Still. Quiet. It is 7am on Thanksgiving morning and not a creature is stirring. Well, that’s not completely accurate. Overhead, a seagull squawks and there’s a woop, woop of wings beating against the air as a flock of smaller birds zip past. I’m running along the waterfront in Beaufort, NC. No one else is around on this sunny, cool early morning. It’s the perfect time to give thanks.
Perhaps it’s the time of the year that causes me to pause and consider gratitude at a more leisurely pace. On a regular, jam-packed day I sense the power of being thankful but I don’t think about what it is that makes it so powerful. Today, I realize three things about gratitude.
Grounding. Explicitly acknowledging gratitude, particularly in the morning is like sinking roots into the day. Gratitude anchors me and provides strength and purpose to whatever comes the rest of that day. For me there’s a ritual. Each morning starts with affirmations and I say to myself, “I’m thankful for this day.” Next is the list – the sun, my health, the russet trees of autumn, my friends and family, the graceful, soaring pelicans – whatever strikes me in that moment. It’s an acknowledgement of the miracle of this specific day. Not tomorrow; not next week. This day. Try it yourself. Give thanks each morning for a week and notice the grounding that gratitude creates.
Openness. I don’t know why it works; I just know that it does. When I ground myself in gratitude it makes me more open and gracious to others. There’s plenty of gratitude to go around and if I let mine shine through perhaps a drop will be left behind. Whoever you run across during the ins and outs of your day, look them in the eye, smile and be grateful. It may be the person making your complicated coffee drink, the clerk at the bank, the geek squad person patiently helping you understand the new phone/tablet/laptop/all-in-one thingy, the person patiently switching over your cell-phone plan, or the check-out person who helps you and the next person and the next all day. All of those people could use a drop of gratitude. Who can you share yours with?
Not a cure all. On most days, gratitude is like a magic elixir but not on all days. There are times when worry consumes my thoughts – a health scare, financial stress, family upset. Even when I focus on gratitude it doesn’t always calm the ravaging thoughts. It reminds me of the small oak trees near the shore. They have the same hard, oval leaves as those back home in Texas but these lean away from the shore, sculpted by decades of coastal wind that blows them backward. The wind is like those worries. There are days that the wind of worry blows forcefully and pushes you backward. While gratitude doesn’t stop the worry, it does anchor you – like the roots of the oak trees. We are sculpted by hardship, unfortunate events and worry but we aren’t uprooted when grounded in gratitude.
Yes, this is a good time of year to reflect on gratitude and its power. It’s such a simple and powerful thing – to express gratitude explicitly. It changes the way you relate to others, it provides roots when things go wrong and it sets the tone for the day. Let’s pause for a moment to be grateful for today – even before we’ve experienced it – is a great way to begin. Still. Quiet. Grateful.
Think of the transition from tech professional to leader like a love affair with professional growth.