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FOCUS: Gratitude

Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Systems Thinking

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.
Cicero

Thanksgiving may come once a year, but gratitude is such a powerful phenomenon it’s worth cultivating for everyday use!  Gratitude is many things:  a feeling, an attitude, a practice, a way of life.

A Feeling

Amazing things happen in the brain and body when we experience the feeling of gratitude.  Gratitude opens our hearts. Research has shown that feeling grateful can literally shift our hearts into a healthy heart frequency. 

When we feel grateful, our brains flood with chemicals — endorphins — that make us feel good. It’s also true that we can’t feel grateful and have a negative emotion such as anger or fear at the same time.  That’s worth remembering!

An Attitude

When we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, it expands our world and attracts people to us.  (Blaming, complaining, and judging contract our world, making us less attractive and more isolated.)  We can “act as if” in developing this attitude.  We can love even when we don’t feel loving and be kind even when we’d rather be surly.  In a neat twist, an attitude of gratitude often shifts our feelings.

A Practice

Pessimists are people who have exercised their muscles of negativity and lack until those muscles are very strong.  Optimists are people who have developed their gratitude muscles.  The real gift is when, through practice, gratitude becomes a way of life.

It strikes me that experiencing gratitude for small things may be the only way to thrive and remain cheerful in the long haul, through the big difficulties of our individual and collective lives. Often gratitude for small things brings us right to the present moment. The past may be painful, the future murky, but here, now, right this minute, I might be having an absolutely delicious cup of coffee. Or a neighbor brings me a cartoon, and I’m tickled and laugh, grateful for the small and precious moment of sharing.

Coaching Tips

I encourage you to develop your gratitude muscles until they are strong and automatic, making gratitude a way of life.  Here are some things that will help:

  • Count your blessings! Stop right now and write down at least ten things you’re genuinely grateful for.  Include small things and large, such as:  the fact that you woke up this morning, that you are loved, that the sun is shining, that you love many people, that strawberries are in season, the support you get from others, your devoted dog, etc. etc.
  • Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Use any spiral notebook, or check online for a gratitude journal especially for keeping track of what you’re grateful for.
  • Think of someone in your life who annoys you. Now think of two things about that person you’re grateful for.  Notice how quickly a feeling can change depending on what you focus on.
  • If you have trouble thinking of things you’re grateful for, be ridiculous.  Be grateful for bad things that haven’t happened – you don’t have Alzheimer’s, for example.
  • Start a meeting by sharing what you’re grateful for.  Include progress on projects, help received from various people both in and out of the room.  You’ll be amazed at the positive energy this generates.
  • Read Attitudes of Gratitude, How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life, by M.J. Ryan.

 

Invitation

There will be no telegathering this month because I am traveling. But, as always, I would love to hear from you, including what your experiences with gratitude.

Reach me: 412-741-1709 or e-mail sharon@hopellc.com. I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone. Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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