Have you ever had one of those weeks where it felt like the entirety of existence was trying to make a point, specifically to you? Lately it seems like the universe is trying to teach me a lesson about gratitude. (Maybe it has something to do with all the thank you notes I still need to write from my wedding last month?) For whatever reason, gratitude and happiness, and their inter-related-ness, seem to keep popping up.
Given all the time I've recently spent cogitating on gratitude, I've come to a few conclusions that I'd like to share with you.
Gratitude: More than "Thanks for that pie plate"
Yes, it is important to thank people for presents and kind deeds, but it is often the less obvious ways in which we benefit that are the most important to give thanks for. When I was in college, I got stuck taking freshman composition as I had missed the deadline to test out of the course. The theme of the course was "Art and the Artist", and while my peers were turning in perfectly acceptable papers on famous artists and their work, I was consistently pushing the boundaries of what I considered boring assignments, to the point of ignoring rubrics and assignments and turning in the papers that I wanted to write.
At the end of the semester I made an appointment with my professor, Dr. Taylor, to receive my grade and overall review in his office, as was his practice with all his students. I sat down smiling, having been the obvious (and significantly less than humble) favorite student in the class. He shook his head at me while passing back my final paper, with it's expected A, and spoke words I will never forget. "You're absolutely wasted in this journalism program you're so excited about," he said. "When you finally figure it out, and switch your major to English, I want you to come back and tell me I was right about you."
Dr. Taylor left Kent State shortly thereafter; and it took me another year to switch my major to English. I've never gotten the opportunity to thank him for the impact he had on my life, but I feel that gratitude every time I sit down to a blank page and begin to write.
The thank you you're least inclined to give is probably the most important one
In this [awesome] video from SoulPancake we see a handful of people actually express their gratitude others who have been defining influences in their lives, like Dr. Taylor was in mine. These are hugely heartfelt moments that, when shared, cause an immediate and obvious change in the person doing the thanking.
Gratitude isn't just a cultural practice. It's been proven to have a positive impact on both parties. Yep, that's right... saying a meaningful and heartfelt thank you will make YOU happier too.
Leadership and corporate culture need a dose of gratitude as well
Gratitude is important in the workplace as well, and not just as a tactic to maintain harmony between colleagues. I recently read Corey Blake's article for Forbes: How to Lead from a Place of Gratitude: Six Lessons. Corey talks about how he was inspired to change his life after reading Robin Sharma's book The Leader Who Had No Title.
My favorite of Corey's lessons:
"Live from a place of gratitude. Robin’s books inspired me to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday morning (for the last 65 days now!) and spend 20 minutes journaling about what I’m grateful for and what I’m dreaming of becoming. That writing sets up my day from a place of appreciation vs. the fear or anxiety that can often drive me as an entrepreneur (maybe you can relate?). Coming from a place of appreciation all the time is a dynamic shift for me. I highly recommend you try it once and see how quickly it can impact your brain chemistry and then your behavior."
If you don't believe in the power of gratitude, or maybe if you just want to feel a bit happier yourself, I have a challenge for you. Go out and thank someone today. Thank a lot of someones, actually. Appreciate the time and effort of your employees and colleagues, tell your mom how much she really means to you, send a note to that teacher, coach, or mentor who changed your life for the better. It will make them happier; and it will make you happier too.