Dear Why Team member,
Life is full of gifts, some small, some big, some come to us without us even asking for them. This week we consider the gifts we receive and how limitless their packaging.
Tis the season where we consider giving gifts more than throughout the year. And as we put time and effort in selecting gifts, some of us like to go above and beyond in packaging them. We are taught from early childhood that special gifts come wrapped up in special paper and/or velvety boxes. My mother would always put an extra loving effort in the wrapping of her gifts to her loved ones; the time invested was another way she conveyed her love - ribbons, bows and all sorts of additional decoration.
And while most of us can appreciate the time invested in the wrapping of a gift, is it any wonder that in our busy world today, that the gift bag with a little tissue on the top wouldn't become a huge hit?!
Yet beyond that particularly fancy gift bag, or special ribbon- most of us throw out, or at least put aside, the wrapping paper, focusing our attention rather on the gift inside.
And while the wrapping can increase our curiosity and elevate our anticipation to discover the contents, it recently occurred to me that some of my greatest gifts have come in the most unattractive wrapping and packaging you can imagine. This, of course, I use as a metaphor to bring mindfulness to our individual power of choice. Why? Because life does give us gift upon gift, albeit often in unattractive, painful and difficult packaging; and during these times, we rarely call what we receive “a gift”.
Few people ask for character building experiences, but no matter the trial, challenge or difficulty, as long as we don't physically die, we have the opportunity to come out better on the other side - mentally stronger and more empowered to help ourselves and others.
So, even if the packaging is not always a positive experience, even a heartache and a sorrow, can we not find “the gift”?
My own experience has had me at times to be grateful for the gift while at the same time angry at the wrapping paper.
Well, which is it?
Am I grateful or am I angry?
Most of life’s gifts rarely come to us as expected. So it really does come down to our power to choose: victim or victor, curse or blessing, did it happen to me or did it happen for me? Let me look at my response-ability, see if I can’t improve my ability to respond- and thus grow stronger and more capable by doing so.
Sports psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. Kevin Elko, often shares a powerful path to improving our response-ability: our ability to respond. He says,
“Align your expectations with reality". What does this mean?
I think it means that when reality presents itself, expect it, embrace it! You may be surprised, and maybe even disappointed, but remove the ugly wrapping and consider looking at the contents in a more positive light: how can I make what I received the best gift yet?
Change what you expected, prior to what actually came to pass, to be what actually came to pass. Remembering that our challenges often do come to pass, not to stay. And that we all have a choice: focus our time and attention on the difficult packaging, the unattractive wrapping paper, or on the ultimate gifts found within - the gifts of perseverance, faith, fortitude, insight, awareness and the like.
Know that no matter how unattractive the packaging, it is ultimately up to us to find the gift inside. The gifts we find are often what we need - and in the conscious receiving of them, we can become even more of what others need.
No doubt the journey to becoming more for ourselves and others is often very difficult but know that it can be made all the more bearable when we mentally discard the wrapping paper and give gratitude for the gift.
Let’s end with a short prayer Brene Brown offers in her book Rising Strong: ”Please God, let me be open hearted and kind, let me embrace this experience and be grateful for all new opportunities”