A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of eating dinner with a group of executives who had flown in to Scottsdale to discuss a strategic plan for their professional association. As we went around the room and made introductions, I sincerely appreciated the diversity of thought, background, experience, and reasons for wanting to volunteer with the association. Just before dinner concluded, I noticed one executive had grabbed a pen and began writing on the table (it was covered in a heavy cardstock). He wrote “Everything is a gift.” circled it and continued to point to and reference it in his conversations.

The next morning I delivered a presentation to the group designed to help them think about the power of collaboration (read my blog about this) as they worked through the development of their initiatives. Mr. Jonathan Keyser (learn more about him), the gentleman who wrote on the table, also addressed the group discussing his business philosophy, his business’ 15 operating principles, and why he chooses to lead a life of service to others. Keyser mentioned that a driving force for him is “putting the needs of another individual or group of individuals ahead of oneself and committing to their success without the motive of personal gain or advancement.”

Can you say that you treat your stakeholders and view the world the same way?

The idea of everything being a gift has lingered with me since. Western societies tend to think of gifts as tangible items received on a birthday or during a holiday. But not all humans are motivated by or appreciate regularly-scheduled gifts. Others may prefer:

  • A kind and supportive word – a thank you, an I love you, empathy for a tough situation,
  • An act of service – taking care of the dishes, washing the car, writing a recommendation,
  • Spending quality time with loved ones – going to the movies, playing board games, participating in team sports, or
  • Supportive physical touch – a handshake, a hug, a pat on the back.

Often, the greatest of life’s gifts don’t come with a price tag. It may be better to pay attention to and count the small things as you are surrounded by presents each and every day.

You will certainly experience a bad day here and there. When they happen, how do you frame the situation? Do you feel as though someone is out to get you? Do you feel unlucky? Do you let the rest of your day or week be negative? Do you take your stress, sadness or anger out on those around you?

Or, do you ask yourself, “What positive can I pull from this situation?” Can you read between the lines and find a sliver of hope? Can you see how the event is actually guiding you towards something else that is more purposeful? Can you feel thankful for the occurrence?

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, more than 70% of human learning occurs through challenging experiences. You hold the power to choose your reaction to the events of your life. If you’d like to be more positive and reframe situations, I encourage you to watch Shawn Achor’s TED Talk about positive psychology entitled The Happy Secret to Better Work. The talk will give you concrete ideas about what you can do to be thankful for the events of your life and find more positivity.

Ken Keyes, Jr. once said, “Everything is a gift of the universe — even joy, anger, jealously, frustration, or separateness. Everything is perfect either for our growth or our enjoyment.”

Although we may not always understand how, absolutely everything is a gift.