by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly
For my gift to you this holiday season, I want to look closely at the three G’s: generosity, gratitude and grace. Let’s think about what those attributes mean to us and the people around us when we give these precious gifts to ourselves.
This time of year always brings out generosity in people as we rush around trying to figure out the best gifts for family and friends, and I like to think of how giving to others really affects us. Every time I reach out with feelings of generosity to help another woman, I receive far more than I ever give. I never want to take that returned gift for granted. Beyond the rewards I feel for helping someone achieve her purpose or move closer to her dream, I am convinced that each little gesture of giving back gets passed on as that person helps someone else. And they always do—always.
“Pay it forward” has become popular in our society as we pass on the payment for the next cup of coffee to the person behind us. But it has much larger connotations when you think about the energy each gesture of kindness creates as it spreads from one person to the next, and beyond your reach to others in ways that you can’t even imagine. If we remind ourselves as we move through our days that we can affect each person we meet positively or negatively, it helps us choose to be generous with our kindness, our respect and appreciation for other people. When we intentionally choose that course every minute, even when someone pulls out in front of us or makes an unkind remark, we gain the power to over-ride a knee-jerk response and remain calm, forgiving, and even grateful for the challenges we receive.
Speaking of feeling grateful–In our culture, women have trouble simply saying “thank you” and expressing gratitude. For some reason, we don’t feel that we are worthy of receiving compliments or gifts. Why we think we have to be worthy to feel grateful is beyond my understanding, but we’re programmed that way by a lifetime of self-esteem challenges in our society. When someone gives us a compliment, women are too often ready with a, “yes, but…” We need to think of the disservice to the person honoring us when we negate their compliment and instead simply feel grateful. We have to let go of our self-limiting beliefs to do this and that takes practice. We have to compliment ourselves and feel our self-worth, look in the mirror and tell ourselves how good we are, pick out the positive aspects–that kindness you showed someone who needed it, how you finally established healthy boundaries with your family, how you pulled off that negotiation at work—and practice, practice, practice.
A gratitude journal is recommended by many professionals (including me) for working yourself out of a stuck frame of mind. When you’re at a low point, thinking about what you are grateful for and writing it down opens your eyes to the many blessings in your life. Do this every day and you will quickly begin to feel grateful and positive about the future. I have long recommended it in consultation and know from personal experience that it works. I have also worked in crisis response and think it’s interesting that the most resilient people always speak about what they still have when they’ve suffered devastating loss. There is a lot of loss around me right now with the California fires in my back yard, but people are saying, “We’re still alive. My family is safe.” Being grateful helps us to focus on what is important–the people we love–not the stuff that is replaceable. And acknowledgement of our gratitude for their survival makes us strong and affirms our values.
We think of grace as an adjective to describe the way someone moves, like a dancer, with poise and surety. But it’s a magical characteristic with the larger meaning of bestowing love and blessings. Grace defines how you live each day and along with gratitude and generosity helps you live your life’s purpose. This is the most important gift and powerfully shapes every relationship you develop. When you develop grace, you’re acting from your heart without judgment or requirements to earn your love. We accept what makes us different and honor those attributes that help us lift each other up in support of one another.
It’s exciting to spend time with like-minded women who share and support one another with generous kindness for their unique gifts. I recently attended Take the Lead Day in New York City. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch videos from the event here. At the end of the day, everyone was so excited and charged with energy that we didn’t want it to end. The feeling of so many women feeling positive about themselves, the message and their future of having the power to achieve parity and take their place as leaders in our businesses, communities, and to make a difference in the world is indescribable. But it brought home to me why we need to support one another and try to create that feeling each and every day.
I wish that feeling for you, not just through this holiday, but into next year and the many years ahead. Reach out to your sisters with generosity and feel grateful for all your gifts. Bestow gifts on yourself as you care and honor yourself. You matter and are a powerful woman who has the ability to share your gifts with others. Pass it on, so that we can all experience what it means to live in and with grace.