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The Gratitude Practice

A recent phenomenon on the internet is the Gratitude challenge. Essentially, someone challenges you to post 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 5 days. You’re also supposed to challenge 3 other people to also express Gratitude for 5 days. I got the challenge from a friend of mine on September 4. So I’ve started the challenge, and there are several things I’ve noticed.

The first is I don’t like the term “challenge” when asking someone to be Grateful. That just doesn’t sound right to me. I first “invited” people to share Gratitude. Since then, I refer to it as a Gratitude practice. Which set me to thinking about what a practice actually is. The definition that makes the most sense to me is “anything done repeatedly and with a clear intention”. That’s exactly what I set out to do; to express my Gratitude for the things that happen in MY LIFE. This leads to a second thing I’ve noticed about this practice.

If I’m only Grateful for the “Good” things that happen, I miss out on a lot of “Good” things. Many times, “bad” things have brought much ‘Good” into MY LIFE. So if you visit my Facebook page, you may see me refer to some things that don’t seem so good. For example, I recently got very frustrated with a Yoga teacher training I’m participating in. Even the smallest thing set me off. It finally dawned on me that while I’d been a teacher for 20+ years, I hadn’t been a student in a rigorous learning environment in over 30 years. I simply had to re-learn how to be a student! To say this was a revelation to me is putting it mildly. So the “bad” frustration brought me to the “Good” realization of my changing roles. And that’s another thing I noticed from this practice.

My ego is really tied up in the roles I play. Being a teacher has been a calling for me; it still is. So when I realized have to step back from that major role, it really pissed me off. That’s where the aforementioned frustration came from. I’ve never really thought of myself as a person with a big ego. Letting go of the attachment to being a teacher has been a bit of a challenge. It’s forced me to look at my tendencies to be a workaholic. Identifying with the role of what I do has been costly to me in a lot of ways, especially when I’ve been self-employed. That’s why trying to create a life, not just a business has been so important to me.

I’ve also discovered something else. I’ve had a very transactional approach to Life. In other words, if I do this, I expect that. Life is all about cause and effect, sure. But I approached everything that way. I suppose that’s my entrepreneurial leanings coming out. But to treat everything as a transaction makes for a very pissed off Life. Ask me how I know that…

As for the Gratitude practice, I continued on after the initial 5 days of the “invitation”. Only then did the things I’ve mentioned start to come out. I started out trying to retrain my mind to see more of the Good things in MY LIFE. But as happens to me so often, something else really cool occurred. I found out more about myself. That’s never a bad thing.

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An Exercise in Creativity

I believe I create my life. One of the points of this blog is to share what I find out as I create this life I’m living. If you’ve read any of the earlier posts, you’ll have noticed there is a gap of several weeks between entries. That’s because I’m making a major shift in what I’m creating. When I started Threefold, it was with the intention of doing exactly what I’d done in NC Cooperative Extension, to be a change agent through teaching and consulting. I also had some ideas for food businesses that I wanted to investigate further. As so often happens, life had other ideas. To keep it short, here’s what I’m doing now. I’m expanding my business to New Orleans, Louisiana, creating a regional business instead of simply a local one. That’s taking a LOT of time and investment. There’s a steep learning curve, too. I’ll be sharing what I’m learning as I go.

This is really an experiment in creativity. I do believe I create MY LIFE. I believe you do, too. I didn’t hear much about that until I was married and in my early twenties. What I DID hear a lot about was responsibility. To be a good man, you did this. To be a good son, you did that. To be a good husband and father, you did this other thing. I suppose it’s the old Southern Protestant Work Ethic. You do all these things, and you’ll get what you deserve. That’s one form of creating your life I suppose. But it seems to me that you’re letting others tell you what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with. I never really liked that. I don’t think entrepreneurs like doing what they’re told. That’s why we don’t do well working for others.

But the expansion of a start-up breaks most of the rules I’ve heard, and frankly, many of the ideas I try to teach. So why do it? Several reasons; I love New Orleans, I love the food culture they have there, I love the entrepreneurial spirit that is growing there, I love the local food/urban ag movement that is thriving. I found out all of this when I visited last fall for a yoga immersion program. I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, and had met some folks from New Orleans. One of them, Sean Johnson, has a thriving yoga studio that has been rated the Best in New Orleans for 13 years in a row. He’s doing something right business-wise. As I said, I found out all about the exciting New Orleans entrepreneurial climate while I was down there.

The bottom line in this is I AM doing something that I hope you’ll learn from me. Your life is just as important as your business. A teaching/consulting practice is portable, so I can do business where I want to. I want to live in New Orleans. It’s that simple.

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