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Moving from Reaction to Choice

When my alarm went off at 5:30 am this morning, like it always does, I was in such a deep sleep that it took me a few minutes to get my bearings. I had been dreaming about my dad.

There was so much joy in his eyes. I keep searching for another word to use, so I don’t repeat myself, but that’s the only right word. JOY.

My dad passed on February 29th and it’s still hard to imagine a world without him in it. But this morning, I got to see him. It was so real! In my dream, I was on a business trip to NYC and got to stay in some swanky hotel (but why I got off a bus to get to the hotel was strange). I walked into the lobby and was greeted by my parents, who had come to surprise me. I felt such overwhelming joy at seeing them. In a rush, my dad said, as he gave me one of his famous bear-hugs, “We want to go for a hike tomorrow. It’s so beautiful here!” For some reason, as happens in strange dreams, the location shifted from NYC to Carmel, CA, and I remember thinking how strange it was that dad wanted to hike as he hadn’t hiked in about 10 years. But in my dream my dad was full of energy, his eyes twinkling, so happy to see me. There was so much joy in his eyes. I keep searching for another word to use, so I don’t repeat myself, but that’s the only right word. JOY. I remember getting ready to tell them that I couldn’t hike with them the next morning as I had a 10 am flight, but was so excited about having dinner together, when my alarm went off. They faded away and I stumbled downstairs to make my coffee and write. This.

As I was making my way in the dark, groggy from my dream, I had a realization. I was consciously aware that, as the dream evaporated, I could look at it as a sad thing. My dad was with me and now he’s gone. Again. Or I could process it differently. I got my dad back! If for a fleeting moment, he was there! It was so real! There was such joy!

Every time, if I’m consciously choosing, I choose joy.

In every situation, we face we have a choice. During this pandemic, we can look at all the scary-awful-stuff and choose to stay wrapped in our fear and anger, or we can be grateful for the time we now have with our families, the moments of stillness that are possible, for breathe… Our experience of ourselves and the world, if for a fleeting moment, shifts. Like a dream, it’s there—the joy.

Now our feelings are our feelings and we have a right to whatever feelings we might have. I’m not suggesting Pollyanna-pretend. I’m suggesting choice.

You have a choice about how you frame these events in your mind. Which frame serves you better? Which frames allow you to be most powerful in yourself?

At this critical time in history, we need to move from reaction to choice as it will determine everything. It will determine how you feel, how you react, how you show up. It will determine the legacy you leave.

As we’re hyper-aware these days, life is fragile. None of us is promised forever. Make every moment count. Where you can, choose joy.

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Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davishttps://www.braveleadershipbook.com/
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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14 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Between the stimulus and the response there is a space. In that space resides the power to choose our answer. In our response there is our growth and there is our freedom. (Victor Frankl).
    You have given living proof of this principle.
    Thanks

  2. Kimberly, I am so happy you had this moment with your father and were able to shift your mindset to see your choice. It is such a beautiful thing when we can find peace in remembering those we love even though we know the pain will be there too, especially so soon. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your journey with us as so many need to hear your words. Thank you so much my friend!

  3. I’m so glad you “stumbled downstairs to write. This.”

    I immediately started thinking about my dad and my experiences of “seeing” him and feeling his presence shortly after he died. My dad and I became closer the older I got, and I was devastated when he died. He “pops” up in my memory all the time.

    And thank you for this: “we can look at all the scary-awful-stuff and choose to stay wrapped in our fear and anger, or we can be grateful for the time we now have with our families, the moments of stillness that are possible, for breathe….” It’s not about pulling a blanket over my head and yelling for C-19 to leave me alone – to silence the sirens as ambulances head to the nearby hospital; to silence the near meaningless and sometimes harmful words that can from much of the daily national briefings; to silence the voices who argue for commerce over lives – it’s about choosing to look elsewhere and be nourished by what I have.

    Thank you, my friend.

    • Oh Jeff, everything you’ve mentioned highlights the difficulty we face in choosing. The weight of everything can’t help but pull us toward fearful thinking. I hadn’t even realized the toll this was taking until you described it so perfectly: “to silence the voices who argue for commerce over lives.” Yes, every situation is a choice and I’m just grateful that I surround myself with remarkable people like you who help balance the scales so I enough positive to remind me of where I want to be. I’m so glad you got to revisit your memory of your dad. I think part of the reason I write about mine is to feel like he’s not so far away.

  4. There is no short list of reasons to love this. It’s why you resonate with so many people – you see things as full of potential, as things to help us grow or stretch. You give us reasons to be better. It’s like my favorite Eagles song, “Already Gone” – you know why I love that. “Often time it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we hold the key…” If we do the knee jerk, our lizard brain is gonna give us bad vibes about everything, and we’ll scream and holler and rant and rave, where if we reflect and marinate and turn things over, we might uncover some blessings that we never knew existed. This! It’s why you’re the most bestest… and why I continue to be a huge fan!

  5. Oh my… this piece is one of the many reasons why I adore you, my friend! You are so right. We always have choices — how we perceive experiences, whether we will react or respond to those experiences, and how those experiences influence us. As reasons to be angry and afraid or opportunities for introspection and growth?
    Thank you for sharing this today… this is a message for all of us!

    • Isn’t it amazing how the same experience can trigger all of it, Melissa? Anger, fear, introspection, growth, gratitude, joy, love… They’re all so intertwined. I’m so grateful I have you in my life to help me better understand the complexity of being human!

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