Habits of the Heart

Every morning, regardless of where I am in the world, I get up, make a cup of coffee, and just sit for a few minutes to reflect on the day ahead. I begin my daily ritual with an expression of gratitude, usually for my wife Karen, other members of our family, and for people I know and care about. I cultivate the mindset of abundance and thankfulness that carries me into the day with the feeling of “my cup runneth over.”  

After simple reflection and quiet breathing with no pencil or cell phone in hand, I like to pick up a book of short readings. Recently I’ve been reading Wendell Barry, the poet who lives on a farm in Kentucky and left New York City to connect with nature and the earth. I’ve worked at memorizing his poem, The Peace of Wild Things.  He writes,

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

He ends with the line,

“I rest in the grace of the world and am free.”  

All of us, every day, share great responsibility to bring our best to the work we are meant to do.  We all share in the fears of what might happen if….

if we don’t do the hard work?
if we retreat?
if we are too aggressive?
if we fail to take the risk?
If we take too much risk?  

These questions are part of being in the world…are part of our humanity.  

Some people don’t have many of these worries. They are the opposite – so confident of their capabilities that they are unaware of their own hubris. Hubris, of course, is just as dangerous, because it makes you less of a listener, less of a connector, and less of a learner.  All the more reason to take quiet moments for reflection.    

Poems, spiritual readings, and quiet thankfulness all are antidotes to our fears or our follies.  I find for me, these quiet moments in the morning have shaped my heart and my head and connect them together into one clear mindset for the day. 

A shift in mindset can create an instant change of perspective leading to a very different outcome each day. Research shows that gratitude is linked to positive emotions including contentment, happiness, authenticity, and hope. The ability to notice, appreciate, and savor the elements of one’s life is viewed as a crucial determinant of well-being. And participants in a study who practiced gratitude reported considerably more satisfaction with their lives, felt more optimism about the upcoming week, and felt more connected to others. 

The daily habit of gratitude, reading, and reflection has led me consistently into the mindset of abundance and a passion to pursue my very best in all I attempt to accomplish.

If you want to power up positive passion in your life and your work, give it a shot.