmark of successful business people.

It’s fascinating in particular because it’s a gross misconception. Dig into the habits of any modern-day leader and you’ll find they have a strict regimen to feed the mind and soul. What it entails is personal and varies, but it always encompasses some form of work they are investing daily into getting grounded and centered, always has an element of being grateful and taking stock and always focused on some way to enhance kindness and therefore compassion, learning, openness, all that good jazz.

They may not talk about it openly often because they too perceive it as “fluffy” and hard to justify in a professional context but it is there.

To top it off, I’ve met leaders who do it subconsciously too — they haven’t taken the declarative leap of having set aside time each day to devote to a laid out and precise practice but they have what they would describe as personal odd habits such as making it a point to smile at least a stranger a day or always taking 3 deep breaths before a meeting or never reading the news before noon not to bring the team morale down with their depressed demeanor.

But of course, the act of taking ownership of the fact that a betterment practice is needed is the cornerstone to gaining the most benefits from it. Just like accidentally stumbling into a gym habit (should that be possible!) is not as powerful as making a decision and sticking to it.

Over the last year I’ve heard so many inspiring stories of what people pack into their practice, how it has helped them change their lives and how they have grown from doing it (and each and every story has been from badass successful business people not aging hippie medicine men or women with rainbow hair or man-bunned millennials, mind) that I think we should open up and compare notes in a “What do you do to keep sane and get better?” challenge.

I’ll start — here’s a screenshot of my screen — I go through most of these most mornings. Not “all” of these and certainly not “all mornings” -oftentimes because the term “morning” in itself is relative when you’re eternally on a plane-.

If you look at them there’s gym stuff, diet stuff, gratitude stuff — most religious about that one of all of them!-, meditation stuff, breathing stuff vision- creation stuff and habit making stuff.

On a hurried morning if I overslept and am late for stand-up or am about to miss a flight I will at a minimum do a quick inventory of the day that passed by uploading screenshots or pictures I took the day before to the Gratitude app and use the -often infuriating and frustrating!- dim screen functionality of the Breath app to take stock of how I feel then select a 3–5 mins -can’t imagine who has the time and patience for the 7 or 12 minute versions!- breathing and meditation exercise. And ensure my polar synced and my hard work at the gym is in MyFitnessPal because let’s face it, working out without recording calories is like belting out an aria in a deserted opera house. Amirite?

Having come from a very 1, 0 and $ side of the business — the world of banking and technology, I too had a fair amount of apprehension to conquer before welcoming the “fluff” talk into my life but once it clicks that thinking it’s “fluff” is a silly -and incidentally narrow-minded and awfully junior- stance, it easily flips.

So leave a comment, tweet or send me a message — what’s on your apps screen that keeps you sane and makes you better?


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