My father anchored an important family conversation on Thanksgiving Day. As our family's post-turkey, pre-dessert conversation began to verge on unsavory political banter, he made things well this season, and he made the point that better together starts with each one of us.
It was a good start to the holiday season and reminds me of 3 things:
1. A difficult conversation can be made less difficult the next time if I pay attention – not to the other person, but to what is going on inside of me. At the risk of mindfulness-mantra-fatigue, try this question on for size the next time you find yourself zoning out or getting tense: What story am I telling myself right now? What emerges might surprise you. Does it reflect who you really want to be? (This exercise is wonderful for figuring out the places where we get “stuck” in life.)
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. M. Scott Peck
2. Joy can exist in the midst of discomfort and when I can feel both, it lets me know that things are going to be okay and even well. In the midst of that tough family conversation, we were able to laugh at ourselves. Wellness is not about perfection, but it is about choosing what to focus on. I choose to focus on joy in the midst of discomfort, because really, what is the worst that can happen? (Not to mention, this is healthy for your neural pathways – Google “neuroplasticity” to learn more.)
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Belonging is a powerful concept, especially during a season that can bring a heightened sense of loneliness. Belonging is about more than just being with people. In the midst of people, I can feel alone if I do not feel understood. My family understands me, for the most part, so in that difficult Thanksgiving conversation, I was able to accept feedback without growing defensive.
Even among strangers, you can create belonging by acknowledging those around you. Agree to look up from your mobile device while riding the metro tomorrow. Peel yourself away from the people you know at the next holiday party to break the ice with someone new. This is the beginning of creating belonging.
Contemplate the person who is triggering your judgment, disgust, anger, fear or contempt, and remind yourself, “Just like me, this person wishes to be happy and free from suffering. In this way, we are no different.” Linda Graham
While news feeds light up with holiday survival and party planning tips, I would challenge each of us to think about how we can seek and create true belonging with those around us, find joy in the midst of discomfort, and be brave enough to have difficult but thoughtful conversations with those we love.
Only then can we be anchored in who we are, as individuals and as a community.
What evolved for my family at Thanksgiving was a transparency that felt safe, an authentic – and humbling – conversation about how we can be better.
Better together starts with you, and it extends to those you love.
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