Gratitude. Are you able to use your “what I’m grateful for” list to inspire you to raise your game even more or through tough times when you may be “down”?
How often do you think about how grateful are you for your lot in life? Living and working in “the lucky country” Australia we can so easily take so much of what we have for granted, can’t we? How often do we “forget that” and lose sight of how good we’ve got it?
If you prefer listening to reading click on this audio version:
Gratitude in action
From time to time I am called upon to “sounding board” my clients through specific situations and they can sometimes find themselves in some pretty challenging attitudes or frames of mind. Some of these entail very strong frustration or anger or disappointment, even bitterness, particularly from relationships gone sour and in those situations it is often hard for them to remain objective. One of my approaches to such situations is to have them “step back” as it were, to sit down and write a list of at least 50 things that they are grateful for in their lives and their work, and to call me back when they have done that. It works a real treat. It often helps them put so many things, including their current situation into perspective overall.
Another typical reframe in such situations of someone being “down and out” and complaining about their lot is to ask: “compared to what….?” That often assists in gaining a different perspective as well.
Do you have such a “grateful list”?
Apart from my visualizations (dreams) and my goals, I also keep my “grateful list” on my Smartphone so that whenever I might be feeling somewhat unresourceful or “down”, it’s easy to read these inspiring documents and let them serve to “pick me up” again.
I’m sure you have all heard of the example where an audience in a hall full of people was asked to write each of their problems on a piece of paper and put them in a bin on the stage. Then they were asked to take a random piece of paper from the bin by which they “inherited” someone else’s problem. When asked about the “new problems” almost everyone preferred to have their own problem back, because they thought the inherited one was “much worse than their own”. “Better the devil you know….”
Gratitude – an attitude
And so it is with gratitude. I have learned that gratitude is an attitude. And I have also learned that most attitudes involve making a choice. That we can choose to see something as a problem or we can choose to see that there must inevitably be some learning in that situation for us, no matter how challenging.
Same with moods. I teach my clients that there is no place for moods in the workplace. Moods are a choice, not an emotion. I often tell the story of my daughter, who was quite moody in a certain stage of her childhood, often making the morning journey to school unpleasant for everyone in the car. Her siblings learned with me that all we had to do was to get her to smile and to laugh, and her mood changed, because we understood that you can’t have a smile and a frown at the same time.
Just Google “attitude of gratitude” and see what you find there – it’s quite incredible. There’s even a Face book site of that name where people list what they are grateful for,
I have been very fortunate to have been born into a first world environment and also to have been able to travel into and be exposed to numerous third world environments where poverty, squalor, crime and corruption and are rife. The contrast between the two is so stark.
Yet you know what I sometimes found? That people living in terrible poverty can appear to be far more grateful for the little things that they have got….
People who have never travelled elsewhere don’t realize how good we actually have it. We take our security, our democracy, our freedom of choice, freedom of Religion, freedom of speech etc etc all for granted, forgetting how easy it is to open a tap and expect drinkable water to come from it. Instead we might whinge and complain about a drink not being hot enough or cold enough or whatever.
In my blog Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself I outline how in creating a pause before we respond to something, we can ask ourselves how else we might be able to view that situation differently before responding. That way we see that there can be many different perspectives, depending on how we look at it. So before we react to something in anger or out of frustration, perhaps we can consider how less privileged people might see such a situation and realize how futile our initial perspective might have been.
Of course I’m not talking here about the thousands of people all over the world whose lives have been devastated by incessant floods or other natural disasters, where many have “lost everything”. I am amazed when people are interviewed in such situations, how many still put into perspective that they are still alive and still have a future to pick up and live for – remarkable. Now that’s an attitude of gratitude!
I often remind my clients not to “major on the minors”, but rather to get a perspective on “what matters most”. That’s what perspective does – when the going gets tough, we can ask ourselves (in the gap) whether what we are “majoring on” is really important here, or whether we may have lost perspective? It’s in such a context if we might have really let a situation get to us that we can consult the grateful list to help with that perspective. Coaches also call this focusing on “the right chunks”
In my rapport and communication as well as in my negotiation training, I teach the NLP concept of chunking, (which has its origin in data processing where it was used to identify or group “chunks” of data in data modeling). Chunking goes over two axis’, the vertical one with the “big picture” focus at the top, or what we call “chunked up” or the “detail level” focus at the other end, which we call “chunked down”.
When we are chunked up we are usually operating our communication at a more strategic or big picture level, where things matter conceptually. In negotiations this is usually where we start our discussions, where we are likely to be in agreement. As the discussions go more into the detail so the risk of us “getting lost in the detail” grows and so we traverse up and down this axis driving the chunk levels up and down to suit our purpose until we have found agreement.
If we get stuck in the process, we might then also try “chunking across” the horizontal axis, whereby we try and find other examples or domains that might bring us closer to an outcome by gaining (a) different perspective(s).
I have always found this to be an excellent way of helping me to focus on “what really matters” at that point. In the context of the metaphor, using the grateful list is akin to “chunking across” and I have found it to work a treat most of the time.
So if you don’t already have one, or haven’t looked at it for a long time, why don’t you take some time with a piece of paper or a blank screen and just start writing down some of the things you are grateful for? I would urge you not to stop before you have reached 50. I would further urge you to keep this list handy “for a rainy day” when you might be severely challenged or feeling “down and out”.
What if you were then to locate this list and allow it to help you find some perspective to your then situation? What if you did and it brought a smile to your face as you recognized ranking that situation in terms of “what really matters to you” and then draw energy, strength and inspiration from it? What if you could?
Tim Boyle says
Thanks for this post Heiner! I have read a few people now advise to just spend 10 minutes each morning as part of your morning routine to write 5-10 things that come to mind that we are thankful for.
To be honest I haven’t been disciplined in doing this but on reading your post I think I should try it.
Also interested in the “chunking concept”.
Great stuff again!!
Great post Heiner. Gratitude is definitely an attitude, and one we should all have. If any one of us with any complaints stops and thinks about just how much we have to be grateful for, especially when you consider people who have far greater problems than our own, the complaining would soon stop…
Filiz Tigli says
Yet another piece of excellent writing and advise Heiner! Thank you for your blogs, I find them great reading and more importantly, it always gives me something to think about… I am very ‘grateful’ for our friendship and association!