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October 4, 2021

Life is hard, but so very beautiful.
Abraham Lincoln

Recently I turned on the television in a hotel room and encountered the brand, Life Is Good. It reminded me of an exercise about what makes life great that I used years ago when helping new teams get started.

I believe that getting to know each other is the most important piece in creating a team that can have the candid discussions required for good decision making and alignment. I also find that teams may think they know each other, but they really don’t—at least not in the profound way that working as a group requires.

Four exercises stand out for me that help teams establish the level of connection required to work well together:

  • The conversation café. Four people each speak to a question for three minutes. Then that process is repeated three times, each time with a new question. The questions allow people to speak about themselves and how they like to work.
  • Five photos. Each person brings in five photos of people or things of which they are proud. Each photo provides an opening to learn more about someone.
  • Twenty-five things I want. Everyone completes a list of what they want in life and then shares their list in groups of six. This exercise reveals both how much we have in common and the individual interests that make us unique.
  • Ten reasons why my life is great. Participants partner with someone and share ten reasons why they think their life is great. Then they switch partners and do it again, only with ten different reasons.

From the context of getting to know each other, this last exercise is a chance to share with others about your life and to delve more deeply into what matters to you. Several additional benefits make it a worthwhile exercise to do with your family or friends or team:

  1. The exercise surfaces the everyday things we often lose sight of, which in turn makes us more appreciative and grateful.
  2. It offers some resilience in the face of larger currents we swim against that can make daily life a challenge.
  3. When we mention others among the reasons life is great, they feel honored.
  4. Listening to ourselves share this list helps us reconnect with what matters to us.
  5. Most of us need practice in sharing about ourselves in a way that adds value to the group.

So, as I wake up these days worrying about forest fires, the Delta variant, partisan politics, and other things over which I have little control, it’s refreshing to remind myself that in many ways life is good—that even the simple pleasures are worth savoring.

  • My grandkids can set up their playlists on my computer so I can listen to their music.
  • Google maps can get me anywhere.
  • Shazam can capture a song and tell me who’s singing.
  • Authors are writing good books faster than I can read them.

Most of us have privileged lives compared to much of the world. I don’t think we should feel guilty about that, and I do think that part of self-care is to stay in touch with the aspects of life that are good. This is not positive thinking—it’s what is so thinking.

I’d be happy to read your list of ten things that make your life great, if you want to send them to me. And I would love to hear about how the exercise goes if you use it with family, friends, or colleagues.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is
to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Marcus Aurelius

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P.S. Here’s another exercise that is terrific for families with young children. The spotlight is put on each family member, one at a time. Together the rest of the family comes up with twelve things they like about the person in the spotlight.


- Paul Axtell, author of Compassionate Leadership

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