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21 March 2023

Unleash the Genius of Noticing for a more joyful day

Written by
Jennifer Garvey Berger

My client showed up on our zoom fifteen minutes late and visibly exhausted. Work was a drain, small kids at home were a drain, life was a drain. Wildly successful as he might be, there was very little that he could point to and say, “Yes, that’s refilling my tank.” Building Lego castles with his daughter, going for bike rides with his son. The occasional date nights with his partner.

This might be familiar to you too. When you look across your day, your week, and you see only drain holes in your energy. When you let out an audible groan when a new appointment arrives in your calendar. When you are counting down the days until you arrive at some holiday where you will absolutely rest and restore. And when, three days after your return from that holiday, you feel right back to your ordinary impossible level of exhaustion.

I decided some years ago, in the thick of chemotherapy, that I would no longer put off the joy in my life until some unknown spot that might be months away. Somehow life has to deplete energy and refill it in something like equal measures. And of course this can’t always be true, but it is a direction in which we can all be moving.

I asked my client to rethink his diary. What miseries could be cut out of it? Were there meetings that lived on by habit or stubbornness rather than importance that he could simply cancel or delegate? And as importantly, what pleasures could be harvested? This didn’t necessarily mean adding new things but looking at old things with new eyes. Where could he find restoration and delight as he moved through his busy day?

At our next meeting, he arrived on time and with such a sparkle in his eyes that I hazarded a look at the calendar to see whether he was back from some vacation time. But no.

“You told me noticing was important,” he told me. “But you didn’t tell me that noticing was the single biggest transformational move I could make.”

I didn’t tell him this because I didn’t quite know myself. I knew that noticing was one of the Complexity Geniuses Carolyn and I had written about in our new book. I knew that noticing was, in many ways, the gateway to all of our geniuses. But it took my client’s noticing to learn how fundamentally transformational noticing can be.

He had used his noticing genius to turn his days into a treasure hunt for joy, for curiosity, for wonder. And as he hunted, he was stunned to find how many possibilities there were in his quotidian life. It wasn’t that he changed his routine much. It’s that when you are looking for delight, there is delight to be found because even our troubled world is laced through with beauty and kindness and love.

He stopped for coffee on his way to work and marveled at the black bitterness of it and the bright smile of the barista when he commented about how delicious it was. He went to a meeting and someone said something unexpectedly kind about him and he actually took it in rather than brushing it off in embarrassment. He had a strategy session about a new product and noticed how buzzy he was, how much he loved thinking alongside two of his colleagues, how much more energy he had coming out of the meeting than he had going into it.

As he recounted some of these stories to me, he shook his head with the ordinariness of it all. “It isn’t that I changed my workday to make it more restorative,” he said with some amazement. “It’s that searching for restoration itself was restorative. The coffee was the same, the comment the same, the strategy session the same. It was noticing that they might be restorative that actually made them restorative. Noticing is everything.”

Of course, now that he’s taught me this lesson, I see it for myself everywhere. A sunny day is simply a sunny day until I notice it. When I take in the sparkling springy greenness of the day, I feel joy. It’s not that the day is greener, it’s that I’m available to see it. When a stranger reaches out to tell my one of my books or videos has made a difference for her, I actually notice what that does to my body, the small thrilling surprise of it, the warmth that spreads through my chest. On a busy day I might just smile and move on without harvesting all the goodness that can come from that stranger’s words. But noticing changes it all.

Now it’s your turn. What is the treasure hunt of restoration and joy that you can engage in at work and at home? What might you discover? How can you unleash the genius of your noticing and transform your work, even in a complex and uncertain time?

Interested in these unleashing your own complexity genius? Read more about Noticing and the other geniuses in Unleash Your Complexity Genius: Growing your inner capacity to lead by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Carolyn Coughlin.

One thought on “Unleash the Genius of Noticing for a more joyful day”

  1. Michael says:

    What a beautiful observation – thank you. A good reminder to notice the little things and be grateful.

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