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On Gratitude

| August 28, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Several weeks ago while reading the Leading News leadership letter I found today’s reading “On Gratitude.”  It’s author, Patricia Wheeler <Patricia Wheeler [email protected]>, is an executive and team coach who helps smart people become more effective leaders. As Managing Partner in the Levin Group LLC, she has spent 15 years consulting to organizations and coaching senior leaders and their teams.  The entire essay is included below with her permission.

Take a moment and read the piece through thoughtfully, think of the story as a play with you in the play and then ask yourself the questions – How often do you express your gratitude?  And, what would happen if you did so even more? – Patricia asks at its end.

.  .  .  .     jim


On Gratitude 
By Patricia Wheeler

Despite living a good life, many of us often struggle with what’s really good enough, and how can we continue to have even more.  And why shouldn’t we want more?  Doesn’t wanting more increase our drive?  

Many managers believe they should focus on what’s not done, rather than feeling happy and grateful with what is done.  Where’s the balance between wanting more and being grateful with what we have?  

Here’s a personal case study.  I am privileged to work with a number of very smart and compassionate leaders at our local children’s hospital.  I’m always bowled over by their dedication and compassion as I see them serve extremely fragile and sick children.  

Last week, I was finishing a meeting with one of these talented doctors.  As I left through the lobby, I passed the small radio broadcasting facility the hospital had created for the patients.  Several children were taking turns making broadcasts.  At the microphone was a girl of around eight years old, bald from her cancer treatments, wearing a pink baseball cap.  I immediately felt grateful for my opportunity to work within such a forward-thinking, caring environment, grateful for my own health and for the health of my own children.

Exiting the door, I saw a stunning yellow sports car parked at the entrance.  I stepped closer to take a look, thinking it might be the Corvette belonging to one of my clients.  Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a smoking hot Maserati…one of those cars that you immediately long to be driving on the open road.  What sort of privileged individual would own a car like this?  Somehow my gratitude had meandered out the window, momentarily eclipsed by its green-eyed cousin, envy.

I pondered my internal shift as I drove back to the office in my nice enough car.  As a long time student of positive psychology, I know much of the research that says that gratitude is not only good to feel, it’s good for us as well.  

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of the University of California at Davis and the author of “Thanks” is a dedicated researcher on the science of gratitude.  He and other researchers have found in a number of studies that acts of gratitude yield positive results that are often physically quantifiable.  In one study, individuals who were asked to consciously focus on expressing their gratitude over a period of weeks, to themselves and to others, reported fewer health complaints, slept better and spent more time exercising.  Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania studied a group of university fund-raisers.  Not surprisingly, they found that those employees whose managers thanked them for their contributions made 50% more fund-raising calls than employees who were not thanked.  

I recalled all of this as I remembered to focus on the positive and articulate the many blessings in my life.  And yet, I was embarrassed to find that I was still picturing myself behind the wheel of that yellow Maserati, tooling along the street with the top down, the wind in my hair and the eyes of bystanders on me.  

Later that day as I drove around the area, I was surprised to see that same beautiful car heading toward me.  Another whiff of longing passed through my mind.  As the car passed, I saw the driver, a neatly groomed, smiling businessman.  His passenger……the small cancer patient in the pink baseball cap.  

My perspective on the Maserati and its driver forever altered, I drove on.  Thoughts of gratitude for the blessings of my life surged.  And on one thing I am clear.  If someone was able to cure his daughter for the price of a Maserati, I know without a doubt he would hand over the keys immediately.  

How often do you express your gratitude?  And, what would happen if you did so even more?

Copyright 2012 Leading News.