100 Things I am Grateful for
At the end of one of my recent workshops, two U.S. Embassy-related participants looked at me eagerly after they asked this question: "Well, your workshop was great and all, but the real question is how do we maintain and sustain happiness in our daily lives?"
I nodded in complete agreement. Having been to a women's retreat last December, I was struggling to keep up my meditation rituals, yoga for beginners, and all around zen-ness. I wanted to come up with an eloquent and inspiring answer, but all I could muster at the time was "I do these monthly workshops in Seoul at WeWork, would love to have you join!"
They walked away most likely as dazed and unsatisfied as I was. I knew all of the research around GRATITUDE, I kept my own daily GRATITUDE log, yet it was something I rarely if ever shared with others, especially clients and workshop participants. It wasn't as if I was hiding it nor was I ashamed of it, but perhaps it become so ingrained, like brushing my teeth that I didn't think it would be a big of enough thing to mention?
I need to think about that more.
Regardless, there are so many benefits to GRATITUDE:
Ok, I have never been a fan of long lists, but have always admired and respected deeply the effort in which it takes for people to create these lists, so I thought I would create my own Gratitude List pulled from my own Gratitude Journal. So here goes:
The Basics (to me)
1. Drinking Water (More than 40% of the world's population does not have access to drinking water)
2. Electricity and how affordable it is in Korea
3. Hot Water (In 2012, I went to visit my sister in Rwanda where she was living in a tiny village: there was no hot water and intermittent electricity)
4. Clothes (Even though I probably only wear 20% of my closet, it's nice to be able to have a closet full of clothes to choose from)
5. An Oven (In my studio apartment where I lived the first 5 years of my time in Seoul, I didn't have an oven)
6. Furniture from Ikea (Additionally grateful that my hubby helped assemble most of our pieces while I was away speaking at a conference)
7. A washing machine (When I lived in Beijing during the summer of 1999, my roommate Dessi and I did not have a washing machine, so we washed all of our clothes by hand)
8. A built-in dryer to the washing machine
9. A roof over our head
10. A/C (This summer was one of the hottest recorded summers in years)
11. A working toilet (Having lived in Beijing and traveled to countries with squat toilets, I can appreciate a nice working not squat toilet)
12. T.V. (This is the first time in my adult life where I have actually owned a T.V.--well, part-owned with my hubby)
13. Plates/Bowls/Utensils (When I lived in my studio apartment in Seoul, I literally had one bowl and plates and utensils that were kindly donated to me my friend Katherine's mom)
14. Shampoo and Conditioner
17. Contact Lenses
18. Glasses (You can get them made super inexpensively here in Korea)
19. Things to write with like crayons, pens, pencils, colored pencils, etc.
20. Lots of paper to write ideas on and brainstorm on
21. My community here in Songdo, Korea (some of the most generous and thoughtful women I have ever met)
22. My bootcamp class
23. My hubby who is the most loving, positive, inspiring, intelligent, encouraging human I have ever met in my life
24. All of my friends around the globe (thank you for all of your support, encouragement and love)
25. My family (thank you for always being there with unconditional love and support and encouragement). In particular, I am grateful that my sister has been more supportive of my parents, my dad has thoughtfully stepped into his role as my mom's caregiver-hubby, and my mom has become a super grateful person!
26. My fruit lady (who always gives me the best fruit, delivers fruit for free, and updates me on the neighborhood happenings)
27. The Eye Glass Shop Guy (who always gives me and hubby a few free contact lenses when we buy mine)
28. The Barber Shop Peeps (who patiently listen to how Edgar wants his hair cut in English)
29. The Paris Baguette Owner (who has the warmest smile and always asks after Edgar whenever I go in alone)
30. The Staff at My Gym for always being super polite, kind and helpful
31. Strangers who Smile
32. People who are changing the world
33. Any public transportation driver who drives safely
34. All of my former students who have inspired me to be my best educator self and continue to do so
35. My colleagues (former)
36. My WeWork "colleagues" for inspiring a different way of working and for believing in my Happiness work here in Korea
37. My collaborators around the globe
38. My Coach friends around the globe for having done the work on themselves WITH themselves and inspiring me to do the same
39. Every single woman out there who has overcome some societal expectation of her
40. #MeToo women
41. Savings in the bank
42. My laptop
43. My iphone
44. My iphone battery-charging case
45. My chargers
46. Being able to travel for work + pleasure
47. Internet Access at some of the fastest speeds in the world and even underground!
48. Food delivery without a delivery fee
50. Onsen/Jijimjilbang/Spa time
51. Vacation time with my hubby
52. Being able to visit friends + family in the U.S. as often as we do
53. Baking with Almond Flour
54. Access to baking supplies on iHerb
55. Getting books sent to me through Amazon
56. Extremely reasonably priced public transportation
57. Nearby Parks, outdoor areas, rivers, and other nature options
58. Not having to have a car
59. Living in a relatively safe neighborhood with low crime rate
60. Feeling safe walking alone at night as a woman
61. Chicken delivery
62. Being able to eat out inexpensively and healthily
63. You can get free additional side dish orders
64. If you become friendly with some shop owners, they are likely to give you some free stuff here and there
65. I can speak enough Korean to get by and survive around Korea
66. Korea has some of the best cafes I have ever seen
67. Green Tea from Jeju Island
68. O'Sulloc (A green tea cafe chain)
69. Jjimjilbang (Korean spa)
70. Convenience stores everywhere--I recently bought a pair of socks in one!
71. Noraebang (karaoke rooms)
72. The Ajummas (Aunties) who carry your groceries on the bus when you give up your seat to them
73. Little Korean kids who wave to you
74. Clean and efficient public transportation
75. You get gym clothes and socks at the gym here so you don't have to bring your own!
76. Many Millennials here now speak English and are open to speaking to and meeting foreigners
77. A good conversation with a Korean taxi driver: Usually consists of a little bit of politics, the latest in Korea, where to eat the best kinds of Korean food, and why I am in Korea
78. Customer service is super efficient and the people in the industry are usually polite
79. You don't really ever have to wait in line for a long time anywhere
80. My Korean neighbor (she is a grandma, often gives me hugs, and we have been exchanging letters and gifts in Korean recently)
81. Sunny days
82. Being by the ocean
83. This ocean side cafe in Songdo
84. My Dream Jar
85. Lobby and my other stuffed toy animal buddies
86. That my life, work, purpose, core values are aligned
87. That I get to do the kind of work I do
88. That I get to meet the kinds of people I do because of my work
89. Summer Vacation
91. Learning how to surf
92. Horse-back riding
93. Learning new recipes
94. Learning new languages
95. The combination of good home-cooked food, good conversation with good friends
96. I don't have to work under anyone anymore (except for myself)
97. I get to work on myself WITH myself
98. Writing as a therapeutic process
99. People who are humble
100. My life
*Dedicated to and inspired by all of the people who have come into my life, inspired so much GRATITUDE around it, and continue to do so.*
Over Thai dinner before our karaoke outing with other boot campers, my bootcamp instructor locked eyes with me, and said,
"If you ever need reminding of how awesome you are, just let me know. I will always be here to remind you."
It was said with the same intensity in which she pushed me and my fellow boot campers when we were struggling with that final sit-up, burpee, or just talking too much instead of working out (!).
A WEEK EARLIER...
Over Indian lunch with my bootcamp class, the almost-cool fall breeze was lightly lingering, "What's going on, kiddo?" my bootcamp instructor inquired with a note of concern in her voice.
I tried to hide what was going on with me by avoiding eye contact throughout class earlier. My logic was if I just avoided what was happening, it would eventually go away. I knew perfectly well, it wouldn't. I was in the AVOIDANCE phase of the AVOIDANCE ->SURVIVAL -> GROWTH paradigm.
"Well...it's just my book. I am terrified that no one will buy it... I guess I feel paralyzed by fear."
On the one hand it was such a relief to blurt everything out to these women I deeply respected, but then I worried what they would think of me and what I had just blurted out. I was doubly relieved when a barrage of concerned and thoughtful suggestions came flowing out like the fall breeze:
"You could hire a graphic designer for your book cover..."
"Don't worry, you have us! We will buy your book!"
"Have you had anyone read a draft? I am happy to buy one and read it!"
"It's just a small obstacle, you can overcome it!"
"If you just change one person's life, if just one person reads your book, and has their life changed then you've done something..."
Everything they were saying was true. It was hard to believe that I had just sort of started bootcamp on a whim the previous year, but each week, I grew closer to these women. One woman even began bringing me back little gifts with "HAPPY" on them whenever she came back from the U.S. Other women would make sure I had a ride (as I was the only one without a car), check in on me when I wasn't at bootcamp, and were just super supportive of my burgeoning coaching business.
Back at the Thai restaurant, "Coaches need coaches. I see how you are with everyone, Kyla. You give so much," my own bootcamp COACH continued. Hearing her say that, and looking into her deeply concerned eyes, made me want to cry. I truly respected her so much--not just as a coach, but as a woman, former marine corps vet, mother, wife, and all-around human-being.
BELONGING, MATTERING, AND SAFETY
I recently read the book Power Your Tribe. 3 things the author mentions that every corporate tribe needs to thrive: belonging, mattering, and safety. These past few weeks, I have felt deeply that these 3 things could extend to any community--corporate or not. Without belonging, mattering, and safety, we can't reveal our true selves.
After one of my Happiness Workshops last week, as we went around sharing our true selves, one of the participants found a mentor in another participant: they were both minorities in some way. Later I heard they exchanged stories at Dunkin' Donuts. If they had never felt comfortable enough to reveal their true selves, they would have never found belonging, mattering and safety with each other and the community of our workshop.
Research shows that when we carry around emotional burdens, they become physical burdens. I get it. During one of my workshops, I had revealed many of my own emotional burdens to the workshop participants. After that particular workshop, there was a line of people just waiting to reveal theirs to me: PTSD from surviving a car accident, a rape survivor, a parent's death, and the list goes on.
It is no wonder that participants in that research on emotional burdens -> physical burdens, would look at a hill and think it is steeper than it really is when they were carrying around heavy emotional burdens.
THE SECRET (TO LIVING LONGER)
Turns out, it ain't good air quality and exercise. In her TED Talk, Susan Pinker talks about the top two predictors of longevity: 1) Social Integration and 2) Close relationships. Social integration is all about the quality of the relationships you have throughout your day: Made me think about my fruit lady who makes her husband deliver my fruit and always gives me free ripened bananas knowing I use them to bake; or the guy who works at the glasses shop who gives me free contact lenses whenever I buy a box or two. Close relationships pertain to the people you can call when you're in a pinch: I immediately thought of how a friend of mine was in a pinch in the U.S. a few months ago, and I called one of the amazing ladies from my community who immediately came to our aid.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
I am a huge fan of Shola Richards. He is a fellow overcomer of workplace bullying. He just came out with his second book Go Together. He talks about this concept of Ubuntu in his book: there's a legend of these kids in an African village. A man tells them that when he says "GO!" they will all run towards the tree where he has candy hanging (think piñata but more rustic style). Legend has it, the kids didn't try to out run each other, but instead, they ran TOGETHER holding hands. When questioned by the man, the kids said that it wouldn't be the same if one kid got all the candy.
In this world that is increasingly divisive, I am that much more grateful to be part of a community that embraces this concept of UBUNTU.
At another bootcamp lunch, I was talking to two newcomers:
"This community of women is truly exceptional. They are mothers, wives, daughters; they are talented and gifted fementrepreneurs; they give back to their communities, they donate. And some of the humblest, most generous giving women I have ever come across. All in one community."
*Dedicated to + Inspired by my Songdo Sisters: Thank you for supporting me, encouraging me, being my mirrors. I am eternally grateful to be a part of this incredible UBUNTU community.*