Coaching Corner: The Power of Gratitude
- Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Do you remember the last time you were literally overcome with gratitude?
Stop for a moment, and think back. How long has it been? What were you doing? What happened that caused you to feel so overwhelmingly grateful?
For most of us, such profound experiences of gratitude are rare. They usually come when someone does us a great favor, extends to us an unexpected and undeserved kindness, or forgives a great debt. Though they may not happen often, such experiences leave an indelible mark on our hearts. For a little while we become like children again – filled with wonder and awe and fresh excitement for life. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live in such a thankful state of grace all the time?
Actually, it isn't as farfetched a notion as you may think. Because in reality, having a grateful heart has much more to do with our choice than with our circumstance. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, "It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." So how would your life become richer if you actually made the choice to cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude?
I love author Melody Beattie's description of the richness gratitude can bring to our lives: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Sounds like a wonderful way to live, doesn't it? So what does it really look like to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" in our lives? While the answer will be different for everyone, here are some creative ways you can begin to deepen your experience of gratitude in your own life:
- Start a Gratitude Journal — Oprah made this idea famous a few years back, but its popularity has continued to grow. Why? Because it works! The idea is simple: At the end of every day, take a few minutes to list all the things you're thankful for that day. Then when you wake up the next morning, read what you wrote the night before. That's it. You'll be amazed at how such a small discipline can make such a huge difference in your perspective on your life.
- Write Thank You Letters — Create a list of the five most important people in your life, then write each one a letter telling them specifically, in detail, how they have blessed your life.
- Cultivate "Thankful" Moments — As you go through your day, consciously look for something new to be thankful for. Focus on the little thing ... a beautiful day, a child's laughter, a comfortable chair, a good meal. Find something new to be thankful for every day.
- Focus on the Good — Are there areas of life that you tend to complain about frequently? For example, we singles often struggle with the absence of romance in our lives, especially during the holiday season. Rather than focus on what’s not there, why not try a different approach this Thanksgiving? Ask yourself, “What are the gifts that singleness has brought to my life?” List them, then consciously thank God for them every day this month. Make the conscious choice to follow Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
- Practice Giving More — A huge part of deepening our sense of gratitude in life comes as we consciously choose to bless others in tangible ways. Look for little ways to bless someone in your life every day. Perhaps you can offer to buy someone a cup of coffee, or treat a friend to a movie. Sometimes something as simple as a hand on the shoulder or a small note of encouragement can make all the difference in another person's day – and deepen your own appreciation for life in the process.
Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally trained through the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, CA, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life – to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at www.michaelwarden.com.
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