“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
In Co-Active Coach Training, they teach us how to cultivate our Appreciator. That’s the part of yourself that can appreciate what is good about any situation, even in circumstances where it feels as if there is very little that is good about the situation. In fact, our deepest inner awareness and learning happens when we can activate our Appreciator.
What does it mean to appreciate something? The dictionary defines appreciation as the “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something” or a “sensitive understanding of the aesthetic value of something”. So, it is akin to deep gratitude. One can appreciate a situation or a person. Appreciation often leads to a full understanding of the situation as apposed to a one-sided view of the situation. When you focus only on what is wrong about a specific situation or person, you are looking at it from a narrowed perspective. Allowing your Appreciator in, opens a different perspective or perspectives and allows you to truly understand the fullness of the situation.
Appreciation can also denote an increase in value of something. And I would like to offer that perhaps cultivating your Appreciator, does actually help you value specific moments or people more, because you are bringing your full attention to them and really noticing them for what they are.
I know that sometimes this is easier said than done. It can be really hard in the moment to find something to appreciate about a tragedy, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship etc. But there is always a lesson if you are willing to look deeper. There is always something to appreciate about any situation. Sometimes it requires some deep digging, but your Appreciator always has a gift to offer if you are open to receiving it.
When my family and I immigrated to Vancouver, Canada at the end of 2017, I started a 365-day gratitude journey. My reasoning was that if I were to focus on what I’m grateful for every day, I would make the transition easier on myself. If I focused all my attention and energy on what was not working or what was negative about the situation, it would destroy what little motivation I could muster to keep going despite debilitating homesickness and the overwhelm of trying to rebuild my life from scratch.
I really think that my intentional practice of gratitude every day, was a lifeline during what would turn out to be the hardest year of my life.
At the end of 2019 – just before the start of 2020 – I decided to institute another year-long practice of gratitude; this time to track my progress with my personal transformation this year. I’ve embarked on this coaching journey and I’m reinventing myself again and building a new life and career again. I thought gratitude would help me track my progress and help me notice how far I’ve come over the course of a year.
My coach has challenged me to “up the stakes” and really dig deep into my Appreciator this year. The idea is to sit with what is not working or what is hard to deal with and find what there is to appreciate about it. As I’ve said, your Appreciator always has a gift for you, if you are open to receiving it.
Something I’ve mentioned in my gratitude posts is how much I hate winter and struggle with cold and darkness. Ironically after some sunshine yesterday, we woke up to snow this morning and immediately I felt myself becoming despondent. I had secretly hoped we were over the worst of the winter; only to realise that we are still in the middle of it… So, today I must invite my Appreciator to help me see the gift in winter. I must also invite my Appreciator to help me see the gift in being so far away from loved ones when they are celebrating their birthdays and other special occasions.
The months of February and March are scattered with birthdays of friends and family that we are missing out on again. And I really hate not being able to be there and celebrate with them.
So, today I want to notice that my dislike of the winter helps me to appreciate the beauty of a sunny day so much more – to really soak up the sun when it does come out. Living in South Africa, I used to take the sunshine for granted. Here in Canada, you can never take the sun for granted. It is always cause for celebration. Perhaps your Appreciator is inviting you to notice the sunshine in your own life. Sometimes we don’t realise it’s there, but the sun is always there. Always ready to give us it’s light and warmth. It could be in the form of a warm smile, a long hug, a gentle word, photos that remind you of good times… The list is endless. I want to encourage you to find your sunshine today. And I want to challenge you to bring some light and warmth to someone else.
My Appreciator is also teaching me today that life is short and that there is no better moment than the present to bring your light into this world. No matter what is going on in your inner life or outer life, there is always an invitation to choose to shine; to choose to respond with warmth, kindness and generosity.
Summers in Canada are short. So, every second counts. Every drop of sunshine is important. Imagine if you could live your life like that every day…? Make every second count. Soak up every drop of joy and love. Look for opportunities to embrace the fullness of life and be fully present to what is unfolding right in front of you. Notice the beauty of life; even in the snow; even on the dark days when all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and hide away from the world.
And what is my Appreciator telling me about this intense heartache I’m feeling about missing out on special events? It’s urging me to notice just how deeply I care and how much I value those moments. It’s urging me to find ways to celebrate life and love and pain and longing equally. To celebrate the diversity and ebb and flow of life. To notice that nothing lasts forever and that we never know when we will have our last summer. So, to perhaps live as if every day is precious, because it actually is. And deep down, you know that already. So, come one, what is there to appreciate about this day today? Let me know…