What Qualities Do You Want to Nourish In Yourself?

Recently I read an article by the CEO of Korn Ferry, Gary Burnison, about how to define grace.  He sees it as the goodwill of people who help others.  During the past year, and before, as we all struggled with the COVID epidemic, there were many examples of people who cared for others, helped them physically and lifted their spirits emotionally.  Just think about the people who hung out of the windows of buildings in New York City and cheered for health care workers and first responders.  Or the doctors and nurses who came to our area from distant cities so that our local medical community could get some rest.  Or the countless anonymous people who brought food to neighbors, shopped for others and called those that lived alone.

In his article, Mr. Burnision talks about the qualities that make up grace: gratitude, resilience, aspiration, courage and empathy.  He believes that these are immensely valuable human traits.  As a psychologist, I see these qualities as things that often come naturally, but can also be learned and improved upon.  In fact, they are often things that people work on in therapy.

Gratitude is the ability to be thankful for all we have that is good.  It is important, even in difficult times, to remember those things that can lift us up. Even a small smile from a stranger or a short call from a friend can make a difference.  Research has shown that when people practice gratitude, they are happier, and therapy can help people gain perspective so that they are able to find gratitude in small things even amidst chaos.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back when something does not go your way or when something bad happens. Another word for resilience is grit, the ability to hang in there even in tough times.  So much has been written about resilience and there are even programs to teach resilience to children in schools. One of my favorite quotes about resilience is from Elizabeth Edwards who said, “She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away she adjusted her sails.”

Aspiration refers to having a goal, a vision of what you want your future to be like, an idea of who you would like to become.  It is often the very thing that my clients work on in therapy.  Sometimes they come to my office unsure of what they aspire to and we work on clarifying their desires.  Sometimes clients know where they would like to go, but need some guidance or new skills to get there.  I tell my clients that therapy should not be a trip without a roadmap and early in the process we talk about their goals or ideas of what they want to get out of their therapeutic experience.

Courage. It is about having the guts to take chances and work for change even when the process is uncomfortable and you are not sure how it will all turn out.  I believe that every one of my clients shows courage just by stepping through the door to my office.  It takes courage to ask for help.  It takes courage to admit that you want to change.  It takes courage to see yourself differently.

Empathy is the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and feel what they are feeling.  It is not sympathy or being sorry for someone.  It is being able to meet people where they are emotionally and cognitively, to connect with what they are thinking and feeling.  It is an essential quality whether you are working with others or you are just trying to better understand your own family, and despite what some may think, it can be taught.

Whether you call these five qualities grace or think of them separately, all of them can be worked on in therapy.

Think about which of these qualities you want to work on in yourself as we turn the page and start a new year.