Want to change the world? Start by saying thank you.
Praises for the power of gratitude can seem trite. Basic politeness entreats us to say thank you to our family members, our friends and our co-workers in passing, and the majority of people would not describe these small exchanges as life-altering. What most of us don’t realize is that, with even a moment of thought about what exactly we’re grateful for, these moments of gratitude could be.
Gratitude is a gateway to positivity. When you contemplate what you have instead of what you lack, helplessness turns to empowerment. Weariness turns to rejuvenation. Emptiness to fulfillment. As with any facet of positive thinking, gratitude can help relieve stress and improve physical health, which has a halo effect on confidence and empowerment.
A 2014 study from The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes who trusted their coaches and displayed higher levels of gratitude increased their self-esteem over time, and it stands to reason that our personal and professional lives follow the same pattern. The more we understand how much we have, the more we feel empowered to help and share with others.
The Ripple Effect of Gratitude
The ONE Thing says that success is sequential, not simultaneous. The validation we internalize when we’re grateful for what we have can be shared with others through intentional, thoughtful acts of thanks. Validation can inspire greater acts of good. A study by Francesca Gino and Adam Grant of Harvard Business School and Wharton found that people who received thank-you notes after helping students with their cover letters were more likely to help a second student they had never met, simply because they felt that their contributions were valued.
Gratitude breeds empowerment, which breeds action, which breeds gratitude, and so on. A thank-you note or a focused, thoughtful statement of thanks from one person to another can be the small domino that sets off a chain of gratitude that impacts the lives of multiple people. If we want to be a part of the far-reaching impacts of gratitude, we must start with ourselves.
Form a Habit of Gratitude
Whether you adopt a daily ritual to list what you’re grateful for or write consistent thank-you notes for the people who impact your life, it’s important to establish a keystone habit of gratitude that becomes as second-nature as breathing. When thoughtful, formally-expressed gratitude is instinctive, you’re more likely to share it with everyone you meet.
Pursue a gratitude habit that is manageable (doable within the time constraints of your work and personal life) and consistent (ideally every day rather than once a week.) Research shows that, on average, after sixty-six days the habit will become part of your routine, therefore ingraining gratitude into your daily life.
Build and Nourish Relationships
Gratitude is a balm that opens up conversation, tempers arguments, and can bridge the distance between strangers because it requires no background knowledge of the other person’s life. It’s simply an acknowledgment of something a person has done that positively impacted your life or the lives of those around you.
Think about people who you don’t automatically show gratitude, familiar or otherwise. Perhaps it’s been awhile since you thanked your friends for their support for your career or thanked your boss for their mentorship. Give thanks to your bus driver, your garbage collectors, or the people at the DMV for the work they do despite the difficulties of the job. Thank your child for behaving in a positive way. Even if a service or action is expected, gratitude pushes relationships past transaction into understanding and support.
Empower Others On a Regular Basis
People thrive when they consistently hear about their value from others. In a world where we’re more likely to remember the negative feedback we receive, repeated messages of gratitude can help ground people in their own sense of self-worth. And when this happens, they can be empowered to accomplish more and pass along gratitude to even more people.
If you see something, say something (in the best way)! When someone you know helps you, your company, your family or your community, either thank them in the moment or send them a written thank-you later. Don’t be afraid to do this multiple times. People always need to hear it.
The expansive impacts of a small act of gratitude can change the world, even if it’s just in your corner of it. Download our 66-Day Challenge® calendar to track your progress as you form a gratitude habit, and surround yourself with gratitude and support in The ONE Thing community.