17 Benefits of Thankfulness and Gratitude

Thankfulness and Gratitude

In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. That usually means overindulging in food, football, and family. It’s also a time to increase our gratitude for the many blessings we have.

 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” -Cicero

 

For years, I have studied the benefits of an attitude of gratitude. I’m amazed at study after study that demonstrates its incredible power. Gratitude helps us:

  • Reduce depression
  • Get promotions at work
  • Improve our self esteem
  • Increase our energy
  • Develop a strong immune system
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Increase sleep quality
  • Reduce and cope with negative stress
  • Eat healthier
  • Have deeper friendships
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve job performance
  • Become more likable
  • Reach goals faster
  • Increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing
  • Reduce negative emotions such as envy, hatred, and anger
  • Increase positive emotions such as love and empathy

There are many ways to increase gratitude in our lives. One of the best ways is to start a gratitude journal.

But, let’s face it: many of us won’t commit to doing that. So, let’s make this simple. Let’s improve our spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude right now, whatever we are doing, wherever we are, even if we are not celebrating Thanksgiving.

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3 Steps to Boost Thanksgiving

Alan Alda on The Art & Science of Relating and Communicating

The Art and Science of Communication

Alan Alda needs no introduction. He played Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, appeared on ER, The West Wing, and he’s appeared in numerous films from Crimes and Misdemeanors to Bridge of Spies. For eleven years, he hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers, and he founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He has also won seven Emmy Awards and received three Tony nominations, is an inductee in the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator.

For many years, he has been studying communication. His latest book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating will have you laughing and contemplating the art of communication. You’ll find his insights and tips immediately useful in both business and personal settings.

I recently spoke with him about his latest work.

 

“Real conversation can’t happen if listening is just my waiting for you to finish talking.” –Alan Alda

 

It’s a gross understatement to say that you see things differently. For instance, most people don’t go through a difficult surgery at the dentist, one messing up your smile, and end up with ideas about improving communication. I’m interested in two aspects of this experience.

 One, how did it inspire you?

The experience of a dentist’s poking in my mouth with a scalpel — without seeming to care if I understood his terse one-word description of the after-effects – was pretty much the essence of poor communication. All he said was, “Now, there will be some tethering.” What? Tethering? “Tethering. Tethering!” He just kept saying the same word over and over. Too cowed, I let him go ahead, and my smile after that was really suitable for playing villains.

He knew what he meant, but he didn’t notice that I wasn’t getting it. To the extent he did notice, it made him impatient. That story has come back to me many times, especially the more I see that it’s up to us who are trying to communicate something to be aware of what’s going on in the other person’s head.

 

“People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another.” –Alan Alda

 

And two, have you always had a unique way of viewing the world or was this cultivated over time?

I don’t know if this is unique, but some of my earliest memories are of trying to figure out how things got that way, or why adults were behaving the way they were. My mother was schizophrenic and paranoid, and I always had to check her reality against real reality. I think that helped me question things and always check them out from another point of view.

 

 

The Importance of Relating

Your book starts off talking about the importance of relating. I’m struck by your humility. You’re always up front with your mistakes, what you should have done, what you didn’t know at the time. For example, you say:

My first blunder was assuming that I knew more than I did.”

I was paying more attention to my own assumptions than I was to him.”

I wasn’t listening.”

And then your story teaches us about relating, but also, we immediately relate to you because of your openness. Is this a relating tactic?

How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence

confidence

 

Are you leadership material?

How do you become influential?

What are the qualities of executive presence?

 

Most of us want to increase our influence, but many don’t know where to start. There are behaviors that influence others, and there are ways to increase your leadership presence.

Diana Jones brings three decades worth of experience in leadership development and packs it into her new book, Leadership Material: How Personal Experience Shapes Executive Presence. Diana is a leadership coach, advisor, and relationship specialist. I recently spoke with her about her research.

 

“Leaders with executive presence seamlessly blend personal experience with their professional identity.” –Diana Jones

 

The Professional and Personal Are Linked

“It’s a myth that a leader’s personal qualities must remain separate from their professional identity.” You share a story of an awful tragedy and how you kept that private during a leadership retreat. Tell us more about the intersection between the personal and professional.diana jones

The core premise of my work is that leaders personal and professional identities aren’t separate. They are inextricably linked. Leaders have been fooled into thinking that being impersonal and rational leads to success. It doesn’t. Poor engagement and alienation results. Without personal qualities, leaders are faceless bureaucrats, and their staff find it difficult to connect with them. Our experience of being with any leader is greatly influenced by their personal qualities.

My book deals with leaders’ professional identities. By thoughtfully choosing what is personal, what is private, and what they let come to the foreground in their interactions, leaders influence how others experience them. I coach leaders to bring helpful personal qualities into their interactions. Leaders with personal qualities like contempt, demanding, and cold create anxiety and emotional turmoil around them. People don’t like working with them. Leaders with personal qualities such as being insightful, approachable, and succinct have powerful effects in inspiring others to action.

The secret in my book Leadership Material is that if you don’t know who and what has shaped you as a leader, you won’t be able to lead people. The key lever for developing as a leader is through your earlier life experiences. By uncovering the likely source of unhelpful behaviors, you then have a choice of your current authentic response which builds relationships and produces results.

 

“When people feel understood and accepted, they flourish.” –Diana Jones

 

Successful Leaders Share Personal Stories

When do you share?

Successful leaders share their personal stories. They do this to:

  • Inspire teams to connect around a shared purpose, direction, or action
  • Let others know how to work with them

Staff hear and experience the leader’s authenticity, and there is shared understanding. This draws people to those leaders.

Leaders build trust by letting their boss and peers know how they think and feel about important matters.

 

“Up to 70% of a team’s climate is determined by the leader.” –Hay Group Research

 

How much is oversharing?

7 Reasons Why You Should Improve Your Public Speaking

Improve Your Public Speaking

 

Over ten years ago, I found myself in a class for leaders and managers. After building rapport and working to create a safe environment of trust, the class facilitator decided to have us go around the room and share our insecurities and fears. The coach was specifically homing in on our weaknesses and asking for us to be transparent with others in the room.

As we worked around a small circle, one woman was visibly nervous. When it was her turn, it was as if someone flipped a switch and turned her red. She stumbled over her words as she explained how fearful she was to speak in public. Even in a safe situation with supportive friends, she still was nervous to share. We learned that she even had nightmares where she was in front of a room, perched behind a podium, and she misplaced her notes and looked out at a sea of unforgiving faces. Another attendee encouraged her and told her that she was better off avoiding these events so she didn’t trigger her fears.

The fear of public speaking grips many people who avoid it at all costs.

I want to share why this “avoidance thinking” is toxic to aspiring leaders.

 

“Fear the fear of public speaking and do it anyway.” –Arvee Robinson

 

Recently, I spoke to my local chapter of Toastmasters and shared 7 reasons why learning to speak in public is vitally important.

 

1. Overcome your fear.

There’s enormous power in mastering and overcoming a fear, whatever it is. I can recall the smile on a new rock climber’s face when he conquered his fear. “I have never felt so alive and free,” he said to me soon after completing his climb. That same feeling happens if you overcome a fear of public speaking, and – at least to me – it’s a whole lot easier than climbing a mountain.

 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill

 

2. Boost your self-confidence.

When you not only are able to overcome your fear but also become proficient at it, then your confidence soars. Confidence is often more compelling than competence. I don’t know what happened to the nervous woman after the class ended, but during the few days of our classes, she saw remarkable improvement. You could feel her confidence building.

 

“Competence without confidence just doesn’t cut it.” –Derek Lewis

 

3. Attract opportunities.

Great public speakers attract opportunities. Why? Speaking makes you visible. You’re in front of the room, so that’s rather obvious. But the fact is that your credibility is enhanced. You become an expert.

 

“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach, just get them to fly in formation.” –Rob Gilbert

 

4. Influence others.

Leadership is all about influence, about persuasion, about taking people from one point and moving them to another. Speaking is part of that process of persuasion and often the most powerful part. Anything that helps increase your influence is generally a good move.

 

“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters

People Matter

Leaders will always say that the most important part of their company is their people. People-first philosophies abound. Don’t believe it? Look at the plaque on the wall extolling the value of people.

But often the saying on the wall is not reality on the floor. It’s far too common to see people judged strictly on today’s achievements and not by their integrity and compassion for others.

Anthony Tjan’s new book, Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, is about defining goodness as a skill that can be learned and mastered, about the culture that’s created when we focus on people in a completely different way. I recently spoke to him about his philosophy. Anthony is an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and venture investor.

 

“Practicing goodness isn’t just a pleasantry..it’s our duty.” -Anthony Tjan

 

Understand True Goodness

The “Good People Mantra” is a powerful and simple summation of your philosophy. Would you share it with us?

Of course. The Good People Mantra is about five principles and commitments that define what true goodness really means.  Think of this as a sort of Hippocratic Oath for leaders to follow. It begins with always being people-first.  Make your decisions with this filter in terms of how will the outcome affect my people?  Second, recognize that goodness is really defined in terms of how you can make others feel and become the fullest version of who they are. When you are in their presence do you do that? Or when you are in the presence of someone else do you feel that? Third, goodness is something much bigger than competency – it requires character and values.  Fourth, goodness requires one to be balanced against the tensions and realities that fight against it.  We need to be self-aware of these tensions and ask the right questions to make us better at finding balance. Fifth, do goodness not only when you are morally tested or trying to avoid being bad but, rather, do goodness whenever you are in a position to do so.  Real goodness comes from those who practice being good whenever the situation allows. And recognizing that this is a life-long pursuit and intention.

 

“Truth is ultimately expressed in terms of how we act.” -Anthony Tjan