📖 Book Chapter - Practicing Gratitude (Issue #50)
An appreciation for what you have makes your journey sweeter
This is a draft of Chapter 23 of the book I’m writing, Building the Invincible You. In it, I share a framework and strategies for:
Amplifying your power in your work and life.
Regaining your freedom to spend more of your time the way you wish you could.
Building the future you want for yourself and your loved ones.
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“A good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moments that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments.”
— Brené Brown
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few people who I would characterize as having invincible careers and lives. Some are wealthy. Some are happy with what I call “having enough.” But you might even consider some of them to be poor.
However, they all are happy, fulfilled, and grateful for what they have. They are thankful for the people in their lives and the help they have received over the years. They are thankful to wake up every morning and have another day to keep moving forward with their pursuits.
Gratitude is an essential component of living an invincible life.
Invincible people don’t complain and wish they had more. They don’t compare themselves to others. Many of them would describe their success as “just being lucky.” I know how hard they had worked, but they were humble about it.
“Oh, I’ve just been lucky, I guess. I was in the right place at the right time.”
“I was lucky enough to work with some amazing people.”
“Life has been good to me. I can’t complain.”
The thing is, I know how hard life was for some of these people. They are grateful despite the setbacks they have encountered, the tragedies they have experienced, and the pain they have endured.
If this sounds like I’m expressing some sense of moral superiority, let me be clear that I have personally struggled with practicing gratitude. For most of my life, I felt dissatisfied.
Dissatisfied with my job.
Dissatisfied with my financial situation.
Dissatisfied with my environment.
Dissatisfied with my relationships.
However, I was dissatisfied with myself more than anything, which was why I was dissatisfied with everything else. I felt disappointed with my achievements and career progress. I’ve been disappointed by my physical achievements, too. I always felt like I was behind and struggling to catch up. I think that’s part of being a late bloomer.
The reality was I was ungrateful—as many of us sometimes are. Our drive and ambition make us look ahead and want more. But we rarely stop, look around, and realize how much we have achieved, what we have already acquired, and what we should be enjoying in our lives right here and now.
As I grow older, I realize what matters most. It’s not money. It’s not material possessions. It’s not title and status. The things that matter most to me are family, friends, health, and freedom. Now, I work hard to appreciate all those things and protect them fiercely.
I’m increasingly grateful for what I already have. Am I still ambitious? Sure! There are many things that I want to achieve. But I no longer ignore or devalue the wonderful things already in my life. I see them with fresh eyes, and it makes every day better.
Practicing gratitude will make you happier and healthier. It will improve your relationships. It will ground you and help you appreciate every day on your fantastic journey to achieve everything you want in life.
"Always when I woke up, I had the feeling which I am sure must be natural to all of us, a joy in being alive."
— Agatha Christie
"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."
— Marcus Aurelius
“Every morning, I wake up saying, I’m still alive, a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.”
— Jim Carrey
“It is a serious thing – just to be alive – on this fresh morning – in this broken world.”
— Mary Oliver
The Power of Gratitude
There is power in the expression of gratitude. Research has shown that feeling grateful is associated with:
Greater happiness, joy, and optimism.
Better coping skills to defer stress.
Improved progress toward personal goals.
Increased generosity and empathy.
Building and maintaining stronger social relationships.
Better physical health, fewer aches and pains, and deeper sleep.
Higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, attentiveness, determination, and energy.
If you’d like to learn more about personal gratitude, there are plenty of articles and entire books on the topic. For example, this article has several excellent suggestions for expressing gratitude, being more mindful, and even a gratitude challenge.
I don’t need to tell you how to show your friends and loved ones you’re grateful. But, I think we sometimes forget to extend this to the people we work with daily and those we encounter professionally.
How to express gratitude professionally
Gratitude is an extraordinary tool for helping you build and maintain an invincible career. Work isn’t only about leveraging your personal talents, skills, and knowledge in isolation. It’s also about building strong relationships with colleagues.
You might think, “Gratitude is gratitude. I already see a lot of expressions of it in the workplace.” But is it really the type of genuine gratitude that leads to the many benefits I listed above? In my decades of professional experience, I have seen little of it.
Sure, people will say a cursory “Thank you” when you help them or complete a task. Leaders send an email blast to the entire company around the end of the year to tell everyone they appreciate all their hard work (but also remind all of you that there’s even more hard work ahead). Your boss might even say, “Well done!” when you complete a project early.
I’m not talking about the lazy leader approach or the knee-jerk “Thanks” from a coworker. I’m talking about a meaningful and personal expression of gratitude for someone that shows you really know them and how they’ve positively impacted your life.
You can begin by making a list of people you would like to acknowledge. For example, you can export your LinkedIn connections to capture your professional contacts. Create a spreadsheet using that list as the starting point for a simple relationship management tool.
Add more names (i.e., people you aren’t connected to on LinkedIn).
Add columns for other relevant info (e.g., who they are, how you met, what they do, their influence on your life, etc.).
Add columns to track when you last contacted them and the method of communication (e.g., an email to say “Thanks”).
Below are the nine types of people you may want to reconnect with to express your professional gratitude. Doing this will also boost the power of your network and professional relationships. But, more importantly, this act of appreciation is good for both of you!
1. Past educators
Do you have a teacher or professor who made a difference in your life? Have you told them how much they helped you or influenced your career path?
I’m sure they’d love to hear from you! I know it’s probably been quite a few years since you last saw them, but it’s never too late to express gratitude.
For example, I left a “Thank You” note on one professor’s office door a few years ago. He was a terrific educator who guided me in pursuing graduate school. I hadn’t seen him in about 27 years! But it felt good to acknowledge it and let him know how much it meant to me.
2. Past bosses
Think back and remember your bosses and managers who contributed to your achievements and professional growth. Take a moment to write some thoughts about how they helped you and how much you appreciate that.
Then, let them know. You could tell them in person (e.g., if you still see them around), email them, or mail a physical thank-you note.
I can count on one hand the leaders I’ve worked for who really made a positive difference in my life. I sent a message to one person to tell them how much I appreciated what they did for me, even though it had been 20 years ago.
Guess what? They were happy to hear from me, and it made their day.
3. Past colleagues
Similarly, I’m sure there are some fantastic colleagues and coworkers from your past, too. You probably enjoyed working with a few people and remember them fondly. Well, it’s time to let them know.
I know we sometimes feel too shy to express gratitude in person. It becomes more comfortable with time and distance.
But take the time to do it. People always appreciate the gesture.
4. Past employees
Even if someone no longer works for you, you can still tell them you appreciate what they did for you and the team. Expressing gratitude to an employee doesn’t stop when their employment with you ends.
Most of us work in small industries, and our paths cross again. If you enjoyed working with someone, let them know. It’s even easier when they’re no longer on your team since you can be completely open about it (e.g., no worries about playing favorites with your current employees).
5. Current leaders
It is undoubtedly a bit more challenging to express genuine gratitude to your current manager or more senior leaders in your organization. You do not want to look like you’re “kissing up” and trying to curry favor.
You should only do this if you genuinely mean it and have specific examples of what you appreciate about them. In some ways, you can look at this as “coaching your boss.” You’re providing positive feedback and letting them know that something they’ve done is noticed and valued.
As a leader, I can tell you it’s rare for an employee to thank you for the role you play. Insincere flattery happens all too often, and it gets old. I always appreciated genuine gratitude when it came with constructive feedback that could help guide my leadership development. We already get enough negative feedback.
6. Current employees
Again, expressing genuine gratitude for your current employees is more challenging. But you can think of this as almost like a performance review with only the positive feedback element.
Do not take this time to add “areas for improvement”! Save that for the official performance review.
Describe why you are grateful for each employee in a 1-on-1 conversation or message. Don’t do the lazy email blast to the entire team (e.g., “Thank you all for your amazing effort this quarter!”). Share examples of things the employee has done that make you glad they are on your team.
7. Current colleagues
Expressing gratitude to your current colleagues is a little easier than to your boss and employees. It’s not as tricky to navigate.
Think about the coworkers you enjoy working with and value. Of course, it can be people in your organization, but don’t forget people in other organizations who have supported you.
For example, I’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic people in HR, recruiting, PR, marketing, legal, community, sales, etc. Work is stressful! People love hearing that they’ve made a difference and that you appreciate them.
8. Advisors, mentors, and coaches
It may seem obvious that you should also thank any advisors, mentors, and coaches who have guided you during your career. But you’d be surprised by the number of mentees who never express gratitude.
Some people forget that advisors and mentors often take time out of their busy schedules to help others for free. They are doing you a huge favor!
So, if you’ve been fortunate enough to have someone play this role for you, it makes sense to let them know how much you appreciate them. Just send a quick message, “Hi, I don’t know if I’ve ever fully expressed how grateful I am for your mentoring. Thank you for taking the time to give me feedback and help guide me in my career decisions. I appreciate your help!”
9. Friends in your professional community
Finally, I hope you have friends you appreciate in your professional life. I have what I would call my “inner circle” of trusted people who are my confidants. Everyone needs people to turn to for advice, feedback, and even sympathy.
Work can be rough at times. So, it’s helpful to have friends in your profession and industry who “get it” and can commiserate from time to time.
Let them know you are grateful for their friendship and appreciate them. Hopefully, they already kind of know this, but everyone enjoys being appreciated.
Expressing my gratitude
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
— Brené Brown
Writing this chapter allowed me to reflect on what I’m grateful for in my life. I needed this exercise just as much as anyone else.
I’ve been feeling down more than usual lately. More frustrated, irritated, and stressed. So, I took a few minutes and captured my thoughts on gratitude and the good things in my life.
Here is what came to mind:
I’m grateful to you. Thank you for making time in your schedule to read my book! I know you have a busy life, so I want you to know that I appreciate you giving me some of your valuable attention.
I’m grateful to my clients. They are why I created my business, and I hope to keep serving them for many more years to come.
I’m grateful to my loving wife.
I’m grateful for my amazing children.
I’m grateful for my health.
I’m grateful that I can work and provide for my family.
I’m grateful I created a business I love that allows me to work remotely.
I’m grateful to my loving parents, who raised me to be independent. They also showed me how to be a good father through their actions.
I’m grateful for the friends who have stuck by my side as my life and career have changed over the years.
Thank you again for reading this chapter. I appreciate you!
Feeling grateful for what you have
If you’re reading this book, you definitely have some reasons to feel grateful. If nothing else, you have access to the means by which to read it (e.g., purchasing the physical book, reading it on a device, or borrowing it from a library).
I’m sure you probably have many more reasons to feel grateful. But I don’t know you, so I can’t go much beyond those assumptions.
I do, too, but I sometimes forget how lucky I am and the many wonderful things I have in my life. I should feel gratitude every minute of every day, but I frequently feel lacking. As I mentioned earlier, I’m sometimes disappointed in myself, impatient for results, and always want something more.
I want my business to grow faster.
I want more subscribers to my newsletter.
I want more podcast listeners.
I want more people in my community.
I want to write more books.
I want everything to progress more quickly and smoothly.
If you’re ambitious and driven, you tend to focus most on what you don’t have and want to achieve. You get frustrated by the gap between reality and your expectations. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “Woe is me” and “Why can’t my life be like…?” thoughts.
It’s okay to be ambitious, push yourself to achieve extraordinary things, and want more out of your life and career. But, it becomes a problem if you focus too much on your frustrations and end up whining and complaining (even internally). It’s unhealthy to dwell on what you don’t have and lose sight of how much you do have and how lucky you are.
Things could always be worse. Always. And many, many people have it way worse than you or I do. We sometimes lose sight of that.
Practicing gratitude will improve your personal life. It’s an essential tool for building and maintaining an invincible life.
What are you thankful for?
I want to challenge you to capture everything for which you feel thankful.
Some people engage in gratitude journaling every single day. I encourage you to try it at least once. You may discover the benefits of doing it feel so good that you’ll want to practice gratitude more frequently.
As I mentioned above, some challenges ask that you reach out to people and express your gratitude to them and what they’ve done for you. It’s also up to you if you’d like to do this.
However, simply take 15-20 mins for this exercise and reflect on your life. Use a paper notebook to capture a list of positive things that pop into your head.
Some examples might include:
You have loved ones who care about you.
You have a job.
You have a place to live.
You’re able to afford food.
You have a vehicle you can use to get to work.
You have clothing to wear.
You have friends.
You have your health.
If you’re reading this, you’re still alive!
Some of my friends lost loved ones over the past few years. Many lost their jobs because of the economic conditions. Some even lost their homes.
I know I’m thankful to have many good things in my life, even if it has been challenging and painful at times.
I hope you feel the same way.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my book with you! Become a subscriber today to keep reading the draft chapters as I complete them.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane.