Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Which One Are You?

This morning I came across a wonderful narrative; the kind that coaches use to illustrate a point for a client, but one that really makes you think of the story you carry around with you and who you are as a result.

It really makes you think. It went something like this...

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’
‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Use this story, step back and think about a situation that comes to mind when you read it. Are you a victim of circumstance or can you keep your core values and be everything you can be in spite of it? If you were looking at someone else living through the same situation, how might you advise that person to be the coffee bean? What if you could be that bean?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Extraordinary Things in an Ordinary Day

Years ago I came upon the book "Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendour" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. To quote Sarah, "I had discovered the miracle of the sacred in the ordinary." This book became a reality check for me. I read it every year and as it's laid out in a seasonal format, a great way to see whether or not the choices I'm making from day to day honour the gifts a so called ordinary day brings to me.

I remember years ago when my father was first diagnosed with cancer and was so overwhelmed, he wanted to disconnect and give up. I asked him and my mother as well, to let me know 5 extraordinary things in an ordinary day. I started doing that myself, quietly, silently, but paying attention to the people who come into my life by chance, to the learning that is unexpected and for the ways I can give back.

I also find I'm pushing myself to make choices I might not have made if I didn't ask myself, "If I do this, what might I experience or learn that I wouldn't any other way? What impact might this have?" A few days ago, my neighbour of 30 years passed away. I knew I could ring the bell and visit with the family at any time; they live 2 doors away, so really didn't need to go to the visitation. My day was jam packed to say the least but I had a one hour window where I could go to the funeral home and pay my respects. He was a beloved doctor in the city who had touched many, many lives so I knew the visitation would be busy and they wouldn't necessarily miss me if I didn't go. So I went.

If I hadn't gone, I would have missed amazing conversations and perspectives of my neighbour I would never have experienced any other way. They might not have missed me if I weren't there but they were so grateful that I was. I met his siblings and heard stories about him through them. I heard about their lives growing up on a farm and what happened with them and their kids over time.

It was a beautiful hour. I can still see the smiles on their faces as I shared some of how he had touched our lives over the years.

So every day I ask myself, "What extraordinary thing happened in an ordinary day?" and have decided to share them with you and ask that you do the same. I would love to hear what delighted you, surprised you, or gave you an inner smile if you'll share.

1. I reconnected with someone I haven't seen for 45 years since camp.
2. I wished my mother a fabulous day (she's a fabulous mom!).
3. I woke up to the love of my life (albeit at 3:30 am) which always gives me a smile, even if he's fast asleep and can't see it!
4. I took a half hour to sit outside under the trees listen to the birds, clear my head and consciously chose what to put my energy towards for the day.
5. Helped spread the word about my brother who is searching for meaningful work.

And one extra: Eagerly anticipating hearing from you about what's extraordinary in your ordinary day.

May it be a great one!