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What gifts are you mindlessly throwing away?

What gifts are you mindlessly throwing away?

by Moyra Mackie on October 17, 2015

When I left work at 7pm on Friday night, it was already dark. Outside, it seemed that everybody’s weekend had begun except mine.

I’d been in a team meeting all day and had spent the last hour frantically trying to catch up on important mails that had arrived during the day.  I was in the middle of negotiating a large contract and I felt overwhelmed and frustrated by the paperwork and the process.

My mind was everywhere except in the present

I got into my car, with my mind racing, half wishing the weekend away so that I could get back to untangling the bureaucratic threads.

At least I didn’t have to cook dinner when I got home, as my husband had ordered a takeaway for me to pick up on the way home.  I stopped first to buy a bottle of wine to go with it.

As I reached the check out, my head was still full of work

I scarcely noticed the cashier until the card machine failed to work.  Three or four attempts by the young woman to reset the machine failed and I stood waiting, aware of a growing queue behind me.

Eventually she asked her colleague, who pointed out that she had missed a basic step in allowing card payments.  She blushed and apologised.   In that moment I was conscious of feeling angry at the large supermarket chain for throwing young workers in front of customers without adequate training.

But just as quickly another thought entered my head.

None of this was really, truly that important

I looked at the young girl and smiled and said:

“It really doesn’t matter – it’s not that big a deal.”

She looked at me, sceptically, and blushed even more.  I continued:

“No really, it’s Friday night and in the grand scheme of things this is not possibly the worst thing that could happen to either of us.”

And she laughed.

Her shoulders went down, and so did mine

We smiled at each other and then she reached out to touch my hand as she gave me the receipt.  “Thank you”, she said.  “You’re welcome”, I replied.

As I stepped outside, I became aware of the cold.  I looked up and could see the stars in the inky night sky, notice the smoke rising from the chimney of the building opposite, smell the Thai food from the restaurant.

I realised that I had calmed down – I was now back in the present

My head was not full of what ifs.  I remembered something that Paul Gilbert had said about the power of practicing compassion – towards other people, and towards ourselves.

Compassion is a gift for giver and receiver

It was only the other evening that I had watched his talk on The Mindfulness Summit, where he had described how we have a habit of focusing on what is not working, rather than what is.  He gave the example of shopping for Christmas, where in nine shops we get great service and find everything we need.  In the tenth, we get terrible service, and go home ruminating on that event, rather than on the nine good moments.

And I had done exactly the same thing.

I had overlooked the many gifts I’d been given

I had forgotten the real connections made by my team, as some of them met each other for the first time and soon built a strong rapport.

I’d forgotten the kindness and support I’d had in the meeting and over the last week as we all wrestled with our workloads.

I’d forgotten how grateful I was to Rebecca Fennell, a friend and superb photographer, who had come at short notice to take photos of the team for our website.

I’d forgotten that the reason I was struggling through paperwork was that a new client had offered me their trust and engaged me to help them solve their challenges.

flowersI came home to find that another client had sent me flowers for work on another project.

I realised that I would never dream of sending flowers back

Yet that day I had brushed away a lot of other gifts that had been offered to me.  Recognition and appreciation doesn’t just come in a pay packet or in a fancy box, it comes from the small moments of kindness and compassion we could give and receive in any one day.

Compassion forges connections; compassion is a form of mindfulness

I chose to show compassion to that young cashier, but the gift I received came in her accepting that.  I realise her inexperience had in itself been a gift – it allowed me to come back into the present and start my weekend.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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