This week we have a special guest post from Ken Keis, Ph.D. I hope you enjoy!
The Power of a Grateful Heart
Regardless of our current circumstances, we can all choose gratitude!
Before you start mentally listing off all the tough situations in your life, or jumping into how you have nothing to be grateful for, please read on.
Let’s say you have two children, a 12-year-old girl, and a 10-year-old boy.
- The 12-year-old is always thankful for whatever you do or buy for her. From the smallest event to the largest gesture, she is consistent and authentic in her character of gratefulness.
- The 10-year-old, however, is never thankful, no matter what you do for him. He complains about your efforts and selections. (e.g., You buy him a new tablet, but it is the “wrong color” or “wrong brand name.” When he opens his birthday present, he says he doesn’t like it, etc.)
Given the character of those children, which child would you prefer to indulge: the grateful daughter, or the ungrateful son? Even though parents should not “have favorites” or give preferential treatment, you would naturally enjoy giving to the first child more. Why? Because she has a grateful heart! It’s not as easy, or enjoyable, to give to someone who will complain and whine about all your efforts.
In fact, the complaining and ungratefulness of the younger child will earn him the exact opposite response from what he wishes to achieve. He wants more, but his behavior will likely earn him less (not necessarily material goods).
The daughter, on the other hand, is happy with less, but her character will earn her more (again, not necessarily material goods). Now, remember this article is not about how one should parent. Rather, I want you to reflect carefully on this example.
Are you the first child, thankful for what you have, exhibiting an attitude of gratitude, or are you the second child, ungrateful and full of complaints? Self-examination can hurt, but please bear with me here to see how powerful your choice can be.
When we are ungrateful, we often focus on what we don’t have, rather than on what we do have. Instead of embracing our dreams, goals, and vision, we get stuck in a rut, focusing on things we have lost or never had. I have written about this theme many times: The areas where we focus our attention and energy become magnified. And when we focus on our lack, we attract more of it to us.
When we put our attention on what we don’t have, we miss the mark on what we have and could actually achieve.
Over the past year, much of the world has focused on what it does not have rather than what it has. People have even declared 2016 as the “worst year ever.” Thankfulness has shifted to criticism and an ungrateful mindset, for myself too!
A Personal Example
I’ve shared before that I used to sit as chair of a private school board. Our school building was located on property shared with a church. The agreement and arrangements for the placement of our building at this location were nothing short of miraculous.
When we struck the deal, the leadership of the church was remarkable; we all focused on the vision of working together. Shortly afterward, however, there was an unfortunate split within the church group and new leadership took over. Their direction shifted from an attitude of gratitude to one of complaints and bitterness.
For months, we tried to help the new leadership adapt their thinking toward gratefulness. I started to notice that, by mere association, we were letting their negative attitude seep into our mindset. Instead of looking at what we could achieve, we were focusing on what we couldn’t. Our association with that church was dragging us down; we were letting them frustrate us. And I was not immune.
I’m happy to report this is no longer the case. After months of failed attempts, we stopped pursuing the possibility of working effectively with them. Then, we focused on all other options and possibilities and chose to release any negative feelings toward that group.
Finally, as a board with roots in faith, we focused on God’s provisions and promises. Our group refocused and spent time being thankful for what we had accomplished, then outlined what we felt we could achieve going forward. The exercise was powerful and encouraging to all of us.
Our decision as a board to think positively and to be grateful for what we have is paying off. Our school has doubled in student numbers and the growth is continuing in the 20% range, year over year. We have an amazing group of staff members—men and women who care about the transformation of the students and about offering the best possible educational experience.
For the church, however, others withdrew from the stressful situation that was breeding strife among so many individuals and local organizations. The church is now on its third board chair, in as many years, and has earned the reputation of rigidity and uncooperative, lacking vision. There is just no hiding people’s mindset or heart; the results of our actions, attitudes, and character are there for all to see.
Whatever your condition or situation, you have the choice to be thankful or ungrateful. Which are you choosing? Remember:
- Gratefulness/thankfulness comes from a sense of personal purpose and confidence.
- This mindset is a natural extension of being clear about who you are and where you are going.
Follow these action steps and complete the recommended resources to help you reap the rewards of Living On Purpose, pursuing your passions, and exhibiting an attitude of gratitude, with no excuses.
- First, remember that to those who appreciate a little, much more will be given. A grateful heart attracts more; an ungrateful heart attracts less.
- Ask yourself: At this time in your life, are you grateful for what you have? Why or why not? What would others say about your level of thankfulness?
- Think about what positive things you would like to see in your life. Gratefulness releases the power of attracting positivity into your life; being unappreciative does the opposite.
- List mentally (or in print or on an electronic device—whichever works best for you) all the things for which you are thankful—family, friends, health, work, achievements, your home, etc.
- Think carefully about something for which you have NOT felt thankful over the past few weeks. Switch that thinking to embrace a grateful attitude. Example: You injured your knee in a sports accident and you are focusing on that pain, the inconvenience, what you can’t do, etc. Rather, shift to being thankful that your other knee is still in great shape and that the injured one is expected to heal (the injury could have been permanent, etc.).
- Benchmark your gifts, talents, and preferences by using CRG’s resources and assessments. Your results will help you become more grateful and to make better decisions, with confidence and clarity.
- Consider the power of affiliation—both positive and negative. Consider the individuals around you, both personally and professionally. Is your inner circle a group of people with grateful hearts? It is very difficult to associate with ungrateful people and still feel thankful yourself. Despite the possibility that these are your friends, you need to take charge of your space. We become like the people around us. Limit your exposure to unthankful individuals or groups.
- Pay attention to your language, actions, and the way you think about events over the next week. Are you really thankful? Or do you have a spirit of bitterness and unappreciation instead of an attitude of gratitude?
- Encourage others around you to change their thinking, then to watch their own transformation. Make it a game; challenge each other to demonstrate thankfulness in all things.
- Enjoy the power of your thankful heart and enjoy new confidence, pride, self-respect, competence, and success.
Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!
This post was written by Ken Keis, Ph.D., President of CRG, is a global authority on developmental assessments and on how assessment strategies increase and multiply success rates. In 28 years, he has conducted over 3000 presentations and invested 10,000+ hours in consulting and coaching. His latest book, The Quest For Purpose: A Self-Discovery Process To Find It And Live It!, is available at here.