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The Thanksgiving holiday is around the corner in the United States and, as is the tradition, it is a great time to reflect on what we are grateful for. My intention in this short post is to leave you compelled and empowered to generate an attitude of gratitude with ease in any circumstance, not just the holidays, as well as enable you to bring out the same in others around you and therefore create a culture of gratitude wherever you go. I’d like to start by asking you to do a quick exercise with me before you proceed to read the rest of the post.
I’d like you to think of a time when you were abundantly grateful. I don’t mean a period of time in your life necessarily, but a specific moment in time when you were so filled with gratitude that you felt like even the most insignificant of things was the greatest gift and you were certain that everything would work out alright no matter what. If you have already thought of one such experience, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. For those who might want some examples, I can share some of my own experiences to help you get the gist of that feeling. I can think of many such moments in my life: The first time I laid eyes on my kids when they were born; the moment I saw my son take a deep breath after the candy he was choking on got dislodged while I was on the phone with 911 and trying the Heimlich maneuver; when my wife had a serious auto accident and survived with nothing but a few minor injuries. In those moments, I felt so grateful for what I had that there was no room for wishing I had something else and wondering how I would solve the problems in my life, etc. In those moments, I felt like there were no problems that were insurmountable and no challenges that I could not overcome. I took nothing for granted, and appreciated everything I had ever received, and just felt an ineffable sense of thankfulness toward existence itself.
What was your attitude during your moment(s) of intense gratitude? Although it is impossible to fully explain, I’m guessing you would describe it as feeling fulfilled, at peace, experiencing an abundance mentality rather than comparing yourself to anyone else, possessing a positive outlook that enabled you to see clearly that you could either overcome whatever challenges you faced or accept the situation and work with it.
The state of mind and the feelings I have described above are not the norm. On the contrary, what we see and hear in our communities is usually just the opposite, isn’t it? We take what we have for granted and we want more, we wonder why somebody else has more than we do, and we are always chasing that next thing that (we assume) will give us an experience of success and fulfillment that we never quite seem able to find.
Can you imagine a workplace, or any community or relationship for that matter, where an attitude of gratitude is abundantly present? What if leaders made sure that the people in their organizations knew that they were appreciated, and what if the employees were content and satisfied with the rewards and recognition they received, knowing that they were not taken for granted? What if husbands and wives consistently felt a sense of gratitude from each other? What if parents and children embodied this sense of gratitude in their relationships with each other? No one would dispute that the world would be a much better place if this were the case.
An attitude of gratitude can instantly change one’s lease on life and shift one’s behavior toward a more optimistic and proactive course toward a desired future, while simultaneously increasing contentment with what is present right now. The question is, “Why is it that a culture of gratitude is not more prevalent and what can we do about it?”
I believe the main barriers to creating cultures or relationships that are rooted in gratitude are as follows:
- We want someone else to go first.
- We think if we seem too grateful, we may be taken for granted and not given any more of what we want.
- We are afraid that contentment and gratitude will rob us of our ambition to go for more.
Let’s start with the first and biggest issue. We focus on reasons why other people should be more grateful while we justify our own lack of gratitude. Let’s face it, if we are all waiting for someone else, then we will never transform our culture or relationships. Someone has to go first…and that person is you! If you’re not willing to go first or you have all kinds of conditions before you yourself adopt an attitude of gratitude, you don’t want the benefits of causing the same in others or your community or workplace badly enough.
If you are willing to be the change you want to see in the world, you are already half-way there and must start by confronting your beliefs that have kept you from role-modeling such a mindset and behavior. One of those is the perception that your gratitude may be taken for granted and mistaken as complacency or low expectation. This is an extension of the first issue in that it assumes that others are out to take advantage of you and that they wouldn’t follow suit and express and extend their appreciation to you. This scarcity mentality is a blessing blocker and will always rob you of the fulfillment that comes from feeling and expressing gratitude. You must be intentional about letting go of this mentality.
Lastly, the false either/or mentality that we can either be content or grateful must be replaced with an and mentality. This issue arises because in our fast-paced world, we greatly value ambition, but we tend to erroneously conflate ambition with dissatisfaction with the way things are, in much the same way that we tend to conflate passion for a cause with drama about it. This antagonistic relationship between ambition and contentment is not necessarily true, however. It is absolutely possible to be completely content with where you are and what you have and experience the joy of what your present circumstances bring, and still be ambitious and enthusiastic about a future that is even better. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the first step to having what you want is to want what you have. In fact, I believe that until you complete yesterday, that is, fully accept the way things are, you will be very hard pressed to create tomorrow, i.e. make things better in the future.
One simple but powerful way to begin practicing this is by periodically making two lists. The first, of everything you are grateful for, and the second, of things that you are working toward. Review the former regularly and bask in the joy of having been blessed by all the items on that list, and go over the latter with the intent to strengthen your resolve to achieve and accomplish everything on that list. What I have found to be very effective is to enlist the help of a partner, someone who is important to you such as your spouse, best friend, coach, or significant other to go over these lists together. It is interesting how others tend to remind us of other things we can and should be grateful for and how much they can encourage us to go for the gusto and make the things that we want happen for us.
These simple individual practices are aimed at priming you to experience deep gratitude consistently without letting your thoughts and concerns derail you. This is an ongoing process and one where there is no finish line; the more grateful you become, the more things you realize you have to be grateful for. What helps this process is to get in action and outwardly express your gratitude with actions that not only further shape your own attitude, but perpetuate the kind of behavior you want to see in others in your organization or community or family.
I would encourage you to make it your mission to not only be grateful during special seasons but make it a daily habit, and regularly ask yourself what there is in your life that you may have taken for granted and pause to experience a deep sense of appreciation for what you have and where you are. I’d also encourage you to make it a habit to actively express your gratitude to others. Think of someone who has made a difference in your life and call them up and let them know how much you appreciated what they did for you. We all know from personal experience how much these seemingly small gestures can make a difference. So, in gratitude to those who have expressed their gratitude to us, let us pay it forward by expressing our gratitude to others.
Lastly, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the community that has faithfully supported or efforts to have the message of The Transformative Leader make a difference in the lives of people. I am grateful to everyone who has purchased my book, attended our workshops, made a comment on my posts or shared them with their community.
My wish for you is that you will give without remembering and receive without forgetting!
THE BOTTOM LINE:
An attitude of gratitude transforms one's experience of life and the level of success and fulfillment that people in organizations or communities experience. Creating a culture of gratitude starts with each of us. The willingness to go first in being thankful and expressing gratitude to others is key. Understanding the mindset and misconceptions that subconsciously prevent us from being more grateful, as explained in this post, enables us to consistently generate an attitude of gratitude under any circumstance.
Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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