A Tale About the Great Gift of Gratitude

(AP Photo/Bree Fowler)

 

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

This is a quote that has a tremendous impact on my life. Learning how to put it into action wasn’t easy, but the end result was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had. 

About five years ago, I was going through a rough time in my personal and professional life. I had just started a new sales role with my employer at the time and it was very different from my previous role. 

I was stressed because I wasn’t confident that I would perform as well in this new role as I had in my previous position. My stomach was in knots because I worried that I lacked the ability to provide for my family. 

To make matters worse, it was the anniversary of my grandfather’s death and I wasn’t quite over it. I was wrestling with various internal issues, and it definitely wasn’t the time to start something new. 

Then, I happened to hear a sermon on gratitude. It reminded me of how I used to keep a journal after going through a training on gratitude. I remembered how listing the things for which I was grateful every day impacted my mood and productivity. So I resolved to start it up again. 

Then, I changed my mind. 

I had another idea that I would put into practice instead. Rather than writing about what I’m grateful for, I decided to take it a step further. I chose to take a few minutes every day and actually express gratitude to at least one person every day for 30 days. I called it my 30-Day Gratitude challenge. I felt a bit nervous, but I was also excited because I knew great things could come of this endeavor. 

First, I made a list. It was a surprisingly long one. Then, every day I would send an email to at least one person on the list to express gratitude. These weren’t simply “thank you” emails. I wanted to give a sincere, heartfelt expression of gratitude to let the other person know how they positively affected my life. 

I focused on three things for each email: The specific action they took that benefited me, how it impacted my life, and how I felt about them because of it. 

The responses I received shocked me. 

I expected positive reactions, but I didn’t anticipate how deeply my “targets” would be moved by it. Some told me they had tears after reading my words. Others explained that they had been going through a tough time and feeling like they didn’t matter and that the email made them feel that their efforts were being acknowledged. 

It was a humbling experience for me. All I did was send an email. But that is the beauty of expressing gratitude; With only a few words, you can singlehandedly lift a person’s spirits. 

But this journey did not only bless the targets of my gratitude; it helped me deal with the issues I was facing at the time. During the month of my 30-Day Gratitude Challenge, I performed at levels that drastically exceeded what I had accomplished previously. 

In that month, I was one of the top-ranked sales agents. Not only did I outperform hundreds of my colleagues, I also won Employee of the Month. 

I also found it easier to deal with the stress and internal issues I was going through. It didn’t make them go away, of course. But it empowered me to work through them more effectively. 

I felt as invincible as Thanos battling a kitten. There was nothing that could defeat me. 

Gratitude has been scientifically proven to make people happier, healthier, and more productive. Several studies have proven that being grateful can literally change one’s life. 

Later in my career, I ended up doing gratitude seminars for other workers at the company. Leadership saw how these impacted the rest of the company and even made it part of the culture. 

In these seminars, I would show the following video in which people analyzed levels of happiness before and after expressing gratitude. It is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen on the subject. Let’s see how dry your eyes are after watching it!

Researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that found that gratitude has a tremendous impact on work performance. They analyzed two teams of fundraisers tasked with soliciting donations. 

The first team operated as usual. But the second team received a pep talk from their leader before their shift in which he expressed his gratitude for their hard work. Over the course of a week, the team who received gratitude performed 50% better than the other team. When people feel appreciated, they are more productive. 

Gratitude can also make you a healthier human being. In an interview with USC News, Glenn Fox, an expert in the science of gratitude at the USC Marshall School of Business, pointed out that “benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health.” 

Fox also compared the expression of gratitude to exercise. “It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get,” he  said. “The more you practice, the easier it is to feel grateful when you need it.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, you will likely be gathering with friends and family to celebrate a day that was founded on the notion of gratitude. While acknowledging the things for which we are grateful on Thanksgiving is important, I would argue that we are robbing ourselves and the people around us if we limit our gratitude to only one day. 

Indeed, I believe that embracing an “attitude of gratitude” is something we all should be doing on a daily basis. But we must go deeper than simply feeling gratitude; in order to reap its benefits, we must consistently practice gratitude.

You might not need to do an entire 30-day challenge as I did. But I guarantee that if you take some time out consistently to tell someone why you are grateful for them — even if it’s for something small — you will notice a drastic difference in your life. Moreover, seeing how your words impact others will give you even more of a boost. 

I will leave you with another quote from author William Arthur Ward, that sums it up perfectly: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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