I love the Super Bowl, but this year, it also makes me a bit sad.
Even though I didn’t grow up in a “football” family, my Mom always made a pot of chili on the day of the Big Game, and we chose a team to root for, and we gathered around the TV to eat and laugh and cheer together. (Eventually I realized I was much more fascinated by the commercials than the game itself – but that’s a different story.)
All over America today, some variation of that scenario will play out. There will be parties and gatherings and indulgent food of all kinds – and – yes – the commercials!
And the thing I love the most about this is that the majority of Americans will be doing this. We’ll be doing it together in our homes, in bars, in Allegiant Stadium itself. And we’ll be doing it collectively, as a country, as a big, diverse, beautiful American family. It is just. So. Great.
So, what makes me sad?
Well, after the Super Bowl is over and the winner’s declared, football season is also over.
That means all the ways in which football rallies Americans together for friendly competition and fantasy leagues and weekly gatherings – that’s over for the year, too.
Then comes the post-football vacuum. In 2024, if you haven’t felt it already, that vacuum will be filled in large part by the Presidential election. And my heart gets heavy at the thought that we may be hurtling headlong into a season of vitriol and confusion and separation.
When I saw this image from the Detroit Lions / San Francisco 49ers playoff game, I thought, “We could be like that.” We could choose to be Red and Blue TOGETHER.
We could root for our own teams and still be kind and civil and friendly toward each other. We could even be curious about each other. We could ask each other probing questions that don’t seek to prove our point. We could listen to each other with open hearts. We could decide not to buy into the temptation to weaponize our language and hurt each other. We could – even in the election season – treat communication as an Act of Love.
When the lights go down on LVIII, maybe we can keep the spirit of the football season alive in our hearts. Maybe we can take that sense of friendly competition into the next nine months and beyond. Maybe we can remember that Red and Blue do coexist beautifully together.
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the way forward is through, and the way through is together. Let’s do this thing together.
IMAGE: David Guralnick / The Detroit News – 28 Jan 2024
Today is a very special day with a once-in-a-lifetime date. How will you make it memorable?
Is there a habit that you’re ready to start? Or give up? Something (or someone) that you've been avoiding? Today can be the day you choose to begin changing things for the better.
Maybe today is the day you start to meditate. Or you return to meditation. Or write in a journal.
Maybe it’s the day you pick up the 500-pound phone and dial someone who your heart has been urging you to call. Maybe you make – or accept – an apology.
Maybe it’s the day you begin to ask for what you need – out loud. Or maybe it’s the day you begin to trust the voice that tells you to say, “No.”
Maybe it's the day you make an appointment with a doctor, a therapist, or a coach.
Maybe it’s the day that you reduce your social media time by 5 minutes, 15 minutes, an hour. Or you start learning French.
Maybe it’s the day you pick up “Anna Karenina” and begin to read. Or put down the book that you just can’t get into even though “everyone else” loves it.
Maybe it’s the day you ask your boss for a one-on-one so you can share your concerns about the team. Or so you can tell her how much you love working with her.
Maybe it’s the day you go for a walk, a run, a first-ever visit to a yoga studio. Maybe it’s the first day when you give yourself 15 (or 2) minutes to do absolutely nothing.
Maybe today is the day you start making a daily gratitude list. Maybe it’s the day you start looking yourself in the mirror and saying, “I love you more than I can say.” Maybe it’s the day you start giving free hugs.
Here’s what I’m doing today: I am starting to trust more and worry less. I am releasing my belief that I am worth more when I do more. I am reaching out and breaking isolation. I am banishing multitasking. And I am making myself accountable by telling all of you. I know I may slide into the old habits again and again. But today I’ll make a start. And that’s worth celebrating.
2-22-22 can be the anniversary of a significant change in your life. What will it be? I’d love to know.
The other night I was moaning that I didn’t have a Sunday. Which is to say, that I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do on Sunday. I was so busy rushing around that I didn’t get to enjoy myself.
That’s the story I was telling myself, and I was sticking to it.
Then, the next morning, I remembered: Oh, yeah. I got to go to a wonderful yoga class on Sunday. And I got to have coffee with my radiant niece. I got to meet a nice dog and his owners at the grocery store. I got to have brunch with my husband and dinner with my parents. I got to talk to a dear friend on the phone. I got to immerse myself in a long, group meditation. And, by the way, I got to spend an hour at the beach.
There was a gap between my perception of the day and its reality. The story I was telling myself was based on faulty perception. It was coming from a negative mindset.
You know what was missing between reality and perception? Gratitude.
Gratitude has an alchemical power to turn any moment around. Instead of lamenting what I didn’t have (which, obviously, wasn’t much), I could have been celebrating what I did have. I missed some big chunks of an otherwise wonderful day because I was fretting and whining and generally distracted from the gifts and joy right in front of me.
One of my favorite gratitude hacks is to turn my thinking on its head.
Instead of telling myself, “I have to…,” I switch it up and say, “I get to…!”
Whether it’s meeting my sweet friend for a walk or making dinner or even doing my taxes, I can get the upper hand on my negative mind by reminding myself how truly abundant my life is right here, right now.
What helps you turn around your negative thoughts? I’d love to know!
Let’s share what makes our lives brighter and more meaningful. After all, the way forward is through, and the way through is together.
Headlines from last week’s job report focus on America’s job creation and unemployment. Dig a little further into the report, and we also uncover perspectives on inflation – a word I haven’t considered in earnest since I was a little kid wearing bellbottoms and wondering why lines were so long at the gas station.
I confess that I have a rudimentary understanding of inflation, so I’ve been doing some research. And what I’ve discovered is this:
The problem with inflation isn’t just about the economy. At a deeper level, inflation is a social issue.
Reading a recent New York Times column by Neil Irwin* helped me see how inflation can drive us into a mindset of scarcity. From this perspective we begin to believe that there’s not enough. Not enough for me; not enough for you; not enough for anyone.
When we’re seeing life through the lens of lack, we begin to believe that our most basic needs –like safety, food or shelter – won’t be met. And inflation-induced worries edge out our desire for cooperation, connectedness, and respect.
This retreat into self-preservation can only fuel the divisiveness that we’ve seen in our politics and throughout the pandemic. It also puts further strain on teams navigating the workplace designed by Covid – whether it’s in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
But we don’t have to add inflation to the list of triggers for our shared woes. We can fortify our teams and even our social fabric. Although the knee-jerk reaction might be to cut and run, we can outwit inflation’s scarcity mindset with a simple hack: Gratitude.
This is not some Pollyanna blah-dee-blah.
Gratitude has proven mental, physical, and emotional benefits. Grateful people sleep better, are healthier, and live longer. They’re better able to manage stress and are more creative problem-solvers. They’re less lonely and isolated. They’re more optimistic and are less likely to be depressed.
All of this, and more, contributes to higher levels of resilience to deal with life on life’s terms. Grateful people are happier people, better teammates, and stronger leaders.
The magic is in what gratitude does for our connections with others. In the instant that we’re grateful, we acknowledge that we don’t do anything alone. We recognize our place in a larger dynamic – whether that’s a team, a company, or the universe. We become a part of – rather than apart from.
Gratitude’s gentle and persistent reminder of our interconnectedness banishes the illusion of self-sufficiency that feeds scarcity and undermines collaboration and teamwork. It cultivates peace, joy, and productivity. The strengthened interpersonal relationships brought on by gratitude fortify every group, organization, and family. That means increased impact and excellence – not to mention joy and meaning – in all areas of our lives.
Irwin writes, “Psychological effects of inflation appear to have the upper hand.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can outsmart the default reactions that would mire us in scarcity. We can turn on gratitude right now. Here’s how:
Just do it. And then keep doing it. Steep yourself in gratitude.
A simple act of appreciation can break us open to the cosmic fact of our inherent and absolutely essential connection with each other. Gratitude is an experiential recognition that we simply do not do life alone.
Inflation is real, as is the effect it can have on our economy and finances. These things need solutions. The psychology of inflation, though, is also real. And, for that, we have a solution in hand.
Whether we’re talking about the economy, the pandemic, the year-end scramble at work, or the stress of the holiday season, we need not pit ourselves against each other in a delusion that there is never enough. Instead we can look to each other with appreciation and keep on going.
The way forward is through, and the way through is together. Gratitude can lead the way.
Want to find out your own Gratitude style? Take my Quiz. It’ll give you a new twist on gratitude and some tips for better “gratituding.” It might also serve up a smile and a hankering for pie.
* You can read Neil Irwin's article here.
Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement about a new parent company for Facebook and its siblings sent a shiver down my spine. The good news is that we have choices, and sitting atop that same spine — mine and yours — is the most phenomenal option for creating a future that is brilliant and thriving and deeply human.
The whole notion of a Meta-verse has me worried. It makes me concerned in the same way that I was uneasy when I first heard about the concept of “the brand of one” many years ago. Today, the quest for the perfected personal brand is a major contributor to self-esteem issues, the isolation epidemic, as well as mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
As with a “brand of one,” it seems to me that a Meta-verse ignores the basic human need for real connection with other human beings and with ourselves.
I live in two countries. I appreciate social media for keeping me in touch with a myriad of people, and I happily use it as a channel for sharing my ideas and growing my business. But I get into trouble whenever I lose the perspective that social media is a tool – not a way of life.
My study of the human condition, communication, and connection has taught me that technology and digital platforms can be wonderful assets, but they do not generate real meaning, vitality, and joy, which are at the essence of a fulfilled life. Time and again, I have found that there’s no replacement for cultivating self-awareness as the foundation for authentic communication and connection. It turns out that a thriving life is an inside job.
Still, we tend to spend an inordinate amount of time gazing outward by scrolling through our social feeds minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day.
We know that social media is intentionally addictive. (Thank you, Frances Haugen and the 12-step movement, for confirming that.). And that’s before it gets under our skin – literally.
Meta positions itself on the vanguard of “melding online, virtual and augmented worlds that people can seamlessly traverse,” says The New York Times. This sounds eerily like a step toward transhumanism, a journey on which Mr. Zuckerberg has already embarked by funding research for technologies that would “extend life” by “augmenting” the human body.
Transhumanism is defined by Oxford Languages as “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.”
That includes, among other things, video-recording sunglasses, chips under your skin to open doors and proffer computer passwords at the wave of a hand, and, as I learned in an article on Forbes, genetic pre-selection for “the most intelligent embryos.”
This all has massive moral implications, and it scares the pants off me to think that the drivers and levers for these kinds of developments are in the hands of so very few.
Which is why I think it’s utterly miraculous that there are some 7.7 billion others of us who have an even more powerful resource at our fingertips. Or, better said, housed in our cranial cavities.
We have amazing, bountiful, tremendous brains!
I’m not referring to the “metaphorical” brain which can often be translated as “intelligence.” I’m talking about our actual gray matter. And every single one of us has it.
Every single one of us has a beautiful brain.
But how much do we know about our brains and the power they have to connect us to ourselves and to each other?
Last week I watched the most uplifting, humanizing, and encouraging interview with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor about our super-duper cerebrums.
Dr. Jill is a Harvard-trained neuroscientist who suffered a stroke and temporarily lost capacity in the left hemisphere of her brain. This tragedy transformed into a boon when she used it to study the different functions of the two halves of our brains. She’s well known for her 2008 TEDTalk.
In her most recent book, “Whole Brain Living,” Dr. Jill teaches us about four distinctive parts of our brains and how they influence our behaviors, our lives, and our futures – individually and collectively.
In illuminating these amazing aspects of our brains, Dr. Jill offers us some things that Meta doesn’t: real personal sovereignty, empowerment, and deep human connection.
We are not condemned to march blindly toward ubiquitous bio-technological adaptations. We have options.
Instead of continuing to look “out there” for a solution, why not start closer to home? Why not look “in here” for the miracles that can open worlds of possibility? Why not contemplate our inherent magnificence as a way to understand ourselves and others, to connect and collaborate, and to forge a way forward together? Why not love ourselves and our exquisite brains so that we can better love each other?
Perhaps we can start to do that by getting to know our own brains – and their boundless and untapped potential – just a little bit better.
By teaching me about my bean and how it works, Dr. Jill helps me understand why I think and feel the way I do. She gives me a whole new level of insight into my marvelous melon, which helps me communicate more authentically and relate more deeply with everyone else I meet along the way.
And Dr. Jill points me toward hope. She says, “We have the power to choose who and how we want to be in the world each and every moment, regardless of what external circumstances we find ourselves in.”
And that, my friends, is more meta than Meta.
I’m not closing any of my Meta accounts – for now – but I am taking a stand for human dignity and the need for real, eye-to-eye, knee-to-knee, heart-to-heart connection with ourselves and others. I am fervently convinced that this means loving myself – all of myself – and continuing to learn all that I can about the gift of being human.
As I deepen my awareness about myself, including my magnificent brain, countless possibilities open for how can I do the vitally important work of connecting with you. After all, for all of us, the way forward is through, and the way through is together.
Perhaps you’ll join me on this journey. I’d really like that a lot. No emoji (or microchip) needed.
I was driving home on a road I’ve taken countless times before. It curves and crests and reveals a spectacular view of the Tramuntana mountains, the Mediterranean, and the gorgeous city of Palma de Mallorca – all in one fantastic display. It always makes my heart open like a flower.
Well, almost always.
That day was different. That day the magnificent view landed with a dull thud.
I was headed home for a call with my spiritual counselor and trusted friend. I talked with her about the experience of being in the presence of great beauty and feeling nothing at all. She pointed out that I had been reporting these kinds of experiences for a while. She reminded me that failing to feel joy in the presence of joy-giving events could be a sign of depression.*
I have danced with mild depression for most of my adult life. More often I have had extended encounters with anxiety. Depression, though, is anxiety’s kissing cousin, so she, too, has made frequent appearances in my life.
As with most of my depressive cycles, this one snuck up on me – like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot. I didn’t know I was in it until things were too hot to handle. And, in fact, I couldn’t see for myself what was happening. I needed someone else to point it out to me.
I couldn’t detect it because, when I enter the realm of mild depression, my focus narrows. I simply cannot see the truth of what’s happening. My sense for options and possibilities diminishes. I tend to get very, very busy doing just about nothing.
As John O’Donohue so beautifully says, I needed “those who looked for [me] / And found [me], their kind hands / Urgent to open a blue window / In the grey wall formed around [me].” **
My counselor’s astute observation that this ennui was not just a matter of my mood or mindset or whether I’d gotten enough exercise that day was a revelation to me. She also invited me to slow down. To allow space for what was happening. To let this particular cocktail of emotions – yes, despair, but also anger and confusion – to rush toward me and to ebb back.
I doubt I would have done so if not for her presence, her willingness to support me and walk with me wherever the wave took me. She gave me stable ground, and I gave myself to the murky gloom. I asked it what I needed, and I let it speak to me.
The need was, as it always is, connection. Deep, meaningful, empathetic, compassionate connection. Authentic connection. Me being totally me – magnificent and messy – connection.
If you were to look at my life, you would be forgiven for wondering that this connection was missing for me. I’m graced with a sunny disposition and a generally healthy life. And, after all, my business is called Authentic Communication.
But – like lots of other people – I have been known to make choices geared to not making waves rather than to expressing myself fully. I have been known to people-please to minimize the external disruptions in life. I have been known to attempt to control outcomes to prevent my own discomfort.
Unfortunately, when these actions become patterns, the inevitable consequence is that I shut down. My internal infrastructure fails, and I collapse in on myself. I may be in a room filled with people (or a social media site filled with “friends”), but I am dissociated and very much alone. The isolation of depression is devastating
Although some part of me believes that it’s up to me to do everything myself, my wiser self knows that this is an absolute impossibility. That story of self-sufficiency is defeatist and a lie and a fabulous way to erode any foundation of resilience that I may have established.
One of the most important elements of resilience is relationships. I simply cannot do my life alone. I need you.
Not you that’s a name on a screen, a “like,” or a heart emoji. I need the you that says, “Hey, are you OK? Do you want to talk about it?” I need the you that’s willing and able to hold my messy magnificence and share yours with me. And bring the Kleenex, my friend. Bring the Kleenex.
About 10 years ago, a former boss and wonderful human being received my Vesuvian release from one of these disconnection-depression bouts. We were having an ordinary one-on-one, and something in me just broke. Before I knew it, he left me sobbing in the meeting room, only to return seconds later with his pockets full of paper towels. That was an act of pure love.
To receive that love, to have these real and meaningful connections, I need to make myself available for them. I might even have to ask for that love. I certainly have to offer it.
My work is all about interpersonal communication. It’s about relationships. It’s about love.
You might look at my CV and ask what I know about this stuff. It’s a fair question. I will tell you that I have walked through the fire of trying to do it all alone, and I know that there is a better way. For me, it’s a pattern for living, communicating and connecting with authenticity.
To lift the veil of despair that had settled over me, I had to talk to people who could sit with me in this morass. Who could listen without a need to fix or correct anything. I needed honest and authentic communication with others who could hang in there with me and my mess.
I started with that conversation with my spiritual sponsor. Then I talked to my beloved, to my dearest friends, to my Mom. I wept and shouted and got messy. There were plenty of Kleenexes in the bin by the end. Step by step, the connection to myself was restored by reconnecting with others.
A day or two later, I found myself at the flower stall in the local market. I was hovering over a brilliant bouquet of locally grown zinnias. I couldn’t stop staring at them, mesmerized by their colors and form. I felt my heart opening over and over and over again.
“They give joy,” the florist said.
“Yes. Yes. Yes, they do,” I thought, and for the first time in many weeks, I could feel it.
Relationships are vital to our resilience, and communication is the lifeblood of our relationships. Communicating with deep authenticity makes those relationships nourishing and life-giving. And that’s what ultimately shattered the grip of this sadness for me – connecting to the great gift of life by connecting with others.
* Depression is a very serious mental health condition. My experience is not exemplary, and my ideas are definitely not clinical solutions. My aim with this post is to share my experience of walking through mild-grade depressive episodes and my hope for how we can support each other to come through them healthier and more joyful.
** from “For Your Birthday,” in the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue.
Talk about a fashion statement.
Yesterday I followed a woman into the market. She was wearing a simple black dress with a thin white belt. On the belt, in teeny tiny black letters letters: was this simple and profound statement: EARTH IS MY PARADISE.
Doesn't that just change everything? 👁🧡🌍
It rained so hard the previous day that I had to dodge huge, shimmering puddles all over Grand Army Plaza on my way home that night. But the morning of my birthday was glorious. Clear, crisp, blue September skies.
I went for my usual run in Prospect Park. I felt strong and optimistic. It was a beautiful day, I was turning 34, and it seemed like the best of life was rolling out in front of me.
On the way back to my Brooklyn brownstone, I saw a huge plume of smoke in the sky. It was so big and so close. I had a shot of panic that my own building, or one on my block, might be in flames. As I approached home, it was clear that the smoke was coming from elsewhere.
Back in my 4th floor walk-up, the phone was ringing. I picked it up just before the answering machine got it, and my Mom belted out “Happy Birthday” with her usual joy and exuberance.
As she sang to me, I turned to look out the window and take in the magnificent view of lower Manhattan that greeted me every day. She didn’t get to finish the song. I interrupted her and blurted out, “The Towers are on fire, Mom! The World Trade Towers are on fire!”
I don’t have to tell you the rest of that story.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001.
That day changed our lives. Every single one of our lives. Forever.
Is it possible that any good at all could have come from that horrific day?
In the months that ensued, I was able to extract one shimmering pearl from all that rubble and pain. I got serious about gratitude, and when I did, it changed my life.
After 9/11, we were traumatized, confused, disconnected. Many of us fell into isolation. We were mired in grief and uncertainty. We wanted to get “back to normal,” and we held a deep knowing that “normal” was simply gone. The general mood in New York City was similar to what I feel now as we move ever-so-slowly into a post-pandemic world.
I started seeing a therapist. A few weeks in, he told me he was getting daily emails from Gratefulness.org, and they were fanning his own little flame of hope. He thought it would be good for me, too. I trusted him, so I signed up, too.
It was a simple act. Gratitude is always, actually, a very simple act.
Reading these daily messages was like pouring water on a parched garden. With their simple, beautiful, consistent teachings on giving thanks, something inside me began to soften.
When I began to introduce more gratitude in my work, a sense of possibility started to stir. When I led with gratitude in social situations, my armor dropped and my loneliness ebbed – just a bit. Increasing my willingness to express thanks in the world made me feel more at ease in my relationships with others and with myself. Something was happening with this gratitude thing. As I put the ideas from those emails into practice, I was starting to feel better.
Since 2001, I have made the practice of thanksgiving a keystone in my life. I never cease to wonder at the way a little gratitude can transmute the most challenging situation into one where joy (even just a little bit of joy) becomes more possible. It makes space for forgiveness, connection, action. Its alchemy breeds acceptance and peace. When gratitude is present, something good can come from even the most difficult of circumstances. It is a powerful, transformational force accessible to each of us, always.
Consciously and consistently committing to gratitude has changed my life in real and practical ways.
It has nourished my relationships, fortified bonds, and diminished my isolation.
It has generated creativity and revealed options that I could not see before.
It has mended broken relationships.
It has taught me real humility and real humanity.
It has cultivated in me a well of joy and positivity on which to draw when the going has gotten tough. And, holy Toledo, have these many months been tough.
I “discovered” gratitude 20 years ago in the most unlikely of circumstances. What was there to be grateful for when the rubble of the World Trade Center was still smoldering? As it turns out, a lot. Side by side with all the despair and grief, there was heroism, solidarity, blue skies, and love – so much love.
Those early doses of gratitude helped heal me after 9/11.
Gratitude can help us now, too.
We’re still finding our way through the pandemic. We’re comforting our brothers and sisters all over the U.S. after a(nother) horrific hurricane and deadly wildfires. We’re dazed by our increasingly troubled world. We’re marking 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11.
If ever there were a time to up the ante on gratitude, I'd humbly submit that this would be it.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be starting a new project on gratitude that I hope will encourage all of us to lean more on this simple, beautiful practice. I think you’ll like what you see, and I’ll invite your involvement. I’d love to hear your gratitude stories and why the simple act of giving thanks matters to you.
In the meantime, it’s my birthday, and I have a birthday wish…
Would you consider joining me in expressing your gratitude with a donation of any size to any organization that’s working to respond to our most pressing needs? For example:
-Women for Women International (in support of women in Afghanistan)
-American Red Cross or GoFundMe (in support of the recovery from Hurricane Ida)
Your solidarity in this act of gratitude would be the most meaningful birthday gift I could receive.
The way forward is through, my friends. With gratitude, we always get through together.
With all my heart, Thanks.
This is my Dad. He started two multimillion-dollar companies. The first one folded because his partner defrauded him. The second one is still going and is now a billion-dollar business. He knows something about being an entrepreneur.
Yesterday, I told him that I was feeling discouraged. He understood. It happens to every entrepreneur, he said.
I told him that I was reading about “7-figure coaches, 8-figure coaches, even 10-figure coaches,” and it made me feel insecure about my business.
He said two things. First, he said, “BS! There’s no way they’re making that kind of money coaching!” That made me laugh – my Dad does not pull punches! I explained how they have scaled their businesses using online offers, which is something that I’m looking at, too.
Then he said, “Remember that you are a specialist.
“Even if you offer Authentic Communication to a broader audience, you specialize in a specific and powerful way of communicating. You specialize in helping people strengthen their relationships at work and at home. You specialize in supporting human beings to thrive.
“And your biggest specialty is that you do it all with love.”
That’s my Dad. I’m so grateful that he continues to mentor and support me in all that I do. He gives me courage when I don’t have enough on my own. He shows me possibilities I didn’t even know were there. He loves life more than anyone I know, and I sure do love him.
If you’d like to learn a little more about how I work with people, please check out my new video on Personal Coaching.
Happy World Bee Day! I'm so grateful for our beautiful, buzzy friends! I bow to them for our food supply, biodiversity, and vibrant ecosystems – not to mention the honey! Bees are a model of interdependence and great teachers of resilience. Bees are wondrous. Bees are life! I love bees!!
Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.