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The Three Questions That Lead Us Towards Gratitude

In this upcoming season, when our families will gather and we're reminded how much our relationships matter, have we taken the time to think about, and thank, those who have helped us along the way in our business?
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In this upcoming season, when our families will gather and we're reminded how much our relationships matter, have we taken the time to think about, and thank, those who have helped us along the way in our business?

Have we taken the time to examine our own lives and see how often we have failed to express gratitude for what we have received?

Many people live in an illusion of independence. Unfortunately, the structure of many workplaces and job descriptions reinforces the idea that we are all alone and doing it all by ourselves. But nothing is further from the truth.

There is a very special practice that I introduce to some of the people I work with, wildly successful people who still feel incomplete and empty.

This practice helps us expand the boundaries of our attention so we can see a larger, more truthful picture of life.

It is the practice of Naikan, a Japanese word that means, looking inside -- although a more poetic translation might be seeing oneself with the mind's eye.

Originally developed by a Japanese man named Ishin Yoshimoto, Naikan is rooted in some of the ideas and principles Buddhism. It is a structured method of self-reflection that gives us tremendous insight.

Even though I am not a Buddhist I have found that practices from other sources of faith can be very helpful when it comes to resolving, reflecting and reframing our relationship with ourselves along with our professional and personal relationships with others.

Naikan practice is based on three questions:

What support or help did I receive from others in order to accomplish this?

What did my accomplishment do for others?

In the process of working toward this accomplishment, what troubles and difficulties did I cause others?

This last question is truly important and the most difficult of all. When we reflect on ourselves, we must be honest.

We must look ourselves in the mirror, or we may have to put ourselves in another person's shoes. And we must be willing to see and accept those circumstances and events in which we have been the source of another's suffering.

This is not an easy process. Doing Naikan as a daily practice is about facing reality, maybe even a harsh reality that the accomplishments you thought were yours was not your own.

Maybe you come to realize that you have always been given a wealth of support and the abundance of guidance and mentorship.

Maybe you come to realize that your partner, your peers, your teammates, your colleagues, your assistant, your secretary, your employees are the ones that helped you along the way.

And maybe by being honest with these answers you realize what struggle and suffering these accomplishments have caused others.

That may mean long hours, working on the weekends, sacrificing personal family time. It may mean that you were unkind or your temper got the best of you in a time of stress.

Maybe for the first time sadness mounts and you realize that the idea of self-made success is not accurate.

Maybe you realize that you took more than you gave, talked more than you listened, barked more than you cared.

And that it dawns on you profoundly that everything you accomplished happened because of another's help.

The realization that you did not do it alone, that guidance and support were there every step of the way, can be enlightening and lead to a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation.

Most of us live under the illusion we can make it happen by ourselves, that we are independent, and we need no one. But our heart knows the truth -- we have always been connected, we have always been together. In response, we need to stop and thank those who have made the time for us.

It is in the finding the truth of ourselves that we can become thankful for another.

The gift of the Naikan experience is a heightened desire to repay and acknowledge others for the many things we have received from them and by them.

It is remembering of the acts and facts that we have experienced through others, how they served us, were dedicated to us, were loyal to us, that transforms our emptiness to abundance, our void to fulfillment. It simultaneously transforms us deeply while changing the world around us.

I hope you will try this powerful practice in your personal and professional life. If you do, please let me know the results.

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