Unpacking the Stewardship Principle – Part 1 of 3

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that has a certain sticking power. It finds a way of surfacing itself in conversations throughout the day and showing its relevance in more and more situations. For me, this idea is the Stewardship Principle. 

Earlier I wrote about the exercise of one-word themes for the year and how “stewardship” was my word for 2018. I find myself in 2019 with a brand-new word, yet increasingly affected by last year’s word. There is a compound effect in play, as “stewardship” seems to be seasoning the way I exercise my new word for the year.

The more I realize the role of stewardship in my daily life, the more I feel the need to unpack with better clarity the stewardship principle. Over the next few days I will do just that, starting with the first of the three tenets of the Stewardship Principle. 

For the uninitiated, the stewardship principle is all about adopting a mindset that will help you make the best of your individual situation, whatever it may be. It’s about recognizing your unique gifts and talents and taking full advantage of them. I have defined the Stewardship Principle in three simple tenets:

  1. Everything in your life is a gift.
  2. Gifts are given by a gift-giver for the benefit of the recipient.
  3. You have a noble obligation to use your gifts for the good of the world.

My life is a living testimony to the power of the stewardship principle. The more I walk with friends and colleagues through this concept, the more I understand its applicability for everyone. This post is dedicated to exploring in greater depth the first tenet.

Everything in your life is a gift.

Before we dive in, let’s establish an important fact about the tenets of the stewardship principle: it is entirely up to you to adopt these tenets for yourself and find their applicability. There is no inherit power in me telling you, for instance, that everything in your life is a gift. You must find the way to see this truth for yourself.

Seeing everything in your life as a gift is first an exercise in observation. There must be recognition in your life of the various things that ought to be considered gifts, things like your time, your natural abilities, your experiences, etc. It’s up to you to take personal stock of your life and develop an awareness of the gifts in your life.

Some observations will be more obvious than others. You may be perfectly aware of your positive attributes, like organizational skills or a penchant for creative writing. Starting a list of these attributes is a great first step. Since we are often critical of ourselves, discussing these topics with friends is another way to help you take stock of your gifts.

Other observations may not be so apparent. It may be necessary for you to invest some time and money in personality testing to learn more about how you are wired as a person. Enneagram, DiSC profile, and Clifton Strengths are great resources for learning more about yourself. 

When going through an auditing process like the ones listed above, you will learn a lot about your strengths. You also learn about personal attributes that may be considered weaknesses. This is where it’s important to recognize that seeing everything in your life as a gift is second an exercise in perspective.

How can you find the good in the fact that you are scattered, disorganized, too rigid, or inflexible? Simple: the same way drivers benefit from road signs indicating trouble ahead. You adapt. You slow down, adjust course, or choose an alternate route. 

Knowing areas of personal struggle is a gift in that you know what type of work is unfulfilling, what types of situations to avoid, where to seek help, etc. You could try to improve on your weaknesses, or to double down on your strengths, the choice is yours once you are properly aware.

Developing this kind of awareness can be a challenge, especially if you’ve been hurt from others’ criticism of your unique makeup. Perhaps they couldn’t appreciate your creativity. Perhaps your attention to detail was inconvenient for them. Perhaps they lashed out because they felt threatened by your intellect. You might need healing and redemption. In that case, I encourage you to seek some help from a friend, a loved one, or a counselor of some kind.

Seeing everything in your life as a gift is third (and most importantly) an exercise in gratitude. Once you’ve made the observations and adjusted your perspective, it’s time to get thankful. Countless volumes have been written on the power of gratitude. Nearly every successful person will tell you that their achievements would not have been possible without maintaining a grateful mindset. 

Gratitude is acknowledging and accepting the goodness of your situation. Gratitude is humility and contentment not to want what someone else has. Gratitude enhances your ability to make good observations and identify helpful corrections to your perspective. This is what makes gratitude critically important for the entire Stewardship Principle. 

Conversely, jealousy, entitlement, and victimhood mentality are the most corrosive and counterproductive mindsets to have. They will keep you mired in negativity and cloud your judgement. You will miss opportunities because you will fail to see them for what they are. It’s detrimental to your personal development and success. 

In a nutshell, the whole exercise of seeing everything in your life as a gift is an act of your will. You must intend to see the world differently. It takes very little effort to just let life happen to you. It takes great effort to shape your world into one you can celebrate. I hope you’ll choose the latter. There’s a story only you can tell. I believe the world needs more great stories.

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