What if people wanted to help you out at every turn?
What if you were miraculously offered the best seat, the last parking space, a big raise… extra consideration everywhere you went?
What if everyone around you smiled when you entered a room? What if they stood in line to hug you?
What if people wanted to follow your lead, even before they knew exactly where you were headed?
What one adjustment can cause all these positive outcomes?
Psychologist Robert Emmons, among others, conducted studies that show this one shift in orientation increases our energy, our emotional intelligence and our inclination to forgive while reducing depression, anxiety and loneliness.*
No, you can’t get it in pill form! What is it?
Gratitude! The magic ingredient is plain old, simple gratitude expressed consistently and with feeling.
In his book Everything Counts, Gary Ryan Blair echoes the powerful alchemy of gratitude, “There is a special kind of magic in the practice of showing gratitude. It raises our consciousness, recharges our energy, enhances our self-worth, and strengthens our spirit.” He goes on to write that he believes that “the one constant in a truly successful life is gratitude.” Not wealth, not recognition, not special skills or aptitudes, not higher education -- gratitude.
The practice of gratitude is two-fold:
Behavioral scientists conclude that it takes a ratio of 4 messages of appreciation to 1 critical message for someone to believe that they get an equal amount of positive and negative reinforcement.* Doesn’t this mean that lifting someone up requires actually telling them about all the things they do and all the ways they are that enhance your life in ways both great and small? People who feel criticized and undervalued grow reticent to take on life with passion and abandon. People who feel celebrated and highly valued show courage and an eagerness to do more and be more.
Am I saying that we should never tell someone when we believe they’ve made a wrong turn or a bad decision?
No, but consider frontloading at least four times the praise and appreciation first. People hear your words much better when their emotional bank account is flush. The fun part is that we don’t have to wait for a strategic time to fill up that account. We can praise and celebrate all the time, and when good conscience demands that we propose someone change a behavior or reconsider an action, it’s perceived as assistance rather than attack. When someone thanks me frequently and specifically for what I contribute, their advice and their requests for a change just make me feel more valued and worthy. I matter enough for them to care if I stay on course.
Gratitude is my remedy when I’m stuck in lower emotions, like frustration over dysfunctional phone trees and website protections that block all access to completing a simple task, or I find myself trapped for what seems like hours in a traffic jam, or I receive news that someone I care about is seriously ill, or sleep wouldn’t come last night. Whatever is not right about the moment or the day, I can trust that when I’m ready to chronicle what’s right in my life, negative feelings gradually subside, and as Gary Ryan Blair puts it, simple gratitude “deflates the barriers to love” while “dissolving negative feelings -- anger and jealousy melt in its embrace, fear and defensiveness shrink.”
With regular cultivation of gratitude, I can confirm that both Lee and I have developed what Blair calls an ability to withstand life events like heart transplants, losing all our possessions in a catastrophic accident, the death of loved ones. We are growing our immunity to depression and resentment by the simple practice of pivoting to celebrate what’s good and right in people and in the world.
As Lee just said, “You know what I’m grateful for today? I’m grateful for all I’ve learned, for all the time I’ve spent reading and listening and re-associating in the service of becoming a more appreciative man, a better man.”
*reference: The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success by David E. Nielsen
Business Team / Life Team
Yesterday, Lee got a call from a young woman, a single mom with a young daughter. She said, “I can’t talk to my mom and dad anymore, but I know ‘Mr. Lee’ can help me sort out what happened today. I couldn’t believe it when the manager pushed me with both hands…” And the story went on from there.
Later that day, another member of our team called to talk about exhaustion and the overwhelm of daily life. Yet another called with an “Aha!” moment about determining when a candidate is willing to change to create change -- and when this is someone just looking for commiseration or a handout. The “Aha” was that he didn’t want to spend much time anymore with those with victim mentalities who endlessly list and recommit to their limitations.
We are building a business team, right?
No, it’s clear we’re building a Life Team -- a rare surrogate family with members pulling together, willing to learn from each other, and celebrating each other without judgement or exception. Our three calls yesterday were questions about responding rather than reacting, about finding the joy in the madness, about limiting association with self-limiting people, about consciously becoming more.
Lee and I often remark on the parallel between parenting and how we run our company. Good parenting, that is -- modeling what we teach, listening with the intention to understand, admitting mistakes, applauding victories, holding the vision of a purposeful, wide screen life.
Some people have experienced parents who lay down the law and punish infractions, or assume the role of a “superior officer” who commands by dominating and denigrating. Both in biological families and in business families, these strategies crush self esteem and suppress potential for a full, purposeful and joyful life.
Leadership by edict can only cause conflict and ultimately defection. What we aspire to is leadership where we routinely ask ourselves, “What is the principle here?” and “What will move this person closer to a life they will love?”
A recurrent thought I had when I was raising my kids was that it was an immense responsibility. I had a nightmare once that I was carrying my infant son across a tightrope spanning the Grand Canyon. I woke up with a start, short of breath and fully cognizant of how much my next steps as a parent might affect my son’s well being.
Later, I came to the realization that serious mistakes would cascade down the generations -- and so would excellent parenting decisions and course corrections. This can be seen as a tremendous burden, or as a reason to work on me -- grow me -- so that I am capable of giving guidance to those who will give guidance to the next generation, and the next.
Lee and I feel this same chance to create generational change with our business/life team. And we feel the same responsibility to keep growing in integrity, humility and wisdom, so that other lives, as well as ours, can more surely reach their full bloom of humanity. We cannot be too resourced; we cannot reach out to our mentor too much or read too many books or listen to the teachings of too many thought leaders.
More each day, we see the need to be willing to BE “parented.” Seeking people out who are further down the road illuminates the path ahead-- whether the journey is financial invincibility, or self-awareness, or peace of mind. Maybe we can’t see the way clearly yet, but someone else can.
Sometimes, I feel the same terror that I did as a mom -- of consistently setting the wrong example, of setting in motion duplication of my shortcomings rather than my strengths. But then, I remember, I can become a better woman, a better leader, a better mom, and that mistakes are not permanent unless I make them permanent by repeating them. I have -- we all have -- total freedom to continue to correct our course, to continue to evolve -- which, in the end, is the very best example to set.
Susan is a published writer and motivational speaker with 30 years of experience, dedicated to guiding people to a life of financial invincibility and peace of mind.