At the end of March, when the world was beginning to shut down, stay-at-home orders were put into place and businesses were going virtual overnight, I could not have begun to imagine—like you—that our world, come July, would look as it does today.

We are living through unprecedented and extraordinary tough times. We awake each day unsure of the new struggles and hardship that will arise. We feel unbalanced, frustrated and scared.

But we are also getting to know ourselves in a way we could have never imagined. We are cultivating a higher awareness of Self. And, if we choose to, we are strengthening our relationship with gratitude as we try to find moments each day to be appreciative amidst a storm of discomfort.

I could not think of a better topic for our next Inspired event, taking place July 29, than “What Brings Us Back Together? Gratitude.” I will be joined by speaker Katie McDonald, CEO and Founder of bnourished, self-care strategist and national keynoter, who will help me lead a co-facilitated discussion around how to have a greater appreciation for everything around us.

Learn more and register for this event here!

In advance of our talk, I sat down with Katie to get a few of her thoughts on gratitude.

We have been living through unprecedented times and amidst the pain and hardship, it can become even more challenging to find appreciation for things—big and small. How have you been weaving appreciation and gratitude into your life during the last few months?

Katie: My gratitude strategies are long standing and not a reaction to the pandemic, but the crisis certainly creates an urgency and demands vigilance. Here are some of the strategies I live by:

  • A non-negotiable meditation practice to tame the mind and celebrate the nourishing quie
  • A mantra repeated when I am about to whine and whimper or need reassurance “I have everything I need.”
  • A “love list” capturing everything I love and appreciate in my life and a commitment to intersperse my day with these delights
  • A “people list” bringing into focus the people who matter the most and my vow to make them feel loved by me throughout the pandemic
  • A daily gratitude list to direct the mind to look for the good
  • Time in nature to cultivate awe and notice the divine
  • Daily physical activity to honor my health
  • Asking and answering, with discernment, how I can be of service to those who are suffering
  • Celebration of little successes even when simple and unimpressive by most people’s standards
  • Grace before eating as meals provide the prefect pause for reflection and gratitude

I love those! Especially the one about getting out in nature. As an avid hiker, I find my greatest moments of clarity while at the summit of a mountain.

Both of us spend a great deal of time not only cultivating our own leadership and beliefs, but helping others do the same. You work with a number of executives who reach the point of burnout and turn to you to invest in their self-care and become the versions of themselves they want to be. In your line of work, what have you seen is the biggest challenge facing executives today and what advice are you giving them?

Katie: A few things come to mind…

Acceptance of our powerlessness: We have been jolted out of the delusion that we have control over our lives. We have 100% control over what we eat, say, think, and that is all. Psst…we never had control over anything else! The pandemic crassly shoved that reality in our faces. Accepting what has always been truly liberates us from the unrighteousness indignation towards an unseen enemy.

Overwhelm: High-achievers suffer from too muchness… too much on our minds, plates, calendars. Nothing matters more than our self-care now. Through thoughtful self-care, we must first be focused on building resistance to getting the virus and then fortifying our immune system to be able to survive it, should we get it.

Activate sh!t storm protocol: As soon as COVID showed up, my clients quickly pivoted into sh!t storm protocol, the strategies and plan already in place for when life goes sidewise. From the beginning of the bnourished journey, my clients and I craft a customized self-care plan, knowing that life will present challenges in the form of unexpectedly heavy work loads, tax seasons, illness, job loss, family challenge or tragedy, a pandemic etc. Most of us abandon good habits in crisis, rather than rely on and build upon them. Years pass only to discover we have made little progress on our goals. We were either in crisis or compensating for the consequences of our choices during the last crisis. We need strategies in place to dismantle our reactive, irrational reptile brain from taking over when life is unsettling.

Fiercely self-reliant: COVID-19 can make or break us. The strong understand that they need not shoulder the pain alone. The strong seek help. This crisis provides a gift of self-reflection and habit disruption. Now is the time to look deeply into who we are and how we want to show up.

Self-reliance is key and gratitude plays a big part in strengthening our self-reliance. When we come together for Inspired, we will explore the power of gratitude. Why do you believe understanding and practicing gratitude is perhaps more important now than ever before?

Katie: Research shows that gratitude is scientifically tied to happiness. Gratitude brings depth, meaning, and purpose into our lives. And we also know that a mindset of gratitude creates abundance. Why gratitude? Heck, why not? Life is far better when rooted in gratitude.

Gratitude cultivates compassion for those with less tangible and intangible gifts. We are obligated to be at our best so we can serve as only we can.

Along those lines, what is one thing you do every day to keep yourself centered and grounded?

Katie: Considering and then consulting my planner reminds me of who I am and what I have established as priorities. All day, tasks, thoughts, interruptions, and distractions lure us away from our intentions which are wimpy when not fortified with strategy and commitment. The discipline and liberation that comes from planning, implementing, and reflecting on our day catapults us from mediocrity and reactivity into the exceptional. We wake up and tend to the responsibility of our legacy when we mindfully leverage the time we have.

A consistent daily practice of establishing goals and reflecting on my progress restores my sense of mastery over my minutes at a time when it is easy to fall for helplessness.

OK final question before I let you go. When we look back on this year in reflection, what lessons do you think will pop up … lessons we might have never considered?

Katie: The lessons are plentiful…

Our fear of space: We cram every inch of our days, plates, minds, and to do lists. The gaping holes in our calendars terrify many who stay busy to numb and distract themselves. A dormant social calendar forced us to be in our own company, something few have entertained doing. and many actively avoid. What are we avoiding? There is gold there if we are willing to dig.

Our tendency to numb: Excessive alcohol, screen time, online shopping lull us into a troublesome trance. What would being awake be like? How might we choose to be here, be present when the pain makes us want to close our eyes? There is less pain on the other side of avoidance. We need only last one moment longer than our impulses.

Our call home: Many of us treat our homes like a truck stop, where we fly by, grab a snack, sleep a wink, and begin again. We are disconnected from ourselves, our lives, our families, and our bodies. The pandemic sent us literally to our rooms to reflect on the way we are conducting our lives. Now inhabiting our space, we look around, respect the importance of place, and put down meaningful roots in our own lives with our homes housing our dreams.

Self-care is not a luxury reserved for the privileged few. It is, in fact, our primary responsibility.

Busyness is burden, an avoidance tactic and a lifestyle choice that we can “unchoose.” The wisdom resides in the yawn between the tasks.


To learn more about the recurring Inspired event series, click here.