It’s that time of the year.... As we enter the month of November, Thanksgiving is upon us and many of us bloggers write about gratitude. I am no exception to that. One thing that I want to stress this year is that gratitude makes a surprising difference to business performance.
Look at these stats....
- Gratitude actually improves our quality of sleep. In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal slept about 30 minutes more per night, woke up feeling more refreshed, and had an easier time staying awake during the day compared to those who didn’t practice gratitude.
- The practice of gratitude is linked to lower levels of hostility and aggression. Consistently practicing gratitude can decrease aggression by 20-30%.
- The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study on blood flow in certain brain regions when feelings of gratitude are present. The study showed an increase in hypothalamic activity, which has a positive influence on metabolism and stress levels.
For some of us, these stats make sense. We’ve led lives that have a good deal of gratitude in them. But for the majority of us, we have not led such lives.
Gratitude seems elusive. It seems to happen without our control. What if I told you there was a way you could become grateful right now, no matter what mood you are in? It's possible!
Where Does Gratitude Come In
First, we will look at how gratitude comes and then we will use a tool that will shift us into a state of gratitude.
Gratitude comes when:
- A hard time is resolved.
- We receive a gift that hit home.
- We focus on what’s beautiful regardless of whatever hard circumstances we are facing.
- Someone shares their gratitude story, and through being empathetic, we feel grateful as well.
- We remember times in the past when we felt grateful.
What we need to do is have one place we can turn to that chronicles the times in the past when we were grateful and repeatedly turn to that tool whenever we sense we’ve become entitled, arrogant, down or just know we need to experience more gratitude.
I've developed a Gratitude Chronicle to help us track our gratefulness.
- In column A, write the date in which the event happened.
- Column B assumes that there was a really tough time you went through before you felt grateful. You want to detail the facts and what you felt about the facts to such a degree that you start to feel those dark emotions again. Please don't move to the next column until you start to feel those darker emotions.
- In column C, you want to detail the facts and what you felt about the facts as to how it was resolved. You should describe these so well that you lift out of the dark emotions into a state of gratitude.
- Column D involves listing times when you felt grateful for other reasons such as you receiving a gift, joyful moments throughout the day, or intentionally seeking gratitude in mundane life. Finally, you can also list times that you felt grateful through someone else’s gratitude story.
Do you want a template for what that can look like?
My Experience with Gratitude
Here is one of my entries for each of the gratitude categories we discussed above:
Hard Time Lifted
When I was first starting my practice, I had a bunch of referral sources tell me that they were going to send me clients. With all of the anticipated revenues, I rented a small office, developed marketing materials, and began to take other referral sources to lunches. The first month, only one new client showed. The next month another showed. Then for the next three months, there weren't any new clients.
I wondered what happened. Referral sources said they were surprised that none of their referrals had contacted me.
I was feeling really anxious. My wife was a stay-at-home mom, and we had three kids under three. I was starting to doubt if we were going to make it.
We even considered moving in with her parents, who are the best in-laws anyone could hope for, but we did not want to burden them or wreck their pristinely-organized home with three kids’ worth of toys.
As things seemed desperate and when it felt like something needed to give, I sent out tons of resumes and got no responses. The country was in a bad recession, and it was hard for a veteran of self-employment to be seen as an attractive prospect.
Then it happened. In one week, 15 new clients showed up, and within six weeks several training gigs had landed.
I remembered when I complained to my wife about the pace at which I was working she turned to me and said, “I'm just grateful we don't just have a handful of clients.”
Then the gratitude hit me. In the busyness of serving, I had not taken the time to dig into gratitude.
Received a Gift
For a year, I lived with a really talented artist. I was particularly drawn to one of his paintings. So, he gave me a print of his work. I moved a few times after that year to be closer to work, then to grad school, then into the new place my wife and I chose after we married.
In the process of all of these moves, I thought I lost the print and was bummed about it.
Unbeknownst to me, my wife hunted high and low in our basement, found it, and had it framed. She then wrapped it in a beautiful Christmas wrapping and presented it to me on Christmas morning.
It was the best Christmas gift she had ever given me. I was incredibly grateful.
Someone Else's Gratitude Story
Four years ago, a client was placed at the helm of a stagnant team. The division that he was now heading was viewed as insignificant. Within three years, he and the team tripled the revenue of that division. They were seen as the golden team. Then, through an unforeseen event, they started the new year severely down. It looked like the golden team was going to bronze over as there were no ideas as to how to turn the revenues around.
Instead of lowering the bar, he kept the goal the same and had a team meeting to talk about how they were handling the downturn.
Then, as high performing teams do, they got creative and worked smart.
A few months later, he let me know that their smart work paid off. They had turned the situation around and were going to exceed the original goal.
Sensing his gratitude for the turnaround, I started smiling from ear to ear. I felt so grateful. It is such a great turnaround that when I think of the details of what he and his team did, I immediately feel grateful.
What are Three Things You Are Grateful For Today?
When I was struggling to see good in life, my wife bought a bunch of plaques with gratitude messages on them and strategically placed them around the house where I could see them from my usual places to sit.
If she saw I was down, she would come up to me and ask me, "What are three things that you are grateful for?" This simple question asked with frequency was extremely helpful.
Now, from time to time, I ask myself that question, and I capture it in the Gratitude Chronicle.
Gratitude is an amazing gift that does wonders for our spirit. It can change the perspective on a dark time. Taking it seriously will pay dividends.
Chew On This:
- What’s going to be your first gratitude entry?
Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.
*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients. No one single client is being singled out.