“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.
Eckhart Tolle, author
There may be days when you feel like there is very little if anything to be thankful for.
One of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” seminar participants said he had difficulty being thankful for his mother who never stopped talking about how difficult his delivery was. As he put it, “I was born during the Depression. It wasn’t the country’s. It was my mother’s.”
You may have difficulty … some days … being thankful for your partner who is overly critical. One man used to pray, “Lord, bring me success but help me keep humble.” Right beside him in the church was his wife. And she prayed, “Lord, you just bring him success, and I’LL keep him humble!”
You may have difficulty being thankful for your children. You’ve seen the bumper strips that boast “My kid is an Honor Student”. Another one of my seminar attendees said the best he could ever do is post a bumper strip that read, “My kid didn’t cut school today”.
And you may have difficulty being thankful for your relatives. Unlike Einstein’s theory of relativity that talked about physics, you have your own Theory of Relativity … and that is … “Time slows down when you’re with your relatives.”
If you have difficulty being thankful most of the time, you may be one of the many who suffer from Emotional Ignorance. And it’s a dangerous way to live. You may be killing off your health on a personal basis and your success on a professional basis.
As science is now proving,
1. Feeling grateful can actually make you healthier.
Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California has been interested in the role that gratitude plays in physical and emotional well being for a long time. So he took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on one of three things each week: hassles, things for which they were grateful, and ordinary life events.
The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong or was irritating to them, such as the “jerk who cut me off on the highway.” The second group honed in on situations they felt enhanced their lives, as in “My boyfriend is so kind and caring. I’m lucky to have him.” And the third group recalled recent everyday events, such as “I went grocery shopping.”
The results? The people who focused on gratitude were WAY MORE HAPPY. They saw their lives, their relationships, and their jobs in favorable terms. They were more optimistic, more energetic, more enthusiastic, more determined, more interested, and more joyful. They were less depressed, less envious, and less anxious. They reported fewer illnesses, got more sleep, and had fewer negative physical symptoms such as headaches or colds. AND, they acted in ways that were good for them. They instinctively spent an hour and a half more per week exercising than those who focused on hassles. Plain and simple, those who are grateful have a higher quality of life.
2. Feeling grateful makes you more effective interpersonally.
Dr. Emmons noted that feeling grateful paid off in ways that went beyond better physical and emotional health for one’s self. Being grateful actually makes you more effective with others. This is another aspect of Emotional Intelligence that I’ll talk about on May 22nd at my new LIVE webinar. You can register at
Dr. Emmons was said the grateful group “even seemed to be perceived as more helpful toward others, going out on a limb to help people.” He was surprised by this result, saying, “A feeling of gratitude really gets people to do something, to become more pro-social, more compassionate.” This did not happen in the other two groups.
So how do YOU become a more thoroughly grateful individual? It’s one of the points I explain in detail in my keynote address offered at various conferences, called “The Payoff Principle: How To Motivate Yourself To Win Every Time In Any Situation.”
But here are a couple of tips to get you started.
1. Look for the good in everything.
Very few things are totally 100% negative. If you have a difficult negative coworker, that might motivate you to take a course or read a book on “dealing with difficult people.” That’s good.
You may have a cheapskate miser for a relative. Of course, a miser isn’t any fun to live with, but he makes a wonderful ancestor. That’s good.
You may not like being single in a world that seems to made for couples. But hey, being single means you don’t have to leave a party just when you’re starting to have a good time. That’s good.
You may have been an overly worried and hyper-protective parent when your first child came along, so much so that you drove those around you crazy. But in the process of having and raising more kids you learned a better way to do things. That’s good.
For example, I remember a mother telling her son about how her mothering techniques had changed over the course of having five children. She said, “I definitely mellowed. When your sister coughed, I’d panic and call the ambulance. But when your youngest brother swallowed a dime, I just told him it was coming out if his allowance.”
And when I lost my ability to walk as a young man, I got serious about my eating and exercising habits … and regained all my abilities. That’s good.
So look for the good in everything.
2. Record your thanks.
Take a moment during the day to jot down three things that happened that day for which you are grateful. Anything that lifted your spirits, made you smile, or will add to your future happiness at home and success on the job.
After each situation or event for which you are thankful, write down WHY this was good for you. As Deborah Norville writes in “Thank You Power,” “Perhaps you received an e-mail from an old school friend who hadn’t been in touch for years and this reminded you of the good times you had together. It forced you to realize that people think of you even though you’ve had no contact with them, which must mean you’re a pretty special person.”
She’s right. I know. It just happened to me last week. I got a note from 95-year-old Curtis Rhodes who I have not seen for years and years, but he took classes from me when I was in my 20’s. He wrote to let me know he still thinks about me and how much he values what I taught him. Talk about a boost to my self-esteem. That went in my journal of thanks, for sure.
Keeping a journal of your thanks is not difficult and it does force you to look at life in a positive, concrete way. It forces you to focus on what went right instead of the inevitable things that went wrong.
There are two words that guarantee your happiness: “Thank you”. Use them!