This exercise is part of a series originally shared on Gather the Courage, guided journaling for creative leaders to reflect, be encouraged, and make courageous decisions.

An exercise to help you feel grounded, despite what might be happening around you.


Let’s begin by finding a comfortable place to sit and write. Maybe you have your notebook open to a blank page, pen in hand. Maybe you have your computer opened to a fresh document in your text editor, and you’ve turned off potential distractions.

Sit for a minute and take a deep breath. Notice your surroundings; notice how you are supported right now. Choose one thing you are especially grateful for in this moment. Maybe you have a few minutes to yourself in an otherwise chaotic day. Maybe you are enjoying the freshness of a new page or the fragrance of springtime. Whatever it is, hold it in your mind for a moment of appreciation. Close your eyes if it helps you focus.

If you’re finding it difficult to find one thing to appreciate right now, whether it is because your mind is jumpy or your day has felt especially bleak, it’s okay. Take a few deep breaths and feel the air fill your lungs.

Today I want to lead you through an exercise in groundedness. Groundedness is a quality of knowing where you stand, and that the ground is solid beneath your feet. It can be hard to stay grounded during a time when everything is changing and nothing is certain. But groundedness does not depend on your circumstances. You can find a place of groundedness, no matter what is happening around you.

While it’s difficult to describe groundedness concretely, we can find clues of its presence in moments of calm, confidence, and quiet strength. Think about moments when you have felt those qualities. What helps you experience groundedness? What gives you a sense of calm, confidence, and quiet strength? Take the next few minutes to free-write about it. I’ll be back to check in soon.


How’s it going? If you need more time, feel free to press pause and continue writing. Whenever you’re ready, we’re going to take a break from words and focus instead on the language of image. Sometimes a particular image can give us perspective that helps us quickly return to a place of groundedness. Consider this poem by Rainier Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly, and the way he uses the image of music to ground us.

My life is not this steeply sloping hour,
in which you see me hurrying.
Much stands behind me; I stand before it like a tree;
I am only one of my many mouths
and at that, the one that will be still the soonest.
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.

Now let’s explore what your own image for groundedness might be. Close your eyes and breathe deep. When you think about the things that make you feel calm, confident, and full of quiet strength, what images or ideas come up for you? Let your imagination wander.

Don’t worry if the images coming up for you feel silly or irrelevant or cliche. No matter what image your imagination comes up with, you can learn from it. Just keep letting your mind wander until you land on an image that resonates with you. If you’re having trouble thinking visually, think about ideas or phrases instead.


Have you landed on something yet? If you’re having trouble, feel free to use Rilke’s image of music, or you can borrow mine as a starting point. My image is a cozy house in a field full of orange and red poppies.

Once you have your image, take a few minutes to write about it — what is this image? What might it have to teach you about what groundedness means for you?

In the example of my cozy house in the poppy field, to me this is a symbol of the place I’m leading from when I’m at my best. In this house, I can be fully myself, surrounded by things that move me, reading books and writing and gardening and making delicious food. Beside my little house is a shed. It is where I store all of the “shoulds” that others wisely suggest, or that I put on myself. I can look at them in all their beauty and perfection, but return to my house and my garden as the place that holds the truth my decisions need to spring from.

Take a few deep breaths as you hold your own image in your imagination. What is this image, and what can it teach you about groundedness? I’ll be back in a few minutes to check in.


How was that? It may have come swiftly or it may have been challenging. You may now have an image you can bring to mind when you need to ground yourself, or you may want to keep exploring it. Either outcome is normal.

Whatever the case, when we make decisions from a place of groundedness, we allow ourselves to lead with calm, confidence and quiet strength. This is good not only for us and our own well-being, but is a contribution to everyone around us.

Check out the next Gather the Courage exercise: Flexibility.

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