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How To *Also* Notice The Wonderful

Whether you scroll for 10 minutes, join another Teams meeting, or hop on a 'quick call', chances are that you'll run into issues. These might be situational, systemic, or some version of both. A lot of these can be complex tangles of long time messes that are finally being cleaned up, new issues that take you by surprise, or ongoing issues with delayed solutions. Whatever the case may be, today's invitation is to also notice the wonderful. Considering that the nervous system is consistently scanning threats to your survival, it takes intentional effort to disrupt its pattern and expand it to also notice what's working well.

Notice how 'also' is a key word here. That's on purpose. Disclaimer: from my perspective, noticing the wonderful only makes a difference when accompanied with acknowledging the dreadful. Also noticing the wonderful doesn't dismiss, deny, or minimize the difficulty of any given issue. In fact, this exercise is meant to increase your capacity to adapt to change, challenge, and opportunity in the midst complexity. Why is that important? The wonderful provides you with fuel to hang in the tension long enough to navigate the waves of pressure that come with recurring issues, for example.

There are three key practices that I invite you to tap into:

  1. Tiny, little joys: Dr. Mary Catherin McDonald, trauma researcher, invites us to identify three things at any point throughout the day that bring you joy. These can include relationships/experiences/places. They can be as 'small' as the reflection of a rainbow on your wall or as 'big' as catching up with an old friend. Whatever 'tiny' things brings you joy is good enough to say out loud, note down, or somehow keep track of. Intentionally practicing this regularly and even 2-3 times a day will help you develop new pathways to expand your nervous system's experience of what it's exposed to.

  2. Ask yourself and your people the following question: what's working well?

  3. Check in with yourself: If my actions will create a ripple effect, what type of ripples do I want those to be?

In this case, I invite you to think about the ripple effects of loving kindness. What does that have to do with anything? In this case, it's about developing the neural pathways to also notice the ripple effects of constructive actions, safe relationships, and inspiring places. If you imagine a pebble thrown into a lake, you can see the ripple effects around it. You might hear the plop of the pebble hitting the water. You might feel cool water splash onto you or the dust left behind by the pebble. Whatever the case may be, the pebble represent relationships/experiences/practices/places that add to the environment.

On a 'micro' scale, that conversation that went well is a ripple. The practice that you shared with your kids to help them navigate anxiety is a ripple. The unexpected thank you you received is a ripple. That time you shared a book with your friends and found yourselves laughing about it months later is a ripple. That time you named a win with your team is a ripple. On a 'macro' scale, it's hard to trust that any of the 'micro' ripples add up to make a difference. Still, as part of a broader 'macro' that you can't fully control, you can decide whether your actions, relationships, and the ways you show up create ripple effects of loving kindness or if they just spread more misery. In that 'micro' way, you have a 'macro' choice to make.

Personally, the only way I stick to this choice or come back to it when I forget is by noticing the wonderful. By noticing the wonderful, I start to notice how my friends, clients, neighbours, family, and acquaintances are contributing their own ripples to a broader lake. Yes, there are innumerable challenges to name in that lake. And. Noticing the wonderful, too, is my idea of a floatie. With floaties, you can take breaks when you need to. You can pause long enough for others to catch up to you. You can practice new moves. You can even teach others how to swim. I'll keep an eye out for the ripple effects you make out on the lake!

For more on adapting to change, challenge, and opportunity, check out existing blog articles here

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