Is this a problem or a gift?

In You CAN Change Other People, Peter Bregman and I share the Four Steps to help the people you care about get unstuck and achieve positive outcomes in their lives.

The third step, Opportunity, guides you to help your conversation partner discover how their annoying problem is actually a doorway to their energizing outcome.

This reorientation is a choice, and a powerful one at that.

As Robin Wall Kammerer writes in Braiding Sweetgrass, “It's human perception that makes the world a gift.”

In other words, we can see the world as a set of obstacles to avoid or overcome. We can view it as a maze of transactions in which we constantly strive to get the most we can from others. Or we can view everything in our lives through the lens of gratitude, wonder, and curiosity.

Often, it's curiosity that saves us when gratitude and wonder feel out of reach, or false cheer.

We can alway be curious about our experience. About our thoughts and feelings and reactions – even the unpleasant and seemingly negative ones.

The goal of the Opportunity step is for your partner to be able to step back and say, “Thank goodness I had this problem. I thought it was a brick wall, but it turned out to be a door.”

After we experience the expansive creativity that's unleashed in us when we make that shift a few times, we can more easily reorient to gratitude.

To the perception that the world is a gift, rather than a problem.

And once we're there, we open the floodgates of gratitude.

We immerse ourselves in a web of reciprocity. Because gifts come with obligations of relationship, both to the giver and to the world at large. And we can fulfill those obligations by sharing our gifts with the world.

When we share our true gifts with the world, we belong. And belonging banishes separateness, loneliness, and burnout. It replaces personal ambition with collective mission.

When each of us is empowered to share our gifts fully and freely, then we will have created a home for all.

May it be so.

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