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

How to Find and Work With a Mentor

Become a One-Minute Mentor

I’m a big fan of mentoring relationships. A mentor may be a formal relationship with someone or it may be a virtual relationship. In fact, the reason I read so much is that I’m curious and constantly learning from others. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them myself. I’d rather take a shortcut if someone else has already figured out the best way forward.

One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor-and Why You’ll Benefit from Being One is a new book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Ken Blanchard. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, an early employee of Twitter, was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard is the author or coauthor of more than 60 books—including the iconic bestseller The One Minute Manager —with combined sales of more than 21 million copies.

 

Mentoring Tip: a successful meeting with a potential mentor puts the personal before the tactical.

 

Why a book on mentoring?

We believe that behind every successful person, you’ll find a mentor—usually several—who guided their journey. There are many famous mentor/mentee examples out there—Socrates and Plato, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey—the list goes on and on.  With the pace of change today, we believe that mentoring can ground you and guide you in a way that few other activities can. The amazing thing about mentoring is that in many ways it benefits the mentor as much as the mentee.

 

“Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz

 

How to Start

Many people who want a mentor don’t know where to start. You point out that “Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” How do you identify potential mentors? Ones who match your needs?

There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  We’ve found in our own lives that mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.  You might find a mentor in a boss, teacher, neighbor, friend, or colleague. Or you might find one through a professional association, volunteer organization, or online mentoring organization.

That old saying works both ways—when you’re ready to become a teacher/mentor, the student/mentee appears.  We encourage people to step up and become mentors, because you won’t fully discover, appreciate, or leverage what you have until you start giving it away.

As for identifying a potential mentor/mentee, it’s important to think about compatibility. In the book, we show that there are two aspects of working with someone: essence and form. Essence is all about sharing heart-to-heart and finding common values. Form is about structure—how you might work together. For a mentoring relationship to thrive, you need to establish that heart-to-heart connection.

 

 

Success Tip: writing about issues that arise during introspection can help to clarify them.

 

Keep a Journal of Your Journey

Why is it important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey?

One of Ken’s most important mentors, Peter Drucker, taught him that, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey so you can see where you’ve been and stay on track with where you’re going. In the book, the first step in our MENTOR model stands for “Mission”—creating a vision and purpose for the mentorship. Keeping a journal as you engage with your mentor/mentee will reveal the ways you’re fulfilling—or not fulfilling—that mission. For example, if your goal in a mentoring relationship is to create a career you love, you can record in your journal each step you take toward accomplishing that mission.

 

Success Tip: tread lightly on the networks of others. Never use or abuse the connections made for you.

 

“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” How have you seen that in practice in your own lives?

Ken’s earliest mentor was his father, a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Ken’s dad had a brilliant way of guiding Ken without dampening his spirit. For example, when Ken was in junior high, he was elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home all proud of winning the election. Instead of telling Ken he was the greatest thing since sliced bread—or, on the other hand, telling him not to get a big head—Ken’s dad said with tactful honesty, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.”  That One Minute Mentoring taught Ken one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned about leadership.

 

“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz

 

What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

Why Journaling Makes Better Leaders

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Why Journal?

There is much written about journaling, most of it on how to keep a journal, covering mechanics, tools and discipline.  It is more difficult to find information on the benefits of journaling from real-life experiences, especially pertaining to leaders.  Most of what is written on the benefits of journaling is about self-discovery, but I believe it can help make better leaders, too.

Many famous people kept journals or diaries.  These people came from all walks of life:  business (John D. Rockefeller); military (George Patton); inventors (Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison); presidents and prime ministers (John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill) and many authors (Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway).  These journals left a chronicle of thoughts, events and critical decisions as well as documenting their legacy.  But what about the rest of us?  Why write in a journal?

Years ago, I became interested in journaling.  At the time, I was very stressed and overloaded with responsibilities.  I needed something to help me stay focused.  I read several books, but one by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write, was the most helpful.  After reading her book, I began to journal and found it very beneficial.

Eventually, as I found myself in more prominent leadership positions, I found journaling helped improve my leadership in the following ways:

  • Better Organization
  • Improved Decision Making
  • Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment
  • Enhanced Intention
  • Positive Reinforcement

Here is why writing in a journal makes better leaders.

 

Better Organization

One recommendation from The Right to Write is to write “Morning Pages” before the start of the workday.  I have found that to be the best time for maximum benefit.  Writing early in the morning gets the juices flowing before your mind has its normal defenses and filters in place.  There is something about writing early in the morning before engaging in the day’s activities that is very helpful — sort of like how your best ideas often occur in the shower.  Here are the main reasons:

  • Helps to reduce all the things in your head to key priorities
  • Allows you to ramble, then organize your thoughts for the day
  • Provides a way to better formulate tasks and frame issues
  • Gets mere ideas formed into concrete terms
  • Starts the day with a clear framework in mind
  • Improves the quality of your To-Do list

Writing in a journal in the morning will help you be more organized during the day.

“Write in a journal in the morning to be more organized during the day.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Improved Decision Making

Writing in a journal is a great way to facilitate problem solving and decision making.  Here is how:

  • Provides a private, non-judgmental forum to work through issues; no one is watching and pressure is off
  • Helps facilitate idea generation and new perspectives
  • Facilitates better problem definition to make sure you are working on the right issue
  • Helps to develop alternatives and examine their positive and negative implications, resulting in better choices
  • Gives you the chance to formulate tasks and frame issues properly before “real time” in meetings
  • Provides a way to examine causes rather than symptoms for issues and problems
  • Provides a forum to ask “So What?” about problems, issues and directions
  • Makes your decisions and explanations more crisp
  • Turns thoughts, decisions and ideas into actions

If you are skeptical, just try it on some decision that you are contemplating.  Write and refine the problem definition; quickly list alternatives; structure the list; examine implications of each alternative; choose an alternative and list the actions that need to happen.  I predict it will help.

Leadership Tip: try journaling to improve decision-making.

 

Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment

Success Starts With Self-Mastery: 7 Effective Strategies

This is a guest post by Thai Nguyen. The power of words to evoke positive change motivates Thai to write. Formerly a professional chef and international athlete, he’s now somewhere in the world with a backpack, MacBook, and a story to share. You can follow his work at The Utopian Life, Facebook or Twitter.

It all begins with looking in the mirror.  Success in the public world goes hand-in-hand with success in your private life.  Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.

 

“Effective leadership flows from effectively leading yourself.” -Thai Nguyen

 

Our empirically dominated culture places all focus on the external and physical world, blinding the importance of the internal and mental.  Self-mastery is being in control of the internal thought processes that guide your emotions, habits, and behaviors.

It’s the ability to respond rather than react.  The former is done with intention and awareness, the latter is visceral and without reason.

Self-mastery is captured well in this quote attributed to many:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

It seems counterintuitive, but being selfish and focusing on enriching yourself will lead to being selfless and enriching the lives of those around you.

 

Here are 7 effective strategies for cultivating self-mastery:

 

1. Talk To Yourself

There’s a voice inside your head, and that’s completely normal. It’s your internal dialogue, the inner commentary that strives to make sense of the world.  The first crucial step in developing self-mastery is to become an observer of your thoughts—to become self-aware, self-reflective. To think about your thinking.

Throughout history, psychologists and philosophers have presented theories on the multiplicity of the human mind. Plato divided the psyche into appetitive, logical, and high spirited.  Freud categorized into the Id, Ego, and Superego.  Modern theories continue to be presented and debated.

But they all agree on the multi-dimensional aspect—as strange as it sounds, there seems to be more than one “you” inside of you.  And often, we’re at odd with ourselves.  Self-mastery is about creating inner congruence—an agreement and peace between an external stimulus, our internal interpretation, and our emotional response.

A lack of mindfulness will respond to external stimulus immediately with an emotional response.  Self-mastery causes a pattern break and allows for an internal interpretation to take place.  Stop, fully observe the emotions welling up inside you and the thoughts that present themselves.

Self-mastery requires this observation and recognition.  Label the emotions and thoughts as they present themselves.

 

“Becoming the best version of yourself will equip you to spark change in others.” -Thai Nguyen

 

2. Make Peace With Your Past

While there’s truth in the statement, we’re the sum total of our experiences, self-mastery recognizes we’re certainly not confined to them.  It’s not easy to do; our experiences, particularly negatives have a way of seeping deep into our soul.  But although some stains can’t be removed, we can choose not to wear those clothes again.

A personal example, I made peace with my father and our lack of relationship: Acknowledging the post-war trauma he was no doubt affected by, and that he had to play the father role in light of a difficult script.  Self-mastery meant not allowing past negative experiences the power of emotional collateral to spark present and future fires.  As a result, the clean slate has given birth to the relationship I’d always desired.

Making peace with your past allows you an untarnished and more objective approach to the present, ideally resulting in a positive future.  It’s hard to pick up anything new when your hands are full with burdens.  It means to let go, forgive, and as humanly possible, to forget.

Author Eleanor Brown has a great quote on mastering your past:

“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”

 

3. Play Devil’s Advocate

Challenging your thought patterns and reasoning will help with self-mastery.  Putting on the other shoe and playing devil’s advocate will uncover weaknesses and holes in your thinking.  A more critical mind will result in making better decisions.  You’ll be able to iron out any unreasonable biases that appear in your logic.

Whatever decision you’re working through, come at it from as many different angles as possible.  Debate with yourself, have a spirited argument.  You may be surprised at some of the insights you come up with.

 

4. Keep A Journal.