Guidepost #4 – Wholehearted Living

“Most of us have experienced being on the edge of joy only to be overcome by vulnerability and thrown into fear. Until we can tolerate vulnerability and transform it into gratitude, intense feelings of love will often bring up the fear of loss. If I had to sum up what I’ve learned about fear and joy, this is what I would say: The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows” – from The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown.

How often is “not enough” or “never enough” a part of your thinking or your vocabulary? For many of us, “not enough” thoughts flood our brain the moment we wake up (“I did not get enough sleep last night”!) and follow us throughout the day (“there’s never enough time”, “I don’t have enough money”, “I’m not getting enough praise or attention”, “I don’t get enough recognition/love/respect”). Alternatively, there’s the close cousin of “not enough” and it’s something along the lines of “everyone gets more than me”!

There’s a name for this kind of thinking: scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is ultimately fueled by feelings of vulnerability and fear – and it’s an exhausting way to live. Not only can it make us feel bad, it can get in the way of our personal and professional relationships. When family, friends, bosses, or colleagues experience us as never being satisfied and always wanting more, it can feel overwhelming and they may end up distancing themselves from us – and ironically, as a result, it reinforces our perception of “never enough.”

Transforming vulnerability into gratitude is the key practice that can help us experience more joy in our lives. How is this done in a practical way? It starts with paying attention and acknowledging when we are stuck in scarcity thinking – or – when we are on the precipice of feeling intense love (for a child, a partner, an opportunity…) but instead are tempted to quickly shut the feeling down by imagining the worst-case scenario. Once we can identify and acknowledge the vulnerability, we can then choose to practice gratitude in that very moment – even as you are feeling vulnerable and fearful. That may look like taking a deep breath and grabbing a pen and paper. Or taking out your phone and typing in your notes app. Or maybe it’s whispering a prayer of thanks.

There’s many ways to practice gratitude but the key to Wholehearted Living is to do it in the very moment that you are feeling vulnerable and/or fearful and to be as specific as possible.
What’s your favorite way to transform vulnerability into gratitude?

Share your comments below. Let’s be brave, kind, and awkward together!