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We Get More Of What We Notice

I wish I could tell you all about the man in this photo, but … I don't know him.

Let me explain --

I snapped this selfie as a tourist. I wanted to capture the beauty of this moment so that I would always remember it. And I am so glad I did, because although I can't tell you this man's name, just looking at this picture reminds me of our encounter.

It was a hot summer day in New York City. Carl and I had taken our daughter Katelyn there for the first time. She had earned the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall and while she was in rehearsals we had the days to explore the city. As we were navigating the busy Manhattan streets (trying to figure out which Subway to take) this kind man appeared and helped us.

Like an angel, he showed up just when we needed him. He had this kind manner about him, this kind smile, and it felt like we were friends. He asked us if he could help us find our way. He gave us some very helpful directions. He asked us where we were from, and when he heard "Kansas City" he got so excited telling us about a BBQ place in Queens that we just had to try.

It was only a few minutes of kindness but I was so grateful that I wanted to make sure that he knew how much I appreciated him and how Noticed he was. I gave him a Random Act of Noticing card and I told him what I Noticed. I wanted him to know that in a sea full of busy people the fact that he had been paying attention and had noticed that we looked like we could use some help - and then had offered to help us - was so cool. I also said that I had Noticed his smile -- that it was like smiling at a friend.

Then he Noticed me right back! He said something about how he could say the same for me. That my smile is what made him notice us.

I wish I could replay the moment to capture his exact words but it was something like "People get what they are looking for. If you're looking for smiles that's what you'll see."

I agree 100%. That is why our hashtag is #Noticegoodness.

I truly believe that Noticing is a superpower. The world is a better place when people know that they are Noticed. AND, we get more of what we focus on!

When we are intentional about looking for and Noticing goodness we see the world through that lens.

That of course does not mean that all of the hard stuff goes away. It just means we will see the good stuff too. That's how our brains are designed to work.

This past week Jaime and I brought our I AM Noticed message to the Mental Health Kansas City Conference. The title of our presentation was "The Value of Belonging & Mental Wellness". We talked about the simple, yet powerful practices that we teach within I AM Noticed, and of course Noticing goodness is a big part of that.

At the end of our session a man in the audience asked us a very important question about the relevancy of our work. He shared that he has been a social worker in the urban core for many years. He shared that in the spaces that he is in there is so much need, and that all around him people are angry. He said he has noticed that people don't smile, they don't hold doors for others, they are just angry. And then he asked "What if 'this' isn't enough."

This. Hurts. My. Heart.

I want to wave my magic wand and make the situations that cause the anger go away. I want a friendly smile to be the gateway to healing. I want 'this' (AKA Noticing goodness) to be enough. But, alas I must be practical.

So here's what I shared with this dedicated social worker:

  • You matter. Thank you for being you and showing up for your community. I'm glad you are here and I would love to learn more about you and what you do.

  • I believe that it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself so that you can continue to show up.

  • And I think it is vital that we spend time in places where we can #Noticegoodness. Places like the Mental Health KC conference where people from so many walks of life had gathered to learn, grow and celebrate the efforts to create and maintain a healthy community.

Our brains are designed to keep us safe. We naturally notice things that cause us pain or harm so that we can learn to avoid those things in the future.

Our brains are also designed to help us experience goodness. That goodness helps us thrive, it helps us connect, and it helps us know our value and the value of others.

Our brains are designed to focus -to notice- and we get more of what we are focusing on.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a part of the brain that helps us stay alert and focused, and it is responsible for the fact that if you are on the lookout for smiling faces - even on the busy streets of New York City -- you will find them. It is in large part because of the RAS that #Noticegoodness isn't just a trendy hashtag.

Noticing goodness is a strategy for wellness and I am so grateful to get to spend time in this community where it is completely normal to Notice goodness with all of you.

I hope you will continue to #Noticegoodness in yourself and others and that you will continue to share it with our community when you do!! I am heading back to NYC this week and I will definitely be intentional about looking for smiles on those busy streets, and be ready to Notice goodness while I'm there! And who knows … maybe I'll even run into the guy with the kind smile again :)


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