When Life Gives You Lemons

The old adage goes something like this: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or add vodka!).  Both approaches are optimistic and speak to the human capacity to rise above adversity, even celebrate it!

Still, when life’s sour episodes flood our hearts, they are often a wake-up call to do something different, something more, and perhaps, something else.

To choose to grow through something that is inherently painful, even tragic, seems paradoxical. But to “dress it up” or “drink-it away” without realizing its full potential is tragic, too.

So yes…..make a lemonade, make a lemon cake, make cocktails, and then, when this is all said and done, take the seeds, plant them, and see what happens next.

Practice Seeing the Good

This suggestion, to practice seeing the good, is a simple, powerful, and life-changing one.

While at first, this may feel fake, stupid, or even disingenuous, there are solid and scientifically-backed reasons why implementing such a practice will improve your life, work, and health.

Intentionally changing our neurocircuitry and neurochemistry requires attention, followed by action. With every thought, emotion, and action we create, or don’t, we are literally creating “code” in our body. Consequently, this creates a vibrational sequence (we now know that everything in the universe is energy) that either promotes or hinders our health and well-being, and that of those closest to us (see the work by Fowler & Christakis on connection and the power of networks).

When we practice seeing the good, we are affirming life as it truly is. When we affirm and accept, we create less resistance– in fact, we are yielding to what is…and when we yield to what is, we are free (yes, free!) to chose, move, create from a place of clarity and conviction, not one of fear and anger.

When we begin to see through the lens of gratitude, arguments become obsolete (you are only arguing with yourself, anyway); competition becomes a repugnant option; and you see, quite clearly, that supporting and enhancing your own trueness is what makes true progress occur; not destroying the other, but consciously creating the new you.

It seems paradoxical that something as gentle as gratitude, could be so powerful.  Like any other contemplative practice, it has the potential to transform the way we live and work…but only if we practice it.


Have you ever wanted to keep track of the things you are most grateful for each day? Have you ever wanted to look back at the people, things, and experiences that helped you evolve personally and professionally?

The GRATITUDE YEARBOOK is a tool to help you capture life-changing and heart-warming insights, as well as invite you into the contemplative practice of gratitude journaling.

Here are the basic specs for the journal:

Amazon List Price: $22.00
7" x 10" (17.78 x 25.4 cm)
Black & White on White paper
162 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1983420030

The benefits of gratitude journaling and practices are numerous. At its core, practicing gratitude helps us shift and focus our attention towards the beauty and grace that is all around us-- even in (especially in!) the midst of challenging circumstances.

Done over time, these "soft practices" are actually quite powerful and life-changing, so much so, that companies and organizations are integrating these and other mindful practices into their professional training and development programs.

As personal development is inextricably linked to professional performance,  we know that taking the time to intentionally appreciate,  is one of the greatest investments one could make for themselves, and for those they lead and serve.




The recent passing of a beautiful friend brought me heart-to-heart, once again, with grief.

When my father died in 2014, I was thrust into a space unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  I still remember how my days felt; unreal, cumbersome, painful, as if I were in the midst of some energetic goo, going through my days in slow-motion. Every action required effort. Every thought, one too many.  

Although grief is a shared human experience, it is not experienced this way at all. It is deeply intimate and confronting. Only you can travel this heart-road.  It is an excruciating and painful journey, but one that is bearable only because it is fueled and directed by love.

During the most painful and growthful times of my life, the words and writing of John O’Donohue have provided me great comfort. Like a fine wine, his words rich and opulent in spirit, are even more meaningful today.

For Grief
John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life.
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well,
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

Transcending our conditions

What conditions, if any, do you wish you could transcend?

There are countless methods, tools, and practices for moving beyond our current conditions, whether physical, psychological, or emotional in nature. But perhaps the most powerful practice is gratitude. Gratitude is a practice of personal peace.

In the midst of chronic illness and suffering, it is not uncommon to experience severe negative emotions and thoughts.  Unattended suffering leads to personal and inter-personal aggression and violence. We know this. We can’t just ignore our suffering. I’ve learned time and time again that gratitude neutralizes my suffering in such a way that it simply and effortlessly transmutes it, and therefore my understanding of whatever “condition” is elevated.

In my years of practicing gratitude, I’ve noticed the humbling effect it has had on me and those around me. I call this humbling effect grace, or the aha moment. Inevitably, grace enables transcendence and therefore our desire to yield, not because we have given up, but because we can see from a higher ground.  We actually become defenseless because we fully understand that there is nothing to defend or fight. If you are fighting something or someone, it is because you do not understand it, or yourself; it is because you are suffering.

To move beyond painful conditions is a challenge faced by each of us. While it’s common to seek solutions “out there”,  the solutions are actually “in here”; they are solely with you. What’s always out there, is the support, compassion, and love from fellow humans who have connected these dots.