3 Gratitude Practices I Tried That Turned Into Long-Term Habits


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In my twenties it seemed easy to maintain a positive outlook on life. It was a simpler time, where far less could go wrong. Over the years I started to accumulate responsibilities – and along with the good things, bad things happened. When I started my company, I faced new, unknown challenges. At some point, my business almost collapsed. As a result, my attitude shifted in a more negative direction. Business issues and other life responsibilities took over in 2007, turning some days into utterly bad days. My tone changed from upbeat to relaxed. I found it increasingly difficult to see the good in things. This change in attitude affected my health and led to even more “unhappiness.”

Although it wasn’t a conscious effort, I began to gather strategies to regain the happy, positive attitude of my twenties. I used to think that whether someone thinks the glass is half full or half empty is genetically hardwired. At some point I realized that any hardwiring could be overwhelmed by events. My parents taught me that a positive attitude is the basis for a good life. I never thought maintaining such a system would take practice or support, but as it turns out, yes, it does.

Today I practice three regular habits to keep my attitude positive.

Related: Fancy a Great Business and Life Hack? Learn to harness the power of gratitude. Find out how to do it.

1. The Greatest Hits Gathering

As a corporate leader, most of the company’s challenging issues end up on your desk. When you see so many problems, you feel like there are only problems. Rationally, that’s not the case, but to give the right perspective, we started our Greatest Hits meetings.

Every week at 9am, key people in our company share their latest and greatest hits for 10 minutes. Before the meeting, they fill out our unique post-it prompting them for their responses. Each person gives two examples of something they’re proud of: either something remarkable they’ve seen in someone else or something that’s happened at the company. They then share a personal hit – something from their personal lives for which they are grateful.

With six participants, we hear 18 positive things that went well every week. In one year that’s almost 1,000 good things! Without this process, I wouldn’t even be aware of most of these 1,000 greatest hits. The big benefit for me is that every week I’m reminded that 90% of things are going right, even when it feels like 90% are going wrong. It also boosts team morale and confidence.

2. Thankful Thursday

Another habit I developed is now known as “Thank You Thursday.” Every Thursday afternoon I thank others for what they have done for me over the past week.

I use a couple of prompts to do this. I write everything that happens on a Grateful for You notepad. I’ll keep my sticky note from the Greatest Hits meeting to encourage more ideas. I look at the previous week’s calendar to remember everything I’ve done and who I’ve met, and look at my phone pictures. I write everything on the Grateful notepad and then decide how best to appreciate these people.

This practice has grown to the point where I have a gratitude wall in my office with a series of cards that I send to people. I spend about 20 minutes sending out cards, letters, gifts and emails and entering relevant company items into a Core Value Highlights database.

This habit does more than you might think. Of course, this makes me aware of the things I have to be thankful for (usually four to eight a week) and appreciate them more.

Positive behavior, notable actions, and outstanding work performance are encouraged among team members. I find that people are consistently motivated when they are valued. If you do this well, they’ll be more motivated, repeat excellent performance, and enjoy better morale because they feel appropriately valued. I often see my notes on the walls of her office. I think that people’s good respect is a major factor in the high ratings we get on Glassdoor from former employees. In my experience, showing gratitude to team members gets me five times as much feedback as giving financial recognition in the form of a raise or a share in profits.

Non-employees are also recognized for their commitment to the company. Handwritten thank yous are so rare now that sometimes I even get a thank you for the thank you!

Related Topics: How to Practice Gratitude as a Business Skill

3. The 90/10 rule

Think about it: Most – say 90% – of the things you fear might happen never happen. It could actually be closer to 95%. When I first heard that 30 years ago, I didn’t necessarily believe it. But after 30 years of observing what I emphasize or what I think about versus the bottom line, the rule is absolutely true.

The trick is to retrain your human nature, which sustains itself through worrying, and try not to worry as life happens around you. That’s probably a whole article on its own – but if you get used to only “worrying” or thinking about it when it actually becomes a legitimate problem, you’ll be 90% happier.

The habits I practice are by no means a comprehensive list of how leaders can keep gratitude in their minds to help their business move forward and stay positive. But it is the three that I put into practice regularly. Each has nuances that are beneficial to me and my team (or both).

No matter how you incorporate gratitude into your business, I encourage you to do so. Start now, get creative, experiment with different techniques, and find what resonates the most—because everyone benefits from increased gratitude and innovative ways to incorporate it.

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