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


May 17, 2023
3 Gratitude Practices I Tried That Turned Into Long-Term Habits


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In my 20s, it seemed easy to maintain a positive outlook on life. It was a simpler time with a lot less that could go wrong. As the years passed, I started collecting responsibilities — and bad things happened along with the good. When I started my company, I faced new, unchartered challenges. At one point, my business nearly collapsed. As a result, my outlook shifted to a more negative place. Business problems and other life responsibilities in 2007 took control and made some days outright bad ones. My tone changed from upbeat to downbeat. I started having trouble seeing the good in things. That change in outlook affected my health, inviting more “misfortune.”

Though it wasn’t a conscious effort, I began to collect strategies to recapture the happy, positive mindset of my twenties. I had previously thought that whether a person thinks the glass is half-full or half-empty was genetically hardwired. At some point, I realized that any hardwiring could be overpowered by events. My parents taught me that a positive attitude was the foundation for a good life. I never thought that maintaining one would take practice or need support, but as it turns out: It does.

Today, I practice three regular habits to keep my outlook positive.

Related: Want A Major Business and Life Hack? Learn to Harness the Power of Gratitude. Here’s How to Do It.

1. “The Greatest Hits” meeting

As a business leader, most of the company’s challenging issues make their way to your desk. When you see so many problems, you get the feeling that’s all there is — problems. Rationally, you know that is not the case, but in order to instill the proper perspective, we started our “Greatest Hits” meetings.

Every week at 9 a.m., the key people in our company share their latest and greatest hits for 10 minutes. Prior to the meeting, they fill out our unique Post-It prompting their answers. Each person shares two examples of something they are proud of: either something noteworthy they saw someone else do or something that happened around the company. They then share a personal hit — something from their personal life that they are thankful for.

With six attendees, each week we hear 18 positive things that went right. In a year, that’s almost 1,000 good things! Without this process, I would not even be aware of most of these 1,000 greatest hits. The huge benefit to me is a weekly reminder that 90% of things are going right, even when it feels like 90% are going wrong. It boosts team morale and confidence, too.

2. Thankful Thursday

Another habit I developed is now known as Thankful Thursday. Every Thursday afternoon, I express gratitude to others for what they have done for me over the prior week.

I use a few prompts for this. I jot down things as they happen on a “Grateful to You” notepad. I keep my post-it note from the Greatest Hits meeting to spark other ideas. I look at the prior week’s calendar to jog my memory on everything I did and who I met with and review my phone pictures. I write it all down on the Grateful notepad, then decide how best to appreciate those people.

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

This habit accomplishes more than you might think. Of course, it makes me realize all the things I have to be thankful for (usually four to eight each week) and appreciate them more.

With team members, it reinforces positive behavior, noteworthy actions and standout job performance. I find that people are universally motivated by being appreciated. When you do a good job of that, they are more motivated, repeat the excellent performance and enjoy better morale for feeling properly appreciated. I often see my notes on their office walls. I think doing a good job of appreciating people is a major contributor to the high ratings we receive on Glassdoor from former employees. In my experience, I receive five times the feedback from showing gratitude to team members compared with monetary recognition in the form of raises or profit sharing.

Non-employees also enjoy being recognized for doing something for the company. Handwritten thank-yous are rare enough now that sometimes I even get thank-yous for the thank-yous!

Related: How to Practice Gratitude as a Business Skill

3. The 90/10 Rule

Think about it: most — let’s say 90% — of the things that you worry may happen never come to pass. It might actually be more like 95%. When I first heard that 30 years ago, I didn’t necessarily believe it. But after 30 years of observing what I stress or think about versus the final outcome, the rule is absolutely true.

The trick is to retrain your human nature that self-preserves by worrying to try not to worry while life is happening around you. That is probably a whole separate article unto itself — but if you can train yourself to only “worry” or dwell on something when it actually becomes a legitimate problem, you become 90% happier.

The habits I practice are by no means an all-inclusive list of how leaders can keep gratitude top-of-mind to elevate their companies and stay positive. But they are the three that I put into regular practice. 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 most — because everyone benefits from an increase in gratitude and innovative ways to incorporate it.

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