Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine, January/February 2019 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Links are additions made expressly for the readers of this site and ManagingWithAloha.com.
Previously in this series: Mālama ka po‘e (Sixteenth in Series 2)
Mahalo, “Way of Living”
“Thank you, as a way of living.
Live in thankfulness for the richness that makes life so precious.”
Seventeenth in Series Two on Managing with Aloha | By Rosa Say
Mahalo has become as universally understood as Aloha. Or so we think. Like Aloha, it is vastly underestimated.
Many will often say Mahalo in rote reaction off-handedly, to simply convey “thank you” quickly, and a bit too dismissively. As a value however, Mahalo includes thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude as a way of living. Like all values, it will drive our behavior when we choose it intentionally.
When owned as our value, Mahalo fires up those three attitudes within us consistently and pervasively, so they can become our nature. We instinctively will live in thankfulness for the richness which makes life so precious at work, at home, and in whatever our environs may be. We are able to sense our talents elementally as forces which ground us, and we tap into them more easily, to use them as the gifts they truly are.
Mahalo helps us see abundance in times of scarcity; it replaces longing with contentment; it guides us toward understanding what we have rather than dwelling on what we don’t have.
Mahalo was first explained to me this definitively many, many years ago by Auntie Malia Solomon, then Kupuna in Residence at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. I was 21, a management trainee fresh out of college. Auntie’s passion and eloquence were so strong my memory remains strong as well: I can easily recall her alo, her presence and demeanor. I remember the serene mix of belief and contentment on her face as she spoke. A handful of us sat together on the lauhala mat covering the floor of her wahi, her ‘place’ she refused to call an office, stringing lei for a staff event. As we did so, we talked story about why she would always say, “Maaahalo” dragging out that first syllable softly yet habitually.
She explained that prolonging her way of saying Mahalo improved how she practiced it. Taking her time in voice, fit in more time and space to simultaneously “recall the three in kaona (hidden meaning)”—thankfulness, appreciation, gratitude.
Thankfulness that you have it, whatever ‘it’ might be in the present moment, and whether you sense it, you get it, or you are it.
Appreciation enough to feel it clearly and as completely as possible—to understand the gift or gifts within, and have it be enough. Appreciation for others who might be connected, and who remain part of your life.
Gratitude that you are human, and thus, can make your findings humanly possible, and even more expansive. You are capable of turning the abundance you have into richness and well-being.
You are blessed. You need not want for more.
In management, we’d call Mahalo a value-packed Rule of Three, and what a wonderful one it is! In Managing with Aloha, we call Auntie Malia’s “Maaahalo” a voicing of her positive expectancy and her self-leadership. Mahalo became ‘Imi ola, “seeking [her] best possible life.”
Mahalo is the opposite of indifference and apathy, for it is the life perspective of giving thanks for what you have by using your gifts—and all of your gifts—in the best possible way. The thankfulness of Mahalo keeps you aware. The appreciation of Mahalo helps you keep your innate talents accessible, relevant and useful.
When you consider gratitude actionable in the way Auntie Malia taught it, Mahalo clearly can deliver tangible, worthwhile, positive results.
Faithful readers of this column know that we are systematic and sequential with the 19 Values of Aloha of Managing with Aloha, as we “Value our month to value our life” with our 5 Aloha Intentions (live, work, speak, manage and lead). In our way of living, Mahalo follows what we’ve learned from Alaka‘i, leadership, and precedes what we will learn from Nānā i ke kumu, Pono, and Ka lā hiki ola as “the dawning of a new day.” Yet don’t you love it when the calendar conspires with us so serendipitously, and so collaboratively?
It will be January, 2019 when you read this, and as a brand new year begins we can use our value immersion with Mahalo to not want, and to instead be thankful, appreciative, and grateful. If you write resolutions, and wish to keep that proactive habit, align them with Mahalo this year, by writing them with gratitude—with your thankfully noticed, appreciatively learned “findings made humanly possible.”
Know where you are, to better understand where you will go. You are all you need.
As a manager, tell your team they are all you need. Work with them to prove you believe it.
As a leader, continue to expect good things, and to expect even better. Guide well, to bring others with you in achieving greatness.
Say, “Maaahalo” thoughtfully, with the space to recall, to believe, to commit. Mean it. Demonstrate it as your way of living, and you will have the best year ever.
Hau ‘oli Makahiki Hou—Happy New Year, and Maaahalo for reading.
Next issue: We revisit Nānā i ke kumu, the Hawaiian value of personal well-being.
Rosa Say is a workplace culture coach, a zealous advocate of the Alaka‘i Manager, and the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. Contact Rosa at www.RosaSay.com, and discover more about the Managing with Aloha philosophy at www.ManagingWithAloha.com.
Postscript: Ke Ola is published 6 times a year, and distributed in print on Hawai‘i Island and by subscription. I have therefore made a practice of archiving the articles on RosaSay.com for those within our Ho‘ohana Community who may want to read them.
You can access all 20 articles I had written for Series 1 via this index. The inaugural column for Series 1 may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?” and here for Series 2: Aloha Intentions.