Celebrating the Harvest: A Shift in Focus

Celebrating the harvest

Unquestionably, the year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most bizarre years on record, at least in my lifetime. Between COVID-19, murder hornets, heightened racial tensions, polarized politics and more, this has certainly been a challenging year in many ways. As the year begins to draw toward a close, our friends and colleagues in agriculture are reaping the harvest once again. For their essential service in providing over 400 commodities in California alone for human consumption, especially this year, we are grateful. We are grateful for the freshest, safest, locally grown produce in the world. Thank you!

Several years ago, I wrote about what harvest means to me, growing up in California’s Central Valley. In my small town of Lodi, California, harvest was a time of measuring performance, and in some ways, a time of reckoning: Had we sown the crops and tended the soil properly? Had weather conditions been favorable? Had we sufficient water for irrigation? In organizational terms, we might reframe the questions to ask: Had we been strategic in our planning and execution? How had the market and other external factors contributed? How did we manage our resources – human, natural, material – to deliver on the promises we made?

In times of crisis, many of these factors are out of our control. It is human nature to desire control over that which is in our power to control. For this reason, we have seen increased depression, suicide and emotional duress over the recent six months of restricted or limited social contact. While it may be tempting to focus on all the negativity, and secretly desire to fast-forward into January 2021, let’s take the opportunity to highlight a few of the blessings that have emerged from this complex and challenging time. In my coaching conversations with clients, I have seen a significant shift in focus, as measured by goal setting in coaching engagements, in these 5 Key Focus Areas:

Focus on Wellness. Whether it’s a mindfulness practice, an exercise routine, a coastal walk with a Blue Health Coach, or other mental health breaks, many people have not only expressed an increased interest in focusing on some aspect of self-care, but also integrated new kind of new routine to support this focus. Although this may be balanced by the increase in consumption of alcohol and comfort foods, these indulgences may play a role, as well. After all, sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. Long story short, leadership begins with self-care. One of the first lessons we teach Rescue Divers is, “You cannot rescue someone else by putting yourself in harm’s way.” The same is true for leaders. Leaders who are drowning in their own sea of uncertainty or inexperience are not in a position to help, direct or lead others. In fact, the very first module of our new Inspired Leadership offering begins with “Leading Self.” May we remember to continue caring for our own well-being in service to others, even when life returns to “normal.”

Focus on Family. With many parents working from home, and children engaged in a hybrid approach to online learning and home-schooling, more clients are reporting a return to family dinners, family walks, and other activities that are often squeezed out of our fast-paced lives. However you define “family”, more people are choosing to foster more meaningful interpersonal relationships, not only with loved ones, but also with long lost friends and family. The ways families have been engaging in celebration, whether it’s weddings, memorials, graduations, birthdays, are so creative! We are already beginning to hear the term, “COVID Baby” used to describe new additions to families during this time. It will be interesting to see how this return to family relationships impacts social and community issues in the months to come.

Focus on Community. In the absence of large scale public gatherings and events, people are finding creative ways to connect socially, while remaining physically distanced. A greater sense of community and compassion for our neighbors has emerged, such as deliveries of cookies on doorsteps, grocery and errand runs for the elderly, intentional efforts to support local businesses and restaurants. One of my favorite examples of this is local photographer, Lara George, who creatively began her “Front Steps Project,” as a means of reaching out, connecting with people, offering her services and simply bringing joy to surrounding communities. She posts on social media when she will be driving through a neighborhood, so families can come outside on their front porch, just as they are, and be photographed by her from the street for physical distancing. Be sure to check out Lara’s project, and show her some love.

Focus on Purpose. At least half of the coaching conversations since March 2020 have involved some discussion about re-evaluating one’s career or life path. While some are exploring retirement, others are considering a completely different type of work or field of discipline. Arguably, in some cases, this may be related to that normal stage of adult development we call “midlife.” In nearly all cases, the client is seeking something more satisfying, fulfilling or meaningful. Now, I thrive on these conversations, having experienced a bit of my own career re-evaluation not too long ago. More importantly, my clients are seeking a deeper sense of purpose, and choosing to leave a legacy for future generations on purpose.

Focus on Perspective. Related to purpose, many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to press pause, take a deep breath, and consider their situations from a different perspective. They are wanting to see the “bigger picture,” and make sense of how it all fits together. We have seen more interest in Blue Health Coaching™ than ever before, as people discover their desire to have a deeper connection with their own lives and with the planet, specifically our marine ecosystems. If you are curious about Blue Health Coaching,™ try one of our “Toe in the Water” sessions to have an experience, learn about the science of blue health benefits, and meet some cool people in the process.

As we prepare simultaneously for an unknown future and a return to some sense of normalcy, I am optimistic that we may preserve some of these positive lessons gleaned from this season of uncertainty. Take heart and know that this too shall pass, and hopefully, we will have learned and grown through the challenges into wiser and more compassionate human beings, more patient leaders and more purposefully leave a legacy for future generations. What are you harvesting?

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Happy Thanksgiving!!