“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” — Melody Beattie
A couple years ago I wrote an article about gratitude after having dinner with a client and friend right near the start of the new year. During that dinner we discovered we were both searching for the same thing — a bigger helping of gratitude surrounding us. As 2014 begins, for different reasons, I find myself in the same place as the year’s beginning a couple years ago…feeling like a grateful heart makes a huge difference. Here’s the essence from that article…
Our focus at the beginning of each year tends to be on future ”resolutive” actions and a sense of hopeful future activities. This is a noble awareness and helps people to grow. However, it tends to set the tone toward an assumption that everything to date has been fully earned and we now need to push it up to the next level. I get that, but it seems to me (and a few other friends) there isn’t enough value or time placed against doing what everyone needs to hear more and express more — gratitude. Gratitude is the stuff that unlocks people’s potential and exposes the limits we place on ourselves. It is the ultimate motivational gift for others and an important enabling gift to ourselves.
So, why is gratitude important?
• It reminds us of the positive things in our lives.
• It puts in perspective what is important.
• It helps to make lemonade out of lemons and allows the bad to become good more easily.
• It prompts us to thank others and not take what others do on our behalf for granted. This is probably the most important reason. We all underestimate our power to move others and help them in little ways every day; expressing gratitude is our greatest tool to do so..
In the spirit of resolutions and improvement, here are a few tips for showing a deeper sense of gratitude to those around you.
• Act on thoughts of gratitude and thanks; don’t wait. Write the note or make the call that’s been in the back of your mind — don’t bury these thoughts of appreciation under a ”do this next” list, make these a priority and instant response so they become more habitual.
• Demonstrate to your team how to express gratitude — they’ll get it quickly and you will have changed the tone.
• Every day, in whatever type of reflection, prayer or thoughtfulness you do, include an overt expression of gratitude.
• Keep to-do lists from the year prior so you can remind yourself and others of the great things that have been accomplished. We all are so action and progress oriented that we lose track of what has been transformed and scaled. My early career mentor taught me this because he knew how I struggled to see enough progress every day. So he lengthened my view through this suggestion.
• Don’t sort gratitude only toward the positive side of the list. Give thanks for it all and don’t be so hasty in sorting things into positive and negative tallies. Negative experiences create growth too and showing appreciation, gratitude and an understanding furthers the learning. Also, cultivate a more curious and less fearful view of making mistakes.
Lastly, words become things. My mother always said to me ”your words become a stepping stone ahead of your actions.” A gracious heart breeds gracious words that somehow mystically help create a better reality — I think that’s what my Mom was talking about. I have learned it the hard way and have seen how wise she was. I’m still not very good at it, though.
Gratitude — that’s my resolution this year… AGAIN. I hope you’ll join me.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
— Marcus Tullius Cicero