Being thankful is nice. But EXPRESSING your gratitude? That’s a game changer.
I was excited and a bit nervous. I was about to do something that would either be profoundly transforming, or a huge flop. But I knew I needed to do it, because I couldn’t think of any other way to handle what I was going through.
Here’s how it happened.
I had been going through a pretty rough time in my personal and professional life. In the month of May, I started performing a sales role that was pretty different from the one I had previously performed. I was stressed because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to perform as well in this new role. I was worried about my ability to provide for my family. I felt tons of anxiety because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
To make matters worse, it was also the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. He had passed away the previous year and although I thought I had come to terms with it, I really hadn’t. It still hurt.
These, along with other difficulties were making it nearly impossible to remain optimistic. My emotions felt out of control and I had to fight daily to stay sane.
Needless to say, if I didn’t do something about it, May was going to be a difficult month. Then something changed.
A Simple Reminder
One day, I heard a sermon on gratitude. The speaker gave a passionate talk on the importance of practicing gratitude.
And something awoke inside of me.
The subject of gratitude was not new to me. It wasn’t the first time I listened to a talk on gratitude. Years before, I learned about the benefits of gratitude at a sales training.
The training made such an impression on me that I decided to start keeping a daily gratitude journal. I started each day by taking 5 minutes to write a list of things I was grateful for. I immediately noticed a difference.
I was in a much better mood. I was able to deal with my stress in a way that was much more healthy and productive. And my performance improved dramatically.
Later on, I stopped doing the journal each day, but I would still keep up with it sporadically. Since I had done it for so long, I found myself habitually focusing on the things I was grateful for even when I didn’t write in my journal.
I took this sermon as a sign that I should once again start integrating gratitude into my life. I figured that it was the best way to deal with everything… I already knew that gratitude was a great way to balance out my negative thoughts with positive thoughts. So I decided to start again.
I resolved to start writing in my journal again every day. I was excited to get started!
Then, I got another idea.
I decided I would take it a step further. Instead of writing down the things I was grateful for each day, I was going to express gratitude to at least one person every day.
I decided to do this for 30 days. It become my own 30-day gratitude challenge. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be something great.
So I got started.
Working The Plan
I made a gratitude list. I included anyone in my life who had brought something positive at one point or another. Then, I worked the list.
Since I express myself better by writing I chose to use email. Every day I sent at least one email (most of the time I sent more) to someone to whom i wanted to express gratitude.
Each email was a heartfelt expression of gratitude. it wasn’t just a simple “thank you.” It was important that I truly expressed how they affected me.
I focused on three different things:
- The action: What they did.
- The impact: How it affected me.
- Them: What I thought of them because of it.
It was important for me to do it this way because I really wanted the recipients to know how much their actions mattered to me. I wanted them to see how important they were and what I thought of them.
After a few days into it, I couldn’t believe what was happening. The responses shocked me. I figured it would get a positive response, but I had no idea how deeply people would be impacted by it.
I began to get responses telling me the effect my words had. There were some who even had tears. It was unbelievable.
A few of the recipients told me that when they received my email, they had been feeling low at the time. They felt like the things they were doing didn’t matter. The emails that I sent made them realize that their efforts were appreciated. It showed them that they really are important.
It was at this point that I realized how powerful gratitude is. Living a grateful lifestyle helps you have a positive impact on those around you. By expressing gratitude, you can be the one who brightens the days of the people in your life. It’s a great feeling.
The experience was both exhilarating and humbling.
The reality was that all I did was send an email. But it was so beautiful in its simplicity. It’s amazing what a simple expression of gratitude can do.
But there was more.
Along with the relational benefits of my 30-day gratitude challenge, there were other positives. Even though I hadn’t yet adjusted to my new sales role, I performed better than I ever had before. I was one of the top-ranked agents for the month. I attribute this directly to gratitude.
I also found that it was easier to deal with the other issues I was dealing with. Even though gratitude didn’t make the issues go away, it made them easier to deal with.
Honestly, I felt invincible. Because of gratitude, I felt like there was nothing the world could throw at me that I couldn’t handle.
Why Is Gratitude Important?
The reason gratitude is so important is because it touches one of our most profound needs as human beings: the need to feel important. It’s really that simple.
We all need to feel like we matter.
When you show true gratitude to another person, you are showing them that they matter. You are telling them how important they are to you. Unfortunately, gratitude is a gift that we don’t give often enough.
Sir William Arthur Ward said:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
It’s true. We often feel grateful for what other people do for us. However, we have a tendency to only recognize these things internally. We don’t let the other person know how they have impacted us.
It’s a little sad when you think about it.
In our culture, gratitude is relegated to something we do when someone opens the door for us or serves us our meal at a restaurant. It’s something we do to be polite.
But gratitude is so much more than that.
One of the things I discovered through my gratitude journey was that a lot of the people who had affected me had no idea they had even done it. They didn’t know how much their actions meant to me.
But now they do. And it’s awesome.
The beautiful thing about gratitude is that not only do you make the other person feel important, you also do the same for yourself. When you see how much your gratitude impacts others, you feel important because you’re brightening someone’s day.
Gratitude also has other benefits. There have been scientific studies that have shown that practicing gratitude makes you happier, healthier, and more productive. It’s because true gratitude forces you to focus your attention on the things in your life that are going right.
Normally, we tend to think primarily of the things that frustrate us. We do it all the time. Then we wonder why we’re so stressed out or depressed. Gratitude is the perfect way to balance out your thought life, which makes it easier to be happy.
Adopting a grateful lifestyle isn’t easy. It’s a skill you have to practice. You have to commit yourself to practicing it regularly until it becomes a habit. When you make gratitude a habit, it will change you forever.
I haven’t done another 30 day gratitude challenge yet, but I plan to do more throughout the coming year. It’s something that I’ve become passionate about. I’m so glad I discovered the true significance of gratitude. It’s helped me in both my personal and professional life.
But what about you? How often do you feel stressed and frustrated. If you’re like most people, you probably find it hard to focus on the positive more than the negative.
Perhaps you should try your own gratitude challenge. You don’t have to do it exactly the way I did it. But you should try it. Make your own gratitude list. Take some time each day to thank someone on that list. I can guarantee that you will see a huge difference in your life.
If you take it seriously enough, gratitude can seriously change your life. You will become much happier. You will become someone who makes those around you happier as well.
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Photo: Getty Images