Most of us need a variety of people to provide what it takes to fruitfully make it through the day. We may think we are independent because we generate enough money to live, we do our own shopping, cooking, cleaning, or even pay someone to do these things for us. But when we look closer, we see there are countless others on whom we rely to make our lives work well.
It was Charles Plumb, a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam that gave us this question: Who Packs Your Parachute? He points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety. Whether we are taking off as the pilot of a plane, or spearheading a project at work or for our families, we need others to offer all the necessary elements to “pack our parachute” that provides safety, coherence, or inspiration. We can’t do life alone!
One of my earliest memories of people telling me something I needed to hear was in a work setting when I was just 23 years old. Two of my colleagues created a casual conversation with me and told me that when I get upset about things, my tenor displayed so much emotion that it scared people. Then they asked me if I wanted people to be afraid of me. “No, of course not, that’s the last thing I want,” I replied. And the message sunk in as I started to realize they were right. I was creating a situation with my untethered ire that isolated me and left me friendless at a time when I needed people to be kind and close to me. Hard to hear as it was, it was a terrific gift to me for which I did thank them abundantly, although it took some time for me to fully integrate how generous their gesture was.
As we consider all the people in our lives who sustain our happiness, sense of fulfillment, joy, challenge, and potential growth, take a moment to be grateful and express sincere thanks.
- To whom have you not expressed gratitude or given credit to for all the things—large and small—that make your life better?
- Who reinforces trust in your life that makes things simpler for you?
- Who have you noticed that always shares credit for things that go ‘just right’ and never runs for the spotlight?
- Even in times of challenge or setbacks, do you give people the benefit of the doubt and help to constructively tackle the problem? Who encourages you in times like these?
- Who in your life deserves thanks from you for having the courage to tell you something you need to hear, even if it might upset you?
As you ask and answer these questions, be gentle with yourself. When you notice and appreciate the vast gifts others add to the moments of your day, it’s a good first step. Offer thanks any way you can. Be comforted and express praise often.