The Practice of Being Thankful

Last week my American friends celebrated Thanksgiving. Although it is not something I celebrate, I find it a timely reminder to reflect on what I am thankful for. In fact, it is a reminder that thankfulness should not be reserved for one day a year but instead be a part of your daily routine.

The benefits of being thankful or having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ are measurable. Being thankful changes your view of life. Things just look different. We all have days where things don’t seem to go well. Those days can be rescued by pausing and simply thinking about one thing to be thankful for. It may be something small, but the change it causes in your mood can be huge.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

When it comes to leadership, being thankful and passing on your gratitude can be a game changer.

What are the benefits of being thankful? Is there any tangible evidence that points towards the greater good?

Measurable Benefits

The truth is that leaders who are thankful are more effective. I came across an article in Entrepreneur Europe that looks at the research done by Robert A. Emmons of the University of California who studied the impact of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being and on our relationship with others.

He discovered the following measurable benefits of thankful people:

  • Physical – stronger immune systems; not as bothered by aches and pains; lower blood pressure; they exercise more and take better care of their health; and sleep longer feeling more refreshed on waking.
  • Psychological – Higher levels of positive emotions; more alert, alive, and awake; more joy, optimism, happiness, and pleasure.
  • Social – More helpful, generous, and compassionate; more forgiving; feel less lonely and isolated, more outgoing.

As I look at these benefits, I am surprised by impact thankfulness has on our well-being. The act of focusing on being thankful switches the view to things beyond ourselves and counter-intuitively leads to inward mental and physical health benefits.

More Effective Leadership

Considering these benefits, I believe the practice of being thankful will significantly improve your effectiveness as a leader in:

  • Decision-Making – as a leader you make many decisions every day. What sets exceptional leaders apart is their ability to make better decisions more often. To do this, you need to be physically fit, feeling good about yourself, and having enough sleep so you have more clarity in your thought process. This in turn leaves you more alert and sensitive to the input needed for good decision-making.
  • Leading people – to get the best out of those you lead, it is imperative you are a leader worth following. This means being a thankful leader, who, as the research has found, will be more generous, helpful and compassionate. These kinds of characteristics will help you most as you build relationships in your team. In short, you will be a better person to be around.

Thankfulness Hacks

Here are few tips to being thankful:

  • Make space for it – scheduling 5 minutes every day to reflect with gratitude will be enough to start seeing the benefits.
  • Be authentic – when you are giving praise to a team member be specific; “what did they do exactly?”
  • Celebrate the wins – they do not have to be large. Recognising small gains builds an environment of collaboration.
  • Invite the opinion of others – most of us experience the opportunity to give our input by leaders who are helping us grow. Make sure you do the same for those you are leading.
  • Create a positive culture – taking time to compliment people, looking for the upside in the middle of tough and exacting deadlines, will lift the mood in the team. It helps everyone to bring their best.

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Harry A. Ironside

Thankfulness is just one area where you can be more effective in your leadership. To explore more, book a 30-minute complimentary discovery call here.

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Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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