“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle

A three-year-old girl sat in the middle of the trail trying to put on her shoe. She was making a very determined face and was, undoubtedly, going to get it done. A man with a wide, toothy smile began walking in my direction. He was wearing traditional Karen dress and was holding a young baby who was nestled in his arms. The man observed me patiently watching this little girl struggling with her shoe. Eventually, she was able to figure it out. She then smiled and ran off to play.

The man and I exchanged greetings and attempted to have a conversation. It wasn’t going to work – the language barrier was too much. We ended up standing there, awkwardly smiling at each other. Finally, he spoke. All he said, in a very thick accent, was, “God bless America.” It totally caught me off guard.  We smiled, looked at each other, and shook hands. I continued on my way.

At the time, I was training for a backcountry hiking trip. The roughly 150-kilometer trek in the Dolomites of Italy has been on my Bucket List forever. I was carrying a heavy backpack on a 10-mile hike when I ran into the young lady in the trail. Her extended family and friends were having a picnic and barbecue at the park where I was training.

I still had a couple of miles to go, but the man’s statement really stuck with me. I continued reflecting on his words during my hike and long after. His manner of thinking is something I often take for granted.

The Karen people are refugees from Burma, and interestingly, there’s a large population of them in Omaha. These people have seen rough days filled with oppression, discrimination, violence, and malnutrition, and they’re now starting over in the United States. Historically, these people didn’t have much; however, they were happy with what they had. They weren’t concerned with status, assets, or property. Rather, their culture values family, spirituality, experiences, and happiness – all things that help to create a full life.

In our day and age, we live in the 24-hour horrible news cycle. People only see everyone else’s “highlight” reel via social media. I think it’s important to remember that we live in the least violent times ever. We’re living longer and healthier. We have more disposable time and money…yet we tend to focus on the negative. Our glass is actually more than half full – it runs over! We just need to reframe the narrative and remind ourselves.

I know I’m not always the best at remembering this, but my short interaction with a little girl struggling with her shoe and an awkward conversation with her father helped to remind me.

From a managing and leading perspective, it’s important for us to remember this thinking and instill that positive perspective with our teams. Often, it’s up to us to find where things are going well and to make sure to bring this to light.

It’s this type of thinking that, when practiced on a regular basis, can change culture.

Life is truly great. Remember the little things.

Do you or your team need help shifting your lens toward positivity! We’re here to help. Reach out anytime.

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