Every night for five years my dad would ask my mother, brother, sister and me the same question:
So, what was the best part of your day?
We’d spend the next 10 minutes sharing stories and he and mum would sit patiently, listening and smiling.
Sometimes we’d tease him for always asking the same question, but mostly we’d take this exercise very seriously, thinking long and hard about what really was thebest part of any given day.
The lessons I see in retrospect are wise and threefold:
Reflecting on the positive is akin to practicing the gratitude. It changes the lens through which we view the world. No matter how bad your day has been, it’s always worth searching for the one good part.
The power of asking a question and holding space, uninterrupted, for people to respond cannot be overstated.
Good questions deserve to be pondered repeatedly. See here, here and here for more inspiration.
The good kind, like a surprise birthday can take us from “I’m having a quiet dinner with one friend” to “looks like I’m having a party with 30 of my friends”.
The not so good kind, like a big client deciding they no longer need our services can take us from “there are plenty of projects for us next quarter” to “coolcoolcool, we need to step up our business development.”
In both cases, in order to navigate what’s happened and move forward we must accept the circumstances of our new reality.
Consider how odd it would be to ignore the 30 friends throwing us a surprise birthday party and pretend we were still having a quiet dinner with one.
When faced with a surprise, then, a good question to ponder is: what’s my new reality?
It’s quite possible we are (read: I am) striving for the sake of striving.
Maybe it’s increasing revenue, finding a better job, gaining another client, getting more listeners/readers/followers or listing more examples of things we strive for.
While this can be an effective strategy to grow and develop we also risk getting stuck on the metaphorical treadmill with the setting set to 16, sweat pouring down our face and legs pumping faster than we thought possible in order to stay upright and avoid being the next viral face plant video.
Knowing that it’s worth pausing to consider: What does enough look like?
PS. I recently had a wide-ranging conversation with Craig Harper on The You Project related to this and other topics including coaching, leadership and making change.