In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share a brief story.
If you’re going through a difficult time, if you’re frustrated, if things aren’t going your way, this is something that may be helpful to you. I know it was for me.
A few years ago, I felt that every day was a bad break. Things weren’t going my way. I was constantly frustrated and scared. I was dealing with all these different challenges in the business and my personal life. I just kept thinking, “Why me? Will this bad luck ever turn?”
I shared all of this with a wise mentor.
He responded back to me with: “Mike, imagine the one-mile radius around you. Do you know how many people in that radius would love to trade places with you? With all of this misfortune that you believe that you’re having, with all the challenges that you are experiencing, how many people would trade places with you, anywhere you are in the world?“
As soon as I gained that perspective, I started to realize the power of gratitude. A lot of people talk about gratitude, and when you mention it to someone who is having a difficult time, it can be difficult to hear.
But I’ve learned over the years that gratitude is the antidote to any negative emotion. It’s the neutralizer of any envy, hostility, blame, worry, irritation, or whatever it might be. Whatever you might be going through, realize that it is impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time.
Gratitude involves focusing on what you have over what you don’t have, appreciating all of the good, and focusing on all the strengths in:
- your relationships
- your experience
- your expertise
When you approach things that way — and there are studies that prove this — you’re happier, you’re more engaged, you’re more productive, you’re more effective, you make better decisions, and you can weather those storms. It’s a much better state to be in than one where you’re not grateful.
This is something that you can start right away.
An exercise that’s helped me through the years is the Five Minute Journal — an actual physical journal. They also have an app now called Five Minute Journal.
Every morning, every single day for the last five years, I start my day by listing out three things or people that I am grateful for. Then I repeat the exercise in the evening. It takes no more than five minutes.
When I first started, I couldn’t really tell the difference, but over time, as months and then years passed, people started commenting on it. They asked me, “How are you such a grateful person? You seem so optimistic. It’s just amazing.”
People who hadn’t seen me in years thought that I was a changed human being just because I built this habit of constantly being grateful for all the things that I have and everything going on in my life.
Even as seemingly bad things were happening, my approach changed. I began to ask, “What is the lesson from this experience that I can take away? How can I learn and be grateful every single day?”
This is something we’ve integrated into the Crisp culture too. Every single week we do a gratitude thread in our Slack channel. People share one thing or one person they’re grateful for.
If you can find at least one person or one thing in your life that you are grateful for today, and you let them know, you just might make their day…
And probably make your day as well.
As much as I used to believe gratitude was something that seemed nice, there have been studies that show real physiological changes that come from practicing gratitude regularly:
- improved mental health
- happier demeanor
And you become a more successful individual, a better leader, and a better support person to everybody around you.
So just remember that it’s impossible to be frustrated/sad/anxious/hostile and grateful at the same time. Whenever you’re feeling any kind of negativity, gratitude is the antidote. That’s how you snap yourself out of it.
No matter how bad things get, or how frustrated you are, you can sit down and write up 10 things or people that you’re grateful for. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel quite different — and you’ll start to actually tackle those challenges.
If you think this is a ridiculous idea, I challenge you to try it. Maybe you become one of those crazy, ridiculous people that seems grateful and optimistic all the time. Could be worse.