“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Word
When I appeared on ABC News a while ago, I made the comment that nothing kills off a negative attitude quicker than an attitude of gratitude. But the TV anchor challenged me. He asked how a person could be thankful when there are so many problems in the world, in our organizations, and even our own lives.
I explained that wasn’t the issue. Problems are merely a distraction, but an attitude of gratitude is always possible… if a person has the right focus, discipline, and behavior.
And it’s critical that you develop such an attitude… because the most grateful people are the happiest people. And the least grateful people are the most stressed.
So how can you capture an attitude of gratitude? My “ATTITUDE” CD and my book entitled, “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success,” give you a step-by-step formula for getting and keeping a positive attitude.
As Craig Nushart from Miron Construction wrote, “Thanks for your seminar, ‘PIVOT’ book and ‘ATTITUDE’ CD. I and my wife have gone through the book and listened to the CD repeatedly. We even played the CD on a weekend get-away with our two kids, and they enjoyed it as well. I wanted to drop you a line and simply say ‘Thank you’ from me and my family. With the new attitude I’m carrying around, my blood pressure and stress levels have come down and there’s a smile on my face. Your material is realistic, funny, and uplifting.”
But what can you do RIGHT NOW to capture an attitude of gratitude?
=> 1. Accept the ever-abiding presence of problems.
That’s life. Accept it. Everybody has problems.
Well, just about everybody. The only ones that don’t have problems are buried in a cemetery somewhere. And for all I know, they may have some problems when they enter the after-life.
Refuse to be a “when-if” person. That’s what losers do. They say, “I’ll be thankful when… or… I’ll be grateful if…” But winners find ways to be thankful… despite their problems.
Spending so much of my life on airplanes, I was intrigued when I heard about the airline executive who thought he could eliminate all the problems associated with the airline industry.
His hopes were fulfilled when his team of engineers designed a completely automated plane for him. Computers would replace the pilots, the mechanics, flight attendants, baggage handlers, and everyone else. The executive was delighted because there would be no more errors and no more upset customers. All the problems of flying would be gone.
A demonstration flight was quickly arranged for his Board of Directors. Everything went perfectly. The plane took off, reached its cruising altitude, and leveled off. The directors loosened their seat belts, relaxed, and smiled.
Just as they were congratulating the executive, a voice came over the speaker system. It said, “This is your computer pilot speaking. Welcome to the completely automated airplane. Lunch will now be served. Merely press the button at your seat, and it will arrive automatically. After lunch, may I suggest you sit back and enjoy the flight?”
The pilot continued, “I am in complete control of the plane. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing wrong can go. Nothing go can wrong.”
Oh yes it can. You’re always going to have some problems. So get over it and decide to practice an attitude of gratitude… anyway.
=> 2. Become consciously aware of what you have to be thankful for.
And I do mean “CONSCIOUSLY AWARE.” Too many people live on auto pilot, not even noticing the blessings in their lives. And others take all the good things for granted.
But I prefer Ruth Ann Schabacker’s advice. She said, “Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” In other words, look, notice, and give thanks.
Hamilton Securities made it easy to practice an attitude when they published their list of what the world would look like if you shrunk the Earth’s population to a village of 100 people. Among other things, they said, “There would be…
80 people living in substandard housing, 70 would be unable to read, 50 would suffer from malnutrition, 1 would own a computer, and only 1 would have a college education.”
So if you can read, have a place to live, something to eat, and some education, you have more than enough reasons to be thankful.
It hit me especially hard back in the 1980’s when I was visiting the refugee camps in Thailand. I met with hundreds of people who had escaped the killing fields of Laos and Cambodia. And they were thankful… even overjoyed… just to have a bowl of soup in a thatched-roof hut. That pretty much took away all my excuses for whining about something.
=> 3. Be thankful for what you don’t have.
You can be happy… even if you don’t have everything. As I tell my coaching clients, “It is not what you have but what you enjoy that constitutes your abundance.”
For example, you could be THANKFUL FOR HAVING LESS junk around your house. As Sharon Robinson writes in “Slowing Down,” “Most of us have too much junk. We may not have all the things we want, but it’s almost certain we have plenty of things we don’t really need. These things get in our way and wear us down.”
Having less could be more. By eliminating the loud, ugly, extra, or distracting things in your environment, you may find less stress, more peace, and a stronger attitude of gratitude. In fact, it is always better to appreciate the things you cannot have than to have the things you cannot appreciate.
You might also be THANKFUL FOR NOT HAVING TO BE PERFECT. It’s like the man who arrived at the gates of heaven. St. Peter told him it takes 100 points to get in. So he asks, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
The man thought and said, “Well I helped out at the thrift shop for many years.” St. Peter answered, “That’s good. That’s 1 point.”
The man remarked, “1 point? Well, I taught Sunday School a couple of times.” St. Peter said, “That’s another point.”
The man continued, “I did put 10% of my income in the offering plate each week.” St. Peter replied, “Good. That’s one more point.”
Incredulous, the man said, “At this rate, I’ll never get into heaven except by the grace of God.”
St. Peter shouted, “Bingo. 97 points. Welcome home.”
So you can even be THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE.
There’s almost a perfect correlation between gratitude and stress. The more you practice an attitude of gratitude, the less stressed you’ll be.
Action: Find a quiet place outside… in the woods… on a beach… all by yourself. And say out loud 1000 times. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”