At one point in my life I was an angry practitioner. Why? I spent pretty much all my time frustrated about what I could not do or things I could not control instead of grateful for what I could do. I had to learn to change my perspective to one that embraced gratitude.
- I’d dwell on the past and live in history or find myself anxious about the future rather than focusing on the present, yet the present is where I can exercise the greatest influence.
- When clients lost their housing I’d think of the housing work of our program as a failure rather than being grateful that there was an opportunity to learn and re-house the person.
- I’d lament external reviewers of the program rather than being grateful that there was another set of eyes that could offer a different perspective.
- I’d get lost in despair about the poverty that people experienced, rather than being grateful that they could be housed and still be poor rather than living in economic poverty and still being homeless.
- When my staff team seemed to be less energized I’d get frustrated with what I saw sometimes as weakness or apathy, rather than being grateful that some of the most talented people I had ever met were sticking with the work during the low times and that I had the opportunity to express my gratitude for all that they do and re-energize them.
- When people would ask pointed questions about why housing homeless people is a good idea from a policy and fiscal perspective, I’d find myself angry with their value orientation or lack of ability to see the big picture rather than being grateful that I had an opportunity to educate and influence.
I’m not a huge personal fan of the pseudo-science and incomplete psycho-social connections that dominates so much of the self-help genre. I have never personally been able to be happy through positive affirmations or follow a simple step-by-step guide to happier living. My own journey through depression and interactions with others offers a personal perspective where that doesn’t work for me (and no disrespect intended if it works for you).
But what I do know is that we can shift our orientation on what happens around us. We can focus on gratitude. We can be grateful for all that we are able to achieve, rather than being lost, confused, frustrated or angry by the limitations that are often outside of our control. Personally, I know that once I started paying more attention to what I could do and the strengths that I did have my worldview changed to one of gratitude. Gratitude most certainly trumped the deficit orientation that I had focused on before. I became a better leader and manager. I became a better mentor. And I became truly passionate about ending homelessness as a real possibility, rather than an empty promise.