The Reflection Pool

GRACE – #Oneword for 2017

I’m ready to start the new year.

In 2016, I chose essential as my one word. It proved to be the perfect choice as I reflected throughout the year about how to pare down what I spend my time on to that which I consider most important. I also successfully experimented with various ways to use less time on those things that I have to get done, but don’t consider particularly enjoyable. The idea of Essentialism is now embedded in my thinking and my actions.

Photo Credit: Deida 1 Flickr via Compfight cc

The word grace encompasses thinking that I’ve been doing for the past few months. Ideas of forgiveness, love, gratitude and growth have all been present for me. I finally decided on it after finishing Wab Kinew‘s The Reason You Walk, a heartfelt meditation on reconciliation, love and forgiveness. “To be hurt, yet forgive. To do wrong, but forgive yourself. To depart from this world feeling only love. This is the reason you walk.” (p.268)

Then, as often happens, I began to see references to grace everywhere. Arthur C. Brooks wrote recently how powerful it might be to forgive another person this very day and how that small act can make the world better. Dan Rockwell offered leadership advice on How to Respond with Grace and Resolve When Teammates Disengage. A walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens brought out the chickadees!

This year, I want to consider deeply how to find the grace to forgive and love throughout all areas of my life, not just when it’s easy.  It’s scary because I’m sure I won’t be 100% successful. That means grace is my best word for 2017.


The Art of Choosing No

“Find a way to say yes.” Jim Wibberley, a seasoned leader who went on to become a Director of Education, offered that advice to newbie vice principal me in the context of saying yes to staff. I understand and agree with the intent. No one wants to hear a leader say no all the time. There may be times when a “no” is needed, but “no” can be soul crushing for the person putting forward an idea or asking to do something.IMG_2861

Further insight came a bit later in my career. While I can’t remember where I heard it, the phrase “Yes, and…” has stayed with me. Instead of saying, “Yes, but…” say “Yes, and…”   See the difference? It’s a subtle shift that removes the negative and extends possibilities.

Since these experiences, I’ve read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, which I’ve referenced a few times in previous posts. McKeown has moved my thinking about yes versus no. While I need find a way to say yes if possible when colleagues and team members make suggestions, I also need to be able to choose no to guard my time and focus on what is my true purpose and my essential intent. (He has some great suggestions for how to actually do this once you decide you want to.)

I’ve had some success lately. When someone asked me to take on something else in my job, I said, “Well, I would love to, but I just don’t see how I could do justice to it with all that I am working on. Do you have some suggestions for which commitments I could let go?” I also use my calendar a lot of more effectively to help me. If asked to attend a meeting or an event, I don’t say yes and I don’t say no. I let the person know that I will check my calendar and get back to them. And if I have something else on, I say no, regretfully. It’s empowering, and it’s clear.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

I’ve got more work to do with choosing no, but I’m getting there.

How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

Photo Credit: SortOfNatural via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SortOfNatural via Compfight cc

Have you heard Mary Oliver‘s great poem The Summer Day? Since I’m no poetry analyst, I’ll leave you to read it for yourself. The poem has inspired joy and reflection for me. For example…

I used to feel guilty about not gardening, or painting, or odd jobbing it around the house. I know some people really enjoy that stuff. I’m OK with dishes and laundry, but I’m no handywoman.

But I started to really think about it, especially after I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and chose essential as my #oneword. It seems to me that many of us, me included, spend a lot of time feeling bad about what we are not, instead of embracing, enjoying and trying to make better what we are.  My faults and shortcomings are easy to point out, as are everyone’s.

The truth is that I do not enjoy house chores. I love sitting on my front porch or back deck. I enjoy keeping space for my shoe collection (it’s a bit of a problem). I enjoy a little separation from my neighbours. In other words, I like living in a house. It’s a privilege that so many in our country and around the world do not have.

Instead of feeling bad about what I should be doing, now I focus on what is important and try to do it. First, reading, thinking, planning, and writing. What else? Being outside, walking in the woods, running, swimming, riding my bike. Hugging my family. Connecting with friends. Giving to others. Trying to be a better person. That’s enough for me.

And what about you? How will you use your wild and precious life?