Gratitude: Expanding Your Life Experience
Friday October 4, 2013
Years ago while going through a personally challenging time in my life (that’s meta talk for an unwanted divorce), a friend and coach for leadership training in Denver asked me if I prayed. I replied yes and he said “what’s the content and context of your prayers?” I don’t remember my response (don’t want to remember?); but I clearly remember that his counsel was to shift my prayers to ones of gratitude, to thank God for my many gifts and for the additional gifts represented by my friends, family and colleagues.
Of course, he also told me to be grateful to my soon-to-be ex-wife and for the experience I was enduring – notice how I inserted that little victim role (enduring) even after all these years?
It took me a while to be grateful for that last part; however the benefits of expressing gratitude began to show up in my life immediately.
David Berenson has done some really useful thinking and teaching about emotions. In his “Map,” he makes useful distinctions between what he labels as “moods” like blame, guilt, resentment and hostility; then a next higher level he labels “emotions” like anger, hurt and fear; and the highest level that he labels “textures or context” which includes love, joy, peace and ……….
He considers these textures or context as “states of grace,” as being uniformly positive and felt everywhere in our bodies. I agree. Gratitude to me is not just a feeling or even an expression but rather a context, a space within which a more fulfilling, more satisfying life of contribution can be chosen.
Robert Emmons of the University of California-Davis found that extraordinary people who wrote down in weekly or daily journals five things for which they were grateful, were not only more joyful; they were healthier, less stressed, more optimistic, and more likely to help others.
In the workplace, there’s been considerable research that a major job satisfier is acknowledgement. When a direct supervisor or a peer or a subordinate simply and powerfully expresses gratitude, the results in pleasure and effectiveness for the receiver are immediate and substantial.
I don’t know why it is so difficult for us to give and/or receive expressions of gratitude and perhaps it is less important to understand that quirk of human nature than it is to simply adopt an “attitude of gratitude” (also an Amy Grant song title) and begin to “do it.”
Sooooooo ….. what are you grateful for?
Learn more below ….
EXTRAORDINARY LIVING ACTION STEPS
As I often say, these are simple and not always easy:
Writing down what you are grateful for helps to make them more concrete … plus you’ll probably be surprised just how much for which you should be grateful.
Some areas of gratitude for you to consider:
Teachers … past and present. Family … close and distant. Your friends and colleagues. Your various communities, local, national, vocational and spiritual. Your intimate relationships … past and present. Your own intelligence, wit, personality and well being. The natural world and especially those “special places” that mean so much to you.
Spend a few moments in prayer, meditation or contemplation being with the positive difference these “gratitudes” have made in your life and ask whether you need to take a “next step” and actually express your gratitude directly.
In these days of e mail and voice mail and instant messaging, consider a personal visit, a phone call or a hand written letter of gratitude. Form does matter and remember that many people struggle to accept praise and that you need to be OK with that.
Celebrate! How fortunate you are that you have so many sources of gratitude and the state of grace that this represents in your life.
And with a violation of my own advice in #4 by doing this in an article, please accept my gratitude as a Denver executive coach for the positive difference you make in my life by being part of my worldwide readership. Your feedback and dialogue, your choosing to share these messages with your network and your support of my work is deeply appreciated.
And, e mail or comment on anything you learn about you and others in this process – your experiences inspire and motivate me … and I promise to be grateful!