“Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation.”
-Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

I used to spend a lot of time in airplanes and hotels, neither of which are places where humans tend to flourish. Travel days always felt frustrating and stressful… until I invented a simple, yet game-changing practice – a kind of rule I now follow religiously whenever I travel or encounter obstacles to my idealized expectations or getting where I want to be.

This practice began as a cynical joke. Travel days were at times so exhausting and demoralizing that during one challenging layover I said to a colleague, “Let’s just count anything that goes ‘right’ today.” The soundtrack of our trips began to sound like this:

“The security line is moving reasonably fast.”
“That cloud looks like an elephant in a tutu!”
“The Uber driver has a kind smile.”
“The hotel pillow is just right.”

The discipline consists of three steps; 1) Take nothing for granted, 2) Actively search for anything that works in your favor or makes you happy, and 3) every time you notice a good thing, say it out loud.

Simply putting an appreciative lens on an otherwise negative experience changes everything!

I’ve noticed three benefits to using this approach in a variety of settings beyond travel:

  1. I have a more positive emotional state as I navigate otherwise stressful situations.

  2. I tend to elicit more kindness and generosity in others.

  3. I am more creative and resourceful in moments of adversity (rather than mired in negativity and victimhood).

Adopting an appreciative lens does not mean walking through the world with rose-colored glasses and denying the existence of problems. Rather, it reframes what is happening from “What’s wrong and how do we fix it?” to “What’s working and how do we encourage more of it?”

One of the leadership teams I work with agreed that adopting this guiding principle would constitute “getting wiser” and committed to it in the form of a bold declaration:

We look at the mundane and difficult realities we encounter through a lens of “radical amazement”. We delight in the unfolding of and the opportunity to embrace puzzles and paradoxes. We reach for words of gratitude and recognize what is good.

For most of us, consistently looking for and seeing the good is a shockingly new habit. What would it mean for you to live and lead with this principle in mind?

Photo Credit: Robin Canfield on Unsplash

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