E-couragement: Self-Reflection

April 30, 2012

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron

When I first opened the email I remember feeling confused, which was strange since it was from Tom Stratton. I’ve known Tom for over 10 years; he’s a good friend, a skilled communicator, and a long time subscriber to my blog. A recent posting (Make it Personal) resonated with his passion for improving relationships through effective communication and deeper understanding. Although it was common for Tom to forward blog postings along to his contact list, it was unusual to have this type of impact on me.

Tom often copies me in his emails when including my blog link. This particular time, he provided a brief bio so the recipients might have some insight about the author. Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Friends,
This is written by a friend we knew from a church in Greensboro. Janet and I attended his deceased wife’s memorial celebration a few weeks back. It was really inspiring. I wish we had met Ivy. Since we have known Rich he’s had a major career change, he and his first wife divorced, he started a business, he worked through parenting his teenage daughters, met and married Ivy and is now healing from her death… While his monthly e-letter is business oriented, you might enjoy subscribing.

As I read his description of the blog author, it seemed as if he was referring to someone else. I felt pity for that guy and all the challenges he had faced. It seemed like a tough and tragic life. Then it hit me like a stun gun…that’s me he’s talking about. That’s my life. Wholly crap!

You see, if you asked about my life, I’d tell you about my blessings. I’d talk about my two amazing daughters who’ve softened my heart and taught me priceless lessons. I’d surely mention the gift of waking up every morning and doing work that’s been placed within my heart alongside clients I love. I’d speak of the life changing insights I’d learned about myself from a marriage that ended after nineteen years. I’d share how life has taught me to open up and be vulnerable, provided me with the intimate and meaningful relationships I had always longed for. I’d surely mention my wife Ivy who died of breast cancer a mere four and a half years after we married. She created a safe place where I learned how to love a woman wholeheartedly. I might even talk about the house we bought together and how it’s become a sanctuary for me.

Can you see “ahaa” for me? The guy in Tom’s email and I are one. It’s not a tragic life at all—rather a blessed, robust, abundant, and engaging life. I can’t feel sorry for that guy. I know firsthand how full his existence really is. Life has been a wonderful teacher to me. I’ve been an attentive student. This is my experience. I’ve chosen to view it as an amazing journey and remain fully engaged. Ultimately, it’s meant to be lived and shared along side of you.

Leave your comment: How have your life experiences added depth and meaning for you?

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21 Responses to “E-couragement: Self-Reflection”

  1. Great piece and great message, Rich. Attitude really makes all the difference and yours has always been in the right place from my perspective.

  2. Thanks Chris. Over the years I’ve certainly required my share of attitude “adjustments.” Fortunately I’ve had great role models around me to learn from. Appreciate how you continue to exemplify so many positive traits for me and others. Peace.

  3. Thanks for this story Rich. I know Tom Stratton as he works for the same company as me – a special guy! Would you say that you have the gift of being able to see the positive side of things without having to try too hard? I think I have that gift too, but sometimes I lose it BIG TIME. There are times when everything SEEMS to be going wrong from my perspective. But it is just FROM MY PERSPECTIVE. At other times I would see THE SAME EVENTS as positive! Have you got any tips on how to break out of the negative thinking that sometimes seems to come over us for no apparent reason?

  4. Jon, thanks for your honest and engaging question. I’m headed out for a meeting. Let me give it some thought and respond later. Thanks.

  5. You are a man full of blessings and abundance Rich.
    Thanks for the continued gift of your inspiration
    and friendship. We all love you and are pulling for
    you and the family.

    Mark Hyman and the gang

  6. Thanks Rich, for these words. You are an inspiring writer. We are a culmination of everything … not one thing (thank goodness, the grade is cumulative.) Love you brother. Emily

  7. As my friend and colleague Emily Jean Dunlap Howard Carter says, “This is my road to now.” Appreciate your never ending love and support good friend. Love you back sister. Peace.

  8. Thanks to you and your amazing team Mark Hyman. Glad all of you have stepped into my life. Appreciate your ongoing encouragement!

  9. Jon, Here are my thoughts on having a positive outlook:

    1. Like most things, there’s likely some genetic impact here. I do believe I have a bend to seeing the positive in circumstances.
    2. I’ve had the opportunity to be influence by others who choose positivity as part of their life. They have been good teachers and mentors for me.
    3. I have consciously practiced the habit of choosing to see the positive and being grateful for my circumstances.

    Thinking about this, let’s look at numbers 2 and 3 for tips (since our genetic makeup is already determined for us). We have a choice in who we spend (invest) our time with and our reaction to any circumstance. Spending more time with others who make positive attitude choices for themselves is important for helping us make similar choices. Choosing our programming and influencers is a critical. Then, having a daily practice (a gratitude list is something I’ve utilized) of recognizing the positive aspects of any and all circumstances is helpful. Finally, let’s choose to be loving, compassionate and forgiving to ourselves when we find it difficult to be positive. Hope this helps some. Again, thanks for your questions…

  10. As always…just what I needed in this moment. Thank you, Rich. You helped to put a lot back into its proper perspective for me this morning. 🙂 Very grateful…! Your inspiration is always a gift.

    In regard to: How have your life experiences added depth and meaning for you?

    Whew! I could write a book…actually, I am…lol.

    I hope to see your sunny spirit soon.

    Warmest wishes…and deepest appreciation.

  11. Perspective is key. The way we perceive our circumstances has a tremendous impact on our outlook on life and our impact on others. You have chosen to focus on the positives of your life experiences and it has richly blessed not only your life, but the lives of those people fortunate enough to know you. I count myself as one of those fortunate people.

  12. “Life has been a wonderful teacher to me. I’ve been an attentive student.” This is the key of your message to me…thanks for your encouragement and inspiration. When our Creator sees fit to give us challenges, it’s for our good and His glory; you’re certainly making the best of it!

  13. Well, it was certainly a surprise to see my name in Rich’s post!! It was also good to see inside his thinking and the impact my note had. When I wrote it I wondered how Rich might take it in and I am grateful it became a springboard for discussion.

    I like what Rich says in response to Jon (thanks Jon for your kind comment). As I was reading the post and the comments, Viktor Frankl’s “Mans Search for Meaning” popped into my head. It has been decades since I have read the book. I did a quick search and then read the Wikipedia article on Frankl. In the article a short section of the book is reproduced. An even shorter section of that reproduction reads, “A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Considering the post that prompted my email forward dealth with giving and receiving love it strikes me as providence that Frankl came to mind. Broadly, having a purpose driven by the love for another provides opportunity for joy.

    Rich questioned me one day and challenged me to look beyond what I do and how I do it to find the underlying “why” I do, indeed “why” I am. I have found Rich’s prod to be very helpful. I am happy when I am doing the work I am here to do.

    In addition to Rich’s comments, I think loving and being in harmony with one’s specific, individual “why” can make for gratitude and a positive view.

    Finally, to Rich’s point about genetics, I do think there is a range of happiness capacity and that depression and negativity is the unfortunate handicap of some while an unbounded postive outlook is the blessing bestowed on others.

    For most of us in the middle it is for us to shape and to choose our response. I am grateful for Rich’s example and for what I can learn from him.

    I would love to hear other’s thoughts on this conversation and topic.


  14. @ Maureen isn’t it cool how the Universe delivers exactly what we need right when we need it. Why do we doubt? Can’t wait to read your book when completed; know that it will be inspirational. Thanks for your ongoing encouragement. It means a lot!

  15. @David, looking forward to resuming our monthly encouraging phone calls. You are right; we get to choose our perspective. That gives us an extraordinary amount of power. Much better than choosing to be a victim.

  16. @Rob, glad those sentences resonated with you—a simple and powerful concept. Appreciate your kind words!

  17. @Tom (the person responsible for this post!), thanks for our many interactions and especially the email you sent that caused me to pause and reflect on the “facts” of my life verses the “experience” of my life. There’s a huge difference between the two. You have also caused me to stop and think during a number of our poignant email interactions and conversations. Thanks for your depth Tom. I admire that in you. You think and live deep. You are a good teacher for others in word and deed. Keep it up my friend!

    As far as the topic of conversation, I’m thinking more and more that developing a “practice” or “habit” of positivity and gratitude might be the best gift we can give ourselves. It’s not easy as it seems more natural to gravitate towards the negative. As I often say in my workshops, “negativity takes no skill.” Certainly cultivating a positive outlook takes intention, energy, and skill. Peace.

  18. Rich, this is hearfelt, something important to you and has emotional impact. All reasons why you connect easily with and relate well to others. You are also open, honest and willing to share.

    I appreciate those qualities about you. You are living you calling in many ways.


  19. Thank you my friend and brother Nigel Alston. I have seen those qualities modeled in you and that has given me the courage to incorporate them into my life. Here’s to making a difference! Peace.

  20. I am of the belief that things happen for a reason – Rich when our paths first crossed over 2 years ago I did not realize at the time how much of an impact you would have on my life. You have always been inspirational through the training classes I had the pleasure to attend. However, it is through your open discussions of your life experiences regarding your wife Ivy that have been the most impactful. Several years ago my wife was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that there is no cure. We had adjusted to the many obstacles that was created in our lives until about 18 months ago when she first ended up in the hospital. Since that time she has not been the same. It was a very negative time in our lives that we allowed to grow within ourselves. That has all changed since I have been blessed to have the opportunity to meet you. Through your postings I have been able to see things in a completely different light, and I am THANKFUL to you for that. This has allowed my family and I to turn a negative thing into a positive one. I think the term negative is something that you learn throughout life and gravitate to when things get tough because it is easier, whereas I think you earn the positive things as they are much more challenging to achieve. Once you earn that positive each day it soons becomes a part of who you are and it is a place we all aspire to be. I am by nature a very guarded person, so getting myself to write this was at first a struggle. I just wanted to let you know that you not only impact companies in a positive way but also the people within those companies – which in my humble opinion is a special gift.

  21. Tony: I applaud your courage my friend! Working with you and the other Lean/GPS Champs has been a blessing to me as well. Your “practice” of positivity is spot on. It rarely happens naturally (like negativity does), rather with a clear intention and commitment to cultivating a positive habit. Thanks for adding to our conversation and living out your convictions. Bravo!

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