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May 05, 2021

Father holding his daughter on shoulders and laughing

This will give you strength when you need it most

Love photo created by aleksandarlittlewolf -

In this newsletter…

  • Invitations & Announcements
  • Catalytic Thinking Exercise: Gratitude: A Strength to Build Upon
  • Resources to Further Your Practice
  • Story of the Week:  Catalytic Thinking in ACTION

Invitations & Announcements:

This is a conversation you won’t want to miss. Our board and community members will be applying Catalytic Thinking to one of the most important questions any social change effort can ask:

What will our values look like in action in our day-to-day work? If the path to accomplishing change is to walk the talk of our values, what will those values look like regarding internal functions like compensation policy? Or our financial accounting? Or everything else we do?

The discussion will happen on Zoom on Monday, May 10th. Choose how you want to join in…

Gratitude: A Strength to Build Upon

Infinite gratitude for all things past
Infinite service to all things present
Infinite responsibility for all things future

In our last e-journal, we introduced these three lines as part of the foundation of Catalytic Thinking.

This week let’s start with that first line - the power of gratitude to create change.

Infinite gratitude for all things past…

We are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. The power of that lineage can be a tremendous source of strength when we need it most.

Gratitude helps us to instantly feel that connection  - with our past, with each other, and with all things. We can be grateful to others, to the things around us, to our planet, to ourselves.

And we can be grateful to those who came before us, paving the way for the work we are doing, that is furthering the work they began.

Try this
The fun thing about gratitude is no matter how deep or how surface you go, the practice still yields rewards. Let's start at the simplest level, and then go deeper.

Step 1: Be Grateful
We all know this step – taking a moment to note the things for which we are grateful.

Today, I am grateful for ______________.

There are days when this feels easy, when those things are obvious. Then there are those days when it feels like the only thing you’re grateful for is that the day is over. And that’s ok!

This first step can be powerful on its own. But the next steps are where the real power comes in.

Step 2: What Caused That?
For each item on your gratitude list, ask yourself, “What led to that thing for which I’m grateful? What conditions created that result?”

If it weren’t for ____________, I wouldn’t have / feel / be the thing you’re grateful for .

 Example: I am so grateful for meeting Shoshana and the possibility of working on a project with her. If it weren't for Jordan introducing us, we never would have met!

You can stop here, seeing that one thing caused the next. Or you can dive in, moving backwards to establish the whole chain of events.

To do that, simply ask the question over again, this time showing gratitude for the one-step-removed condition that led to the ultimate result.

"What led to Jordan introducing us? And who is it that introduced me to Jordan?" As you realize that meeting Shoshana was dependent on the small choices of so many people, you will move beyond just this one incident, to feel grateful for the entire chain of cause-and-effect that led to that moment.

This is where we can honor those who came before us.

If it weren’t for those who fought for human rights 100 years ago, and 100 years before that…

If it weren’t for those who first studied X…

If it weren’t for my grandmother, who escaped as a refugee 150 years ago…

Step 3: Express Gratitude for All Those Causes and Effects
Once you realize that the things for which you are grateful are the result of many causes, you can express gratitude for each of those people and moments. The next edition of this newsletter will share a practice for expressing that gratitude, honoring those to whom we are grateful.

For now, simply acknowledging those who contributed to your current life and work instantly reminds you of the interdependence of life all around you. It is those interwoven threads that make Catalytic Thinking so catalytic!

Let us know:
As you practice with this exercise, let us know what you experience!

Resources to Support Your Practice:

  • READ: This Food Bank shifted their success metrics from “tons of food” to LOVE. A must-read piece from Community-Centric Fundraising. Read it here…
  • WATCH: Psychology professor Robert Emmons on the Power of Gratitude to Change Your Life. Watch here...
  • READ: In this beautiful anthology, Alice Walker celebrates even the most difficult of circumstances with gratitude. (Please purchase books from your local independent book store.) Read excerpts here…

Catalytic Thinking Story of the Week:

This week’s story is from another food bank. What awesome inspiration we are finding at Food Banks these days!

Kara Jones is Chief Impact Officer at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. In the process of co-creating the food bank’s community impact plan with members of the community itself, here is what Kara told us about the power of Catalytic Thinking…

At today’s meeting, I asked the question about why staff were there—what made them say Yes to being part of this group.  Everyone from line workers to program directors talked about wanting to be part of something bigger, to be a part of positive change. It was such a good meeting, with folks focused on constructive feedback and potential. This felt really different than other group spaces where it’s mostly about identifying & tackling problems.

Got a Catalytic Thinking story to share with our readers? Let us know here!

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook - a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

Help Keep Our Programs Freely Available
Most of the programs at Creating the Future are free or low cost, with liberal tuition assistance when they aren’t.

If you find our programs of benefit, we hope you will consider contributing, to help keep these programs available to as many people as possible.   Donate here ...

eJournal Archives:
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.

Creating the Future's Mission
Teach people how to change the systems they find themselves in,
to create a future different from our past -
all by changing the questions they ask.

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