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Positive Change

Beginning and Ending with Gratitude

I’ve experimented with gratitude for many years. It started with me wanting to believe its value. Now, there was this messy middle of my experiments where I would find myself frozen with inaction, insincere, and awkward. I had to build the courage to notice and appreciate others. To my surprise, it wasn’t a noble deed for them, rather; it built an energy store for me. An energy store that I could use to great effect and impact.

Even in the face of extreme difficulty, there is much to be grateful for. Gratitude is a matter of choice, we can always focus on what and who we are grateful for. It helps us get grounded and build the energy to move forward in seemingly intractable situations. As a student and practitioner of complexity, I’m always looking for differences that make a difference. Practicing and expressing gratitude is one of those differences. 

I was in China on an international assignment for 3 months and conducted several workshops for the coaches. I ran a gratitude workshop that I learned from Dr. Glenda Eoyang near the end of my assignment. I knew it would be impactful, what I did not know was that it would create ripple effects of positivity. One of my associates there recently reached out to me and was delightfully describing how she loves it and how she’s facilitated in different settings including an extended leadership team meeting. She felt it spoke to her and that she’s finding the same spark light up with others. (I intend to write up instructions for the workshop in a subsequent blog post)

None of what I have said so far should be earth shattering. It’s common sense, it’s simple. Yet, I find people surprised when I thank them for something they did or for the bright smile they brought to work today or that I’m just grateful to see them. It’s simple, and yet, it isn’t easy without deliberate practice.

One of my mentors helped me realize my own limitations when he asked me to thank five people every day until it becomes an unconscious habit. And man, was it hard. I would make excuses, say that it feels weird. And as hilarious as it would sound, he said I should be already 50% done before I even leave for work by thanking people in my household. He wouldn’t let me get away with excuses. 

And I’m grateful to my mentor for that. When I offer reinforcing feedback or thanks to others, I build my energy reserve. I feel more positive throughout the day.

I’ll leave you with a meeting warm-up that I love doing. And I encourage you to try it with your team.

Invite people to answer a question in the category of gratitude. You may ask “what are you thankful for? Or you can change it up for limitless possibilities. The advice here is to pick only one question and model the behavior by going first. Here are two examples I’ve used in the past:

What fills you with gratitude right here, right now?

As you reflect on the past (day, week, month), who do you feel thankful to?

And now it’s your turn.

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