[00:00] Bobbi: Welcome to Unyielded: Thriving No Matter what. I am your host, Bobbi Kahler. Your life is your story to write, no one else’s. This show will empower you to be the author of your own life. Let’s pick up the pen and let’s get started.
Welcome back, everyone. I am so excited that you’re here, and I am so excited to share this episode with you today. I have another guest expert on the show. He was my very first guest on the podcast, and he’s been back on two other occasions as well, and it’s always a treat. His name is John Cerqueira, and we’ve known each other for, I don’t know, 13 or so years. We are former colleagues, and I consider John as one of my closest friends. John is going to share his take on gratitude and how he uses it and helps his clients use it to combat stress in the corporate world.
He also talks about the three reasons why we might resist using gratitude. And I have to tell you that that really resonated for me because I think he hit the nail on the head there. So a little bit about John. He is the founder of Pinwheel Associates, and he’s going to tell you a bit about the work that he does there.
But what he doesn’t tell you in this episode is that on September 11, 2001, at 22 years old, he emerged from the debris after escaping the 81st floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center minutes before the building collapsed. And along the way, he stopped to help a fellow human being in a wheelchair to escape the 68th floor. This revealed to him the power and fulfillment that comes with service to others and provided the opportunity to share his message through features on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, People Magazine, USA Today, the History Channel, and PBS. And if you want to hear more of his story, you can also check out episode one of this podcast. I’ll put the link in the show notes, so it is my great honor to welcome back John.
[01:58] John: Hi, I’m John Cerqueira, a coach helping organizations navigate through change. For example, during reorganizations, shifts in strategy, or performance improvement initiatives. My key focus is to unlock the inherent desire we all have to serve a purpose connecting us to something greater than ourselves. By helping my clients neutralize the barriers, holding them back. So what’s holding them back? More often than not, it’s an unhealthy dose of survival instincts, where self preservation clouds our ability to focus and perform at our best. And competition prevents critical collaboration among team members. Another word for this is, well, fear. Fear of not knowing what else will change, fear of being unable to adapt, fear of being seen as obsolete, so on and so on. Unwanted, unplanned change and uncertainty puts us in a bit of a tailspin.
The antidote and the first step of a three step process I use as an individual self regulation and a coaching approach is gratitude. Yeah, gratitude. Simple, time tested, and remarkably effective. But like me, the familiarity and simplicity of gratitude might try view to discount it as an approach based on how it had been presented to you in the past. If so, I thought it might make sense to share the most helpful application of gratitude I’ve found in terms of managing professional stress.
But first, let’s tackle the baggage that kept me from relying on gratitude. My baggage with and resistance to gratitude was based on implications of really three things a character flaw, or using gratitude as a distraction, or worse, using it as a way to minimize the pain I was going through in the moment. So let’s unpack these. The character flaw perspective of gratitude really was born out of the first times I remember hearing about gratitude as a child. It was used to tell me to be grateful, or that I was being ungrateful really as a character flaw. When I would express potentially inelegantly that I was experiencing some pain, some strain, I was complaining. And so gratitude in my earliest memories was presented as a way to be better or to try to force a different behavior. And like anytime we’re forced to do something, we recoil, as did I. The next place where gratitude showed up in maybe not a super helpful light was that I saw it as a way for people to distract me from what I was concerned about. Let’s focus not on the problem at hand, but let’s focus on all the things that are good, whether or not they relate to the problem at hand. And while it is helpful to be grateful as a rule, the application of gratitude in that moment for an issue I was frustrated with, that had nothing that I saw related to that issue, felt like I was just being kind of hoodwinked to look somewhere else and focus my energy somewhere else. Thirdly, I saw efforts at gratitude to be a way to minimize how I was feeling my pain, almost to say that my pain didn’t matter, kind of in the context of, hey, it could always be worse. And while that’s true if I’m facing a professional strain or even a personal strain where there’s an acute instance where I need to work on something, saying that it could always be worse doesn’t necessarily help me fix or address or manage the problem at hand. So where I found gratitude to be most helpful is when we use it to get ourselves on solid footing based on the current situation that we’re dealing with by working the muscle that is our attention and our creativity, to find reasons to be grateful that relate to the source of our stress. For example, I have a client in a Fortune 500 company going through a large reorganization, and this person, a senior level executive, has a concern of a new CEO, new responsibilities, new shifts in strategies, new key performance indicators. And so in this scenario, simply being grateful for this person’s health or telling them that they should be grateful as a way of character flaw might not be super helpful. So what we do is we focus on gratitude in terms of areas that are meeting this person where they are. So we start with, Gosh, how can we be grateful for all the experience in this beautiful career that got this person to this level? How about reflecting gratitude for all the skills that allow this person to navigate the complexity and the multiple moving pieces of this reorg? Or at least the fact that this person has a pattern of being able to know where and how to acquire knowledge that he doesn’t yet have. There’s also the idea of being grateful for this opportunity to build a war story. This experience is finite and regardless of how it lands, good or bad, it will end. And if we look at a circumstance as a war story in the making, we can start showing up in the way that we hoped we would describe ourselves. But what if it doesn’t work? Well, Gosh, even if it doesn’t work, maybe let’s be grateful that if possible, this person has navigated their professional life and their finances in a way that’s been healthy, grateful that this person has a network of people where if this job doesn’t work out, they might be able to find another one. But in this way, yes, we are moving from the bad to the good, but not as a distraction, but so that this person recognizes all the things that they have working for them in the context of the scenario they’re dealing with. I have a colleague who calls this worthiness to serve. The idea that gratitude can stop the flailing, the tailspin that crowds our judgment to be able to determine what the next right thing is to do. But that gratitude in terms of what we have, in terms of our capability to navigate this current situation well is really recognizing that, gosh, with what we have at our disposal, we can do it.
So here’s an exercise that if this scenario seems relevant to you, you might find value in. Think about the times that you are getting spun out. What does that scenario look like? Is it happening now? Is there an instance where it’s more present than others? And right now, think about what you can remember to be grateful for in that moment. Run through that list in your head for the next time this circumstance arises so that you can use your current low stress, clear mind. If that’s where I find you now to prepare for the time where the stress rears its head and where clarity of mind might be harder to realize, think about ways that this circumstance presents an opportunity. What about your ability to even play in this circumstance. Lets you know that you can work through it. Jot these down. Write them down if you have some predictability of when this happens, maybe even set a reminder in your phone or your calendar to reflect on what you come up with. Let me know how it goes. Friends, I’m hoping this has been of some value. I would love to hear from any of you ways you might find gratitude in times of stress so that it might help others. But for now, this is John Sequera. I thank you for listening and be well.