Expressing Gratitude in 2017 - Create your GAP

Posted by: Kelley Connors on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

"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 

One of the ways I have navigated my own midlife working transitions is through a "Gratitude Action Plan” or GAP initiative. It’s a leadership initiative I am personally bringing into my work, for myself and other working women. 

A GAP initiative is pretty simple and is connected to my "why". My mission is to be a catalyst for women who want to design the second half of their life, at a time when change is overwhelming. The irony is that we fear change but we desperately want to have a say in how we respond to change. Gratitude is a mindset attitude that helps us pave the way, with greater acceptance of "what is", through change or transition.

My concept for a GAP initiative requires understanding your priorities and values, then finding a strategically aligned cause. The alignment is key, and so is recognizing that you only have to bite off a small piece to make a difference. If you find this takes up too much time, it probably would make sense to "clear your plate"of busy-ness that just isn't aligned with your priorities and values. If you find you still don't have time, put it on next year's list - assuming you really do care about it. And, create an intention to come back to evaluate it next year.

Here’s the value of a GAP initiative:

  1. Gratitude in and of itself reflects a positive emotion. Science shows us that positive emotions can change how we respond to situations or conversations…from one minute to the next. We have choice in how we respond to our employers and clients in everyday situations, and that is the first part of the gift.
  2. Being grateful allows one to embrace the inevitable losses and challenges as well as the joys and triumphs as we lead teams forward. The benefits of gratitude for both leaders and followers include reduced stress, optimism, better perception and improved health. It is about the little things as well as the big things.
  3. The simple act of being grateful also nurtures resilience. This has been proven to be a highly desirable character trait that help us overcome everday challenges, repeatedly, with grace and wit. Marching forward and sharing how audacious we are in the face of challenges is true leadership!

So, it's my intention to pay my gratitude forward, and help some of the thousands of homeless women in Boston. These are the invisible middle age and older women, some of color, who walk our streets, burdened with shopping bags containing a change of clothing for one or two days, a snack, toiletries and hopefully, donated towels, sweaters, socks, hats and mittens.  

How can I help you jump start your year with gratitude and intention? If you're reading this far, you might be interested in joining me on January 29th to jump start your 2017 with intention and gratitude. Participants in the January busy working women's retreat will have the opportunity to jump into gratitude...and pay it forward to help other women as they navigate their own midlife transition. 

The specific action is this: starting January 2017 at my first Urban Mini-Retreat, I am collecting women's warm clothing donations for women who frequent the Carolyn Connors' Women's Center at the St. Francis House in Boston.  

Karen LaFrazia, Executive Director, The St. Francis House, tells me that women make up only 20% their total guest population. However, the number of women seeking help at St. Francis House has more than doubled in recent years, making them one of the fastest-growing groups among the homeless. Homeless women are at especially high risk for violence, and nearly all of those who seek shelter at St. Francis House are victims of trauma, abuse, or rape. St. Francis House's women’s counselor works with female guests to help them survive, and eventually move beyond, life on the streets. 

Through the women's center on the second floor named after my mother, Carolyn Connors, female guests are offered a safe place to access basic services such as food, showers, clothing, and medical care, as well as mental health and substance abuse counseling, housing and legal assistance, and more. The center also provides special programs just for women, including the annual Women’s Day of Renewal. 

As leaders, our personal and professional brands are now more interconnected than ever before, as our work is a reflection of who we are as people and our values. 

I know it sounds like everybody is talking about gratitude around the holidays and for good reason. However, we may easily forget that gratitude can lead us forward as the catalyst to our best intention for 2017!

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