What a compelling title!(?) Aren’t you wondering where this might be going? Remember the Seinfeld show? It was a “show about nothing.” In reality, however, it was a show about common things in our everyday lives that we tend to take for granted. For example, they were able to build entire shows around topics like breakfast cereal, flat hair, clothes warmed from a dryer, etc.
And somewhat like Seinfeld, the task at hand is to take the simple, commonly-used word “gratitude” and share something thought-provoking (hopefully) about that little word which I admit to using quite casually. Seemed easy at the time I accepted the invitation to write this.
As I often do when faced with a challenge, I reached out to some family members and friends to gain a broader perspective. That is, I asked them what the word “gratitude” means to them and how a feeling of gratitude impacts their lives. Reflecting on their thoughts individually and collectively was enlightening. Most mentioned gratitude to family and friends during times of crisis when they had faced seemingly insurmountable circumstances usually not of their making. Also, support at special events was cited along with opportunities presented in everyday life. Often gratitude to God was specifically stated. And some expressed particular gratitude for support from unexpected sources.
It all made me wonder if it’s possible to simply feel gratitude without feeling “gratitude to __ for __.” I concluded it isn’t; there is always someone to whom I am grateful. However, I would be interested in your thoughts.
There were heartfelt comments about gratitude for the influence others have on our lives. I’m reminded of a favorite quote, which is framed and hanging in the guest room of some great friends:
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints and we are never ever the same. (Author Unknown)
Reflecting on that quote, creating a listing of the latter is fairly easy in spite of the fact that it’s a longer list than I might have expected when I started. Who’s on your list?
[Note: of all the people I asked, only one mentioned gratitude for “stuff” including free Wi-Fi. She’s ten years old and quickly added, “just kidding.” I was impressed with her discernment!]
And while there are certainly degrees of intensity in feeling gratitude, e.g. “I am grateful for the delicious apple” vs. “I am grateful that you saved my child’s life,” having an attitude of thankfulness (or gratitude) is unchanging. It is a choice. As one friend said, it is “a way of life” we all can choose regardless of our circumstances.
So, where do we go from here?
How we respond to those feelings of gratitude clearly makes a difference to ourselves and to others. It is both uplifting and somewhat humbling to go beyond feeling grateful to actually expressing gratitude to others for their actions or simply for life itself. It’s uplifting because it’s the right thing to do since it encourages others. It is humbling because it’s an acknowledgement that we can’t do everything by ourselves.
But what do we do when it’s too late? As was pondered by a family member, “What happens when the person to whom I feel most grateful is gone and I didn’t adequately let them know how much I appreciated having him/her in my life?” Perhaps God is willing to intercede on our behalf, if asked. Perhaps we can learn something from the pain of regret. Perhaps we can be a little better at being forthright enough to express our gratitude going forward.
At the moment, I am feeling intense gratitude for the gift of time granted to me. And just like you, I hope to be given twenty-four hours this day…and maybe tomorrow, too. How will I respond to that gift? How will I choose to use it?
Two parting thoughts
Since Annamarie and I talked about my blogging on this subject, I have thought about it often but have done nothing about it until the last week or so. But now that I have started writing, I can see the personal benefit of thinking deeply about “gratitude” and what it means in my life. It has been a revealing experience to try to articulate those thoughts.
Maybe I will choose some other key words and do the same for my own personal growth. Words like compassion? Respect? Service? Humor? The list is endless. Maybe you will do the same. For more inspiration to do so, you might read John Maxwell’s book “Thinking for a Change.” It’s a good one!
As I sit here awaiting the morning light, I have a feeling of gratitude for this simple moment… gratitude for the freedom to essentially live as I choose. And, perhaps most importantly, I realize the feeling of gratitude is a choice I can make each moment of the day, regardless of what comes my way.
Wishing you peace this day.
As a lifelong resident of this community, I appreciate the business community and all that goes into keeping our fellow citizens employed. I am equally as grateful for the area community service organizations which individually and collectively do so much to enhance our quality of life. This is a community where leadership and service are encouraged, appreciated and all are welcome to contribute their wisdom, wealth, work and wit. I am grateful to have served on boards and committees of many such organizations and continue to do so with the Governance Council of OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, the OhioHealth Quality of Care Committee, and as a Governor appointee to the Ohio Commission of Savings & Loans and Savings Banks. The sixteen years working with the Mechanics Bank team was the highlight of my professional career which culminated with the opportunity to serve as President for twelve years. They are truly an extraordinary group of ordinary people (they know what I mean) and I am a better person for having worked with them. I am honored to continue on the Board of Directors.
I attended one of those milestone high school class reunions last night. Let’s say I was anxious about going to see a group of people that I have had no contact with since I left the last class reunion 15 years ago.
As a class officer, I had reached out to the reunion committee to let them know that I would be happy to be a master of ceremonies. I knew that making a commitment to be there would help me to show up. For years, I did the morning announcements at school, excelled in the speech and debate club, and was the English department award recipient of the bunch. Everyone knew of me or knew my voice, which gave me some security.
The committee did reach out to me to see if I would do a welcome after dinner was served, and perhaps lead the group in making introductions. I was told that “no one on the committee can speak in front of groups”, and that they were all introverts. So my introverted self said no problem.
Let’s be clear, introverts are often overlooked and misunderstood
Many systems, workplaces and their cultures are built around extroverts. We are all too busy in our too busy places of work and life to give introverts the time to think through things before we want them to respond. We don’t have time to put out agendas before meetings to give introverts time to read it and think through what is being discussed and how they can contribute. We hold pop up brainstorming meetings where the extroverts will naturally dominate. Facilitators don’t stick to agenda and time-frames because we don’t want to cut extroverts off that go off topic, or never stay on topic in the first place. I don’t like to interrupt, but often find I cannot get a word in unless I do.
It’s my mission to show that introverts can be great communicators. When we know our subject matter, we can be maestros in delivering dynamite trainings. We can be inspirational speakers, and great facilitators, great actors and most importantly, probably the best leaders.
When an introvert opens their mouth to join the dialogue, listen. They have thought about what they are going to say, and have something important to offer the world. They generally don’t think as they speak.
I had a great time at the reunion. I loved reconnecting with everyone, and I made a point to connect with each person there. I intentionally talked about being an introvert and said that there were no rules for introductions. Of course, the extroverts standing took the lead. Everyone participated when they were ready. Some said too much, some very little. But in the end, this introvert could create an atmosphere of caring and acceptance, to make everyone feel special and happy that they showed up. It’s too bad that some had to wait many decades for this group of people they grew up with to allow them to be who they really are, to be listened to, to have the spotlight, and to literally applaud their contributions.
Introversion and extroversion is all about where you get your energy
Introverts generally have a tendency to be more sensitive to stimulation (noise, barking dogs, crowds of people, etc.). I know after a night like this, the best thing I need to do is to be by myself to gain back some energy and recharge. We all have challenges in managing our energy, but in very different ways. Introversion and extroversion lies on opposite ends of a continuum, and we are introverts or extroverts by varying degrees. It affects the way we communicate to others. It affects the way we see the world. It is something that can change over time, through the many phases of our life.
I am not as introverted as I used to be. Those pictures of me crying and screaming at my 2 year old birthday party or sitting on Santa’s lap, would be a good indicator I was over stimulated. The picture of me using my doll only as a prop for being by myself and reading my book would be another indicator of being an introvert who just wanted to be left alone.
The beauty of it all is that we can still all learn how to be great leaders. We can learn how to focus on each other’s strengths and personalities, while being mindful of our natural tendencies. The world demands that we must learn how to live with diversity. We must learn how to adopt our communication style and personality style to best meet the needs of others. We must create work environments and cultures that allow all people to thrive and be fully present and be heard. We can learn to listen more, to establish clarity, because my friend, despite all of this, we are still more alike than we are unalike.
Cindy Biggs is a leadership development expert working as a certified coach, mentor, and trainer. She started her encore career in 2012, as President of C. Biggs and Associates (www.SEEBIGG.com) after making a commitment to follow her dreams to be an entrepreneur and focus her top leadership strengths. She was CEO of Planned Parenthood of NC Ohio, based in Mansfield, for 20 years and VP of Organizational Development for 5 years after architecting a 5-way merger in NE Ohio with 4 other women to create a large, regional non-profit, Planned Parenthood of NE Ohio in Akron. Her volunteer work focuses on women’s empowerment and leadership development with nonprofits, including Central America Medical Outreach in Santa Rosa de Copan and the League of Women Voters. She lives in Wooster and Howard with her husband Jeff and cat Colt.
Upon graduating from The Ohio State University, I immediately put my engineering degree to work at IBM as a Marketing Representative. The company was known for its world class sales training. If you worked for IBM, you were regarded as the “best-of-the-best.” And, that’s exactly what I wanted. I was suddenly immersed in a world of high rollers. Monthly commission checks of $25k-$30k were common place. Jaguars, Corvettes, BMWs and a certain someone’s Ford Escort lined our private parking garage.
As an engineering student, I was accustomed to being one of a few females in class. Engineering was a man’s world at the time. This was not the case in sales and marketing. The coolest thing about my new world was that there were as many incredibly successful women as their were men. And of course, I expected one of those successful women to take me under her wing and show me the way.
I’d graduated in the top 5th of the Engineering College. I’d been inducted into the engineering honors society with five years of technical and marketing internships under my belt. If anyone qualified for the “ wing” thing, I surely did, or so I thought.
Well, I must have been delusional because the “wing” thing never happened. In spite of all the world class training, I struggled. What did I know about selling Million Dollar solutions? I had technical training in closing a deal but no real life savvy. I eventually figured some things out through trial and error and enjoyed some pretty decent success. But I knew I had the ability to achieve more. Does this resonate with anyone?
Have you ever had a time in your life when you were doing okay but knew that you were capable of something greater and you just didn’t know how to get there? Well that was me, all day every day. And the gap between my reality and my possibilities was exasperating! I needed some help. I needed someone who’d gone before me to care enough to teach me in a moment what would otherwise take months, if not years, to learn.
The best of the best had help along the way
No one can soar to new heights alone. We simply need each other. And more than anything we need to benefit from the wisdom and lessons of those who’ve gone before us. That’s the circle of life isn’t it?
So, back to the “wing” thing.
Have you ever said to yourself some version of “I could be so much further ahead if only I’d known better, if only I knew how to… if only I’d been aware of… or if only someone had taught me?” The unspoken subtext is “I have so much more potential! Can someone help me get to the next level?”
Well guess what? When you can’t find the answer, sometimes you have to become the answer. Over the years, I discovered that my purpose was linked to helping women unleash their potential, ultimately discovering the greatness that lies within them. Shucks! Life is too short and we’re too dog gone valuable for anything less than the fullest expression of our beings. This life would be a cruel experiment by the cosmos if there wasn’t something greater to be created, to be experienced, to be manifested.
The I.N.H.E.R. Circle
So I’ve decided to create The I.N.H.E.R. Circle which is a community of women dedicated to the pursuit of purpose, passion and destiny. (I.N.H.E.R., Instruments of Nurturing, Healing, Empowerment and Resources) We honor the magnitude and majesty of each other’s lives by serving as instruments of nurturing, healing, empowerment and resources. We believe that every human being is a gift to the universe and must be treated as such as we simultaneously challenge one another to discover who we are beyond our titles, to cultivate our unique skills and talents, to find our voices, become our authentic selves, harness our strength, unleash our potential and manifest greatness.
As women, we are tied to one another by our very essence. And we are never alone. You are in my circle. I am in your circle and together, we are I.N.H.E.R. Circle. ”
The first I.N.H.E.R. Circle gathering is October 27th from 6-8pm at the Area Agency on Aging in Ontario, Ohio. Save the date! Details forthcoming on Facebook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A dynamic speaker and community leader, Cheryl Carter is known for making impact. A former IT Sales Account Executive, Ms. Carter has spent the last twenty-five years speaking nationally and internationally to audiences on leadership, human potential and personal empowerment. Through the power of the spoken word, she inspires audiences to embrace higher dimensions of thought and action; leading to individual and organizational transformation.