Michelson Found Animals Foundation Executive Director Aimee Gilbreath and Jenna discuss a series of questions and habits that can help us become our best selves, improve our relationships, and elevate our sense of fulfillment.
Simple Questions For A More Mindful Life
When I first joined 33voices, I was convinced that the leaders we interview were born with special DNA that enabled them to take risks and overcome challenges. As the episodes and years went on, I learned that it wasn't a special gene that was responsible for their mindset. Rather, it was a combination of skills we can all cultivate - a few of the most important being self-awareness and self-inquiry - that allowed them to achieve their goals.
The journey to developing these skills is ongoing and always personal, but one similarity I've noticed is a willingness to ask questions, personally and to others, about how we can improve. That's why I'm particularly excited about today's podcast with Michelson Found Animals Foundation Executive Director Aimee Gilbreath, who shared questions we can ask ourselves in various situations to show up as our best selves. Here are a few - on life perspective, communication and relationships - that I've been relying on since our conversation. You can hear more of them as well as Aimee's inspiring story in our chat.
Choose how you experience your daily life
Aimee's optimism can be traced to her central belief that: Life is happening for you, not to you.
She explains it best when she says: "When I live it, my life works."
Viewing your life through the lens that things are "happening for you" helps you look at the bigger picture, maintain perspective, and find opportunities you likely wouldn't approaching a situation, or worse your life, from a victim mentality.
“We don’t get satisfaction from asking 'Why me?’ in difficult situations because there's never a clear answer," Aimee says. Instead, try asking these questions to approach challenges from a more empowered mindset.
- How is this happening for me?
- Where is the opportunity in this?
- What is this here to teach me?
- How have I contributed to this situation and therefore how can I change it?
"Those answers give you something to grab onto and start making progress."
Get curious about other people's perspective
One of my biggest learnings from Aimee is the importance of meeting people where they are, not where we think they should be or where we wish they were. Her response is a valuable lesson to internalize and practice.
“Assuming your way of thinking is right and everyone shares it is a recipe for disaster. You've only ever lived inside your own head, so you only know what it's like in there."
When interacting with others, she suggests seeking answers to the following questions:
- What is the other person's perspective on this?
- Why do they think and feel this way?
- What am I missing here?
- How can I get more information?
“People take actions that make sense to them given the information they have and the context they’re in. If you can get curious about and appreciate another person’s perspective their choices make sense," she says. "People have good intentions and want to do well. Very rarely does someone wake up and think - I want to ruin my co-workers day! - on their way to work."
Becoming a mindful communicator is an ongoing goal as it requires setting the intention to be curious, open-minded and respectful every time we enter a new conversation. The best tool Aimee's learned to achieve it is to pause. "Knee jerk reactions don’t leave space for anything other than emotion or judgment," she adds.
Embrace the messiness of vulnerability
There will always be times when we are on the receiving end of the above questions and we have to be vulnerable. For many, vulnerability often feels challenging and uncomfortable. I appreciated the way Aimee's approach helps make it a little more straightforward.
“Vulnerability is about asking yourself - What am I feeling and thinking right now? - and having the courage to share it, even if you don't have a solution or understand why you're feeling that way," she says. "Vulnerability doesn't have to make sense. That's part of it."
Look inward to stay on track
I've become fascinated by using personal check-ins as gauges for life-fulfillment and was grateful that Aimee shared a simple but powerful question we can ask ourselves every morning to ensure our choices are helping us reach our goals: Am I choosing to spend my time and energy in alignment with my priorities today? If the answer is no, it may be a sign to make adjustments. Aimee personally asks the question after meditation, as the quiet time helps provide clarity on what matters.
Whether you're having a conversation with yourself or others, asking questions and having the courage to answer and act on them honestly is one of our greatest tools to be our best and truest selves. I hope the thoughtful ones Aimee shared will be as helpful for others as they have been for me.