Photo courtesy of Kristopher Roller, Unsplash

The practise of gratitude while in our isolation bubbles can feel a bit like trying to keep something alight while being submerged.

 With no play book for how to be or operate in these unknown times, fear, uncertainty, grief, sadness and feeling pissed off too, are a range of normal emotions for us to feel at this time.

Here’s what I have noticed with emotion and feelings, no matter how hard I try or with the best intentions, finding and feeling gratitude can be like the picture above or with the sparkler damp and unlit.

Recently, Wellington had one of those stunners, a warm and windless autumn day. A great day to practice gratitude while out walking with a view over the harbour.

Though, that was not what I was feeling. Sadness and grief that this Easter I was unable to be with my wider family enjoying their company, food, card sessions and banter, I stopped at the top of the hill and paused to look at the view. I ought to be grateful, I should be grateful for this.

Yeah nah, came the internal response

So, I carried on walking and allowed space for the emotions, naming them and offering acceptance and compassion for feeling them. I have to admit, it was a few kms in the walk before I was done feeling them that they passed. Truth be told, it was the combination of exertion (uphill) and rhythm of the walk before I entered that calm space and began to feel some gratitude. 

If brains act like velcro and stick to negative emotions like fear and worry and act like teflon with positive emotions sliding off, it is easy to see why trying to be grateful and being stuck with sadness was challenging!1

 When the emotions were done, I was fully present with all my senses to the view, sunshine, birdsong and fellow walkers with a new feeling emerging. This was like a calming tonic on my brain and comforting cloak around my body. Now I could really be present to my strengths and lean into them to fill my tank.

Before we can lean into our strengths, or have gratitude, we benefit from being kind to ourselves to witness and hold space for emotions and allow them to pass.

The following model from Nicabm and Paul Gilbert (2009) is a framework of emotional regulation that can be used as a tool to helps us as we adapt in our isolation bubbles.

You may want to look at the model and consider how to lean into your strengths and what they need, so you can adapt.

Three Circles of Emotional Regualtion NICABM


​Have you ever felt frustrated by an assessment or profile that has you feeling boxed in?
Or had disappointing test results that reflected your mood and ability on that day and not your total skills or knowledge?
We are constantly measured, compared and averaged and the book I have been reading recently has blown my mind by revealing the flawed foundations and the wider impact this has on us to reaching our full potential.

​The profoundly challenging book ‘The End of Average’ by Todd Rose throws my years of training and work in education and evaluation into the ether as it illustrates how much of our lives from our birth to our eventual death, and all of our achievements in between, are measured and ranked according to the average.

In his book, Rose exposes Quetelet’s early work in 1840 in measuring the chest circumference of 5 738 Scottish soldiers to produce an average size and pronounce it as the ‘true’ size of a solider, and any deviation from the average as an error. 
Additionally Rose states, it was Sir Francis Galton’s conception that average meant mediocre and devised a ranking either side of the average (inferiority or superiority), of which many of us have experienced and been measured against as the bell curve.  Do you remember educational scaling?

Further to this the assumption was made that eminence (superiority) in one area assumed eminence (superiority) in other areas.

The End of Average provokes much thought about our continued reliance on measures based on flawed logic that reduce the complexities of human individuality and potential into singular dimensions or fixed traits.  It is more useful to think of intelligence, talent, skill or personality as individual, dynamic and contextual.
Even as a coach working with people to embrace their unique talents for greater success and wellbeing, the book surprised me by highlighting how much of our daily lives are constantly assessed, and in turn used as personal measures of success against this flawed model.
From the food we eat, the quality of our relationships, the work we achieve to how we should feel. (And many more).

I challenge you to become mindful of your internal language and judgements you make of yourself across a day to see how embedded it is.

Check out our next blog: Celebrating diversity: the alternative to fixed traits and boxes!

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