For years I have had an increasingly refined and meaningful daily routine. Each morning I begin the day with the following:
- Twenty minutes of meditation in classic Zen style using the counting of breaths to slow the mind and become truly aware of the present. This is remarkably difficult to do – it took months of practice to get to even five minutes, a reflection of how voluminous the flow of ideas and thoughts really is. Meditation is often confused with prayer, but it’s very different although also very complementary. It is an intentional slowing of the flow of thoughts in order to understand that flow of thoughts, to become mindful and aware.
- Five minutes of giving thanks and prayer, always trying to find one new person or thing to be thankful for.
- Five minutes of silent planning, identifying the three key tasks I want to complete today, in line with my personal and professional hoshin. With practice, five minutes is more than enough time. I then write those down. Once again, writing by hand into a notebook creates ownership and understanding – unlike typing into an electronic planner.
Only afterwards do I read The Wall Street Journal, have coffee, and check email. At some point in the day there’s a crossfit class, beach run, or other exercise. Then in the evenings I have a complementary routine:
- Review the three key tasks I wrote down to see if they were completed. It’s amazing how much can get done if just three meaningful tasks are truly accomplished each and every day.
- A few minutes of hansei reflection on why or why not those tasks were accomplished and, most importantly, what I will change in order to do a better job at accomplishing them tomorrow.
- A few minutes of thanks and gratitude. Lately this is done out under the stars in my new ofuro soaking tub, with a glass of rhone blend. There is nothing quite as humbling as looking up at millions of stars, especially with a minor buzz.
The periods of reflection on gratitude at the beginning and end of each day create calm bookends to what can be chaos. As problem solvers we are naturally dispositioned to focus on the negative, taking for granted the positive – to the extent that we often become oblivious and unaware of just how much positive there is in our lives. Creating an intentional focus on gratitude realigns that perspective back to reality. Then expressing that gratitude in daily life by realizing the waste of complaining, complimenting and helping others, or just smiling, reinforces the power of being thankful.
Intentionally discovering gratitude, every day, has changed my perspective on life more than any other personal or professional leadership habit. I’ve discovered I have a lot to be thankful for.
I am thankful for parents and family that continue to instill in me the ability to think independently and trust my instincts, act courageously and take appropriate risks, have a desire to see the world, and explore the strong spiritual foundation that they have surrounded me with.
I am thankful that this desire to explore has let me visit over fifty countries, going and seeing, to better understand. This helps create reality where most just have perceptions, unfortunately generally incorrect, created by sound bites and the Facebook culture.
I am thankful that the strong spiritual foundation I was raised on has grown even stronger as I explored its nooks and crannies, morphed into forms I wouldn’t have expected, and has become very real. I feel sad for those who have not felt the hand of God, very visibly and directly in my case, as that unmistakable reality creates incredible comfort and peace.
I am thankful for my wife, who accepts me for the sometimes strange creature I am, trusts me to make good decisions for our family, and is my enthusiastic partner in exploring the world.
I am thankful for the lessons learned from difficulty, in particular the struggles over years with a family member’s medical condition that has helped me become much more understanding, compassionate, loving, and kind.
I am thankful for special friends that have been there for me during those times of difficulty, helping to guide and support me in many ways. They ask for nothing in return, although I will spend the rest of my life trying to find ways to return the favor – to them and to others.
I am thankful for the opportunity to live where I do, in the peacefulness of a small town on the coast, being able to look at the sun setting over the ocean each evening. The beauty of nature reflects God.
I am thankful for the ability to think abstractly, to wonder about what I don’t know, and to embrace possibility. As just one example I am fascinated by quantum entanglement theory and the potential ramifications on communication, the connections between life in the universe, and the soul itself. Is this the link between science and God?
I am thankful for the wisdom of colleagues I have met over the years, in the lean world and beyond, who have taught me so much which has enabled my success. Those colleagues, including readers of this blog, continually challenge me and help me grow.
I am thankful for my Gemba Academy business partners who align with my desire to teach, give back, and create a great company for our team members, instead of simply focusing on growth and profit. Interestingly, more growth and profit seems to come by teaching, giving back, and creating a great company. Funny how that happens…
I am thankful for our Gemba Academy team members, who are the foundation for our success, and are truly a pleasure to work with each day. Every day I am energized by their creativity, talent, and drive.
But more than anything, I’m thankful, for being thankful.