I love this time of year. Partially because I love all things pumpkin and all of the glorious good food that comes with the holiday (I do love to eat!), but also because there is something very special about a day that is centered around gratitude.
Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Being thankful for all of the good things in your life. And it is a nice reminder of how lucky I am. I have a wonderful family and 4 cute fur babies, I live in a country where you can go from growing up on welfare to starting your own company, and I have a successful career where I get to work with talented people. Pretty amazing, right?
I bet that you are thankful for a lot of things in your life, too. And that is why I want you to get grateful!
Being grateful is good for you!
Every day, we focus on the things we need to get done. And this execution is what leads to our success. But in the harried world of to do lists and tasks it is easy to get caught in the whirlwind of doing. This makes it even more important to take a moment, reflect, and be grateful.
I very rarely meet a leader that says they give enough praise. Most of us are much better at giving criticism. However, being grateful makes everyone happier, and there is strong evidence we should be much more liberal with our thanks.
There is a lot of research on this topic, and being grateful does a lot for you; it also does a lot for the person you are praising. Here are some examples:
In a study conducted by Dumas, Johnson and Lynch (2002) called Likableness, Familiarity and Frequency of 844 Non-Descriptive Words the word “grateful” was classified among the top 4% of likable traits. On the contrary, the word “ungrateful” was indicated as one of the least likable and negative traits.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a positive psychologist from the University of California, Riverside, successfully demonstrated that being grateful can make you happier. This is a great little video on the link between happiness and gratitude.
Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California, Davis conducted research that showed that being grateful can have psychological benefits (alertness and wakefulness, higher levels of joy, pleasure, optimism and other positive emotions), physical benefits (improved immune system and blood pressure, decreased occurrences of aches and pains, more inclined to exercise and healthy living, and better sleeping patterns) and social benefits (feeling less lonely and demonstrating better social interactions).
Let’s get grateful!
The data shows being grateful is good, right? I have detailed a gratitude plan for you to get grateful and start spreading some happiness around.
Step 1. Make a list of 100 good things in your life.
This is all about changing your focus on looking at your world in a new light.
You will find it is pretty easy to list 10. Maybe even 20. But 100? Well you are going to have to think hard. And this is the point: by getting in the space of thinking through so many positive things in your life your mindset is going to shift. You will start to examine the small things. You will start to see things a little differently and appreciate all the little things you love.
For example, once I listed all the obvious ones I had to start thinking of the more obscure things I don’t normally contemplate or put energy into.
Here are some items from the end of my list:
- hot chocolate with marshmallows
- beautiful autumn leaves on the trees
- baby laughter
- feeling the sand on my bare feet
Step 2. Write a heartfelt letter to someone from your past.
I had a wonderful woman Eileen who was like a second mother to me throughout my childhood. She passed away this summer, but before that happened I was able to send her a note (it was a facebook message) telling her how much she meant to me and how grateful I was to her for all that she did.
At her memorial service her daughter-in-law told me she found the message and that Eileen had printed it out and saved it because it meant so much to her. It made me feel so good that I actually took the time to tell her.
Think about someone who changed you, someone who helped you become the amazing person you are today. Maybe it is your parents, a teacher, or a friend. Then write them a letter and let them know. It will make their day, I promise. And how good would it feel to make someone else that happy?
Step 3: Write a note to your teammates.
This week take a moment to send each person on your team a little note, letting him or her know something that they have done well. Your note doesn’t need to be long but it should be:
Personal. This is from you, not the company. Make it about your gratitude and your personal thoughts.
Specific. The more specific the better. Giving details helps the person understand what it was they did well. Instead of “you did a great job handling that problem”, tell them why they did a great job; was it their reliability and being there when you needed them, or their ability to figure things out quickly because they have done such a good job learning the systems?
The more specific you are, the more they will understand what you value, and that will have the consequence of reinforcing that behavior in the future.
(If you want more tips on writing thank yous, I thought that this guide was good one.)
Step 4. Make it a habit.
Don’t wait for thanksgiving to give thanks. Add a calendar appointment to tell someone thank you each week. You don’t have to make it a big production (gifts, handwritten stationery, etc. – although those are nice things); just a simple email is all you need.
Now, stop reading and start doing! Put your wonderful execution skills into some reflective gratitude. Oh, and happy thanksgiving.