As we approach the end of 2013, I feel compelled to write a blog of gratitude. This has been inspired by a coaching session I had this week where the ‘light bulb’ moment for my coachee came when he suddenly recognised that he was taking for granted a whole host of positive circumstances associated with his current professional role. In that moment, he shifted from a mind-set of boredom to a mind-set of gratitude and, as he shifted, I found that I couldn’t help but mirror his shift. I left the coaching session with a smile on my face as I re-connected with the positive circumstances in my own life which I had been in danger of taking for granted.
One of those circumstances is my collaboration with Ian on the challenging coaching project over the past five years. In that time, we have come to know each other very well. Some say we are like a married couple! There are days when we bicker and when we get on each other’s nerves and when we notice each other’s familiar failings. On the other hand, there are also times when we giggle at a private joke or we touch upon a shared insight that comes from labouring long over a shared passion. It is easy to take each other for granted but today I say thank you Ian for being who you are and for sharing this part of my journey with me. Amongst many things, I am grateful for your listening, your lack of judgement, your challenges, your family values and the way you always bring a printed map with you when we go to meetings and conferences together. That is very helpful.
So how do we practice cultivating an attitude of gratitude? There are many and varied ways to do this. For myself, each night I write a gratitude prayer on my iPad. I picked up this idea from reading the wonderful book ‘Conversations with God’ many years ago. I remember it talked about not petitioning God with prayers for what we want but thanking Him for what we already have. As a Christian, this is my gratitude ritual but there are many other ways of building gratitude into a daily routine that do not need a religious faith. For example, one of my clients sits round the dinner table with his wife and two sons each day and they ask each other the question – ‘What are the three things that have gone well for you today?’ The power of these daily routines is that the gratitude mind-set is like a muscle. Like any muscle, it needs to be exercised and when exercised on a regular basis it grows stronger and more powerful. It then becomes a muscle that can sustain us through the ups and downs of the journey ahead.
Another technique for cultivating an attitude of gratitude is to contemplate the following question – what is the opposite of taking something or someone for granted? Our instinct might be to flippantly reply that the opposite is ‘not taking something or someone for granted’ but this is a cop-out in my opinion. Far more useful for informing our behaviour is a positively-framed statement such as ‘not taking someone or something for granted is when you declare them or it to be special in public’. To do this takes courage for it is a form of showing vulnerability and it exposes you to potential judgement and ridicule. As we would say in our book, It is another way of speaking our truth. Or as William Ward puts it ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it’.
So, dear reader, as we enter into the Christmas period, let me work my gratitude muscle some more by publicly thanking you for engaging with our blog throughout this year. Like my colleague Ian, you are special. I do not take you for granted for without a reader this blog wouldn’t be worth writing. I hope I have inspired you to exercise your gratitude muscle over the coming holiday period, to speak your truth, to wrap your gratitude presents and to give them freely in recognition of all that is special in your life. Happy Xmas to one and all!