As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I want to share a little trick I learned recently that has dramatically changed my outlook on my work, on my family and on my future goals. If you try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the positive impact in your own life.
To participate you do not have to buy anything, all it requires is a notebook, pen and a few minutes each day.
A few weeks ago I attended the National Association of Health Service Executives in San Antonio. For those of you not familiar with this wonderful organization, it is the association of African American healthcare executives in the US. I had never attended and did not know what to expect. Well, here is what I got: a welcoming group of people, an excellent set of presentations, panel discussions and insightful keynote presentations. This wasn’t a staid conference. This was more like a warm and uplifting trip to a family reunion. An absolutely great investment of my time.
On my last day at the conference, I had a choice on either attending a presentation on making your network work for you presented by a colleague from Heidrick & Struggles, or another session entitled “Turn the Page: First Master Your Leadership Story” by Dr. Johnny Parker of the Parker Group, a Washington, D.C. executive coaching and leadership development consultancy. Dr. Parker is a former life coach for the Washington Redskins and the Washington Mystics of the WNBA. His experience in the Mind Set Coaching world has had a profound effect on a number of clients. He is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. His underlying theme was this: Leaders tell a story about who they are and what they value through their leadership style. The big question is whether your leadership is telling the story you want to be told by others?
There was great stuff in this far-too-short presentation, but there was one thing he said that stuck with me and has made such an important impact on my outlook on life. The amazing thing is that Dr. Parker’s recommendation was part of something I was already doing, and have for years: journaling.
A number of years ago I ran into another interesting consultant, Rand Stagen, a Dallas-based entrepreneur who operates the Stagen Leadership Academy. I was already keeping a journal at the time, but it was Stagen who advocated for a journaling process that included more than just events and reminders. He said to begin logging my reflections and other information about events of the day, interactions with people and important decisions, large and small. Later he said that reflecting on that information, replaying the events in my mind could provide an opportunity to assess my effectiveness in coming to the right solution and execution of that decision. He calls that process “game filming”, something sports teams do after every game to evaluate if they were effective or fell short and what needs to happen for them to improve.
Executives who use this technique say they have benefited enormously from adding this dimension to their daily journaling routine. I certainly agree and endorse the concept.
But Dr. Parker suggested another element to journaling that I had never considered.
Plan each day’s events and things to do in your journal and then add this: Each day, journal three, four or five things you are grateful for – your spouse or partner, your family, a success, even a failure from which you are determined to learn. Perhaps it is a challenge that you must overcome to achieve success. Be grateful you have the opportunity to prove to yourself and others that you are capable of success.
One dear friend asked me what I was going to do when I ran out of things to be grateful for. I was surprised by his comment. It caught me off guard because it had never occurred to me that running out of things to be grateful for was even remotely possible.
If you live life each day to its fullest, if you are engaging with people in a meaningful way, then your list of things to be grateful for will never end.
As I was preparing for this podcast, I ran across a story on gratitude in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News. Senior Writer Leslie Barker wrote:
“Brief or detailed, spoken or shown, some bit of gratitude is possible in every moment of every day.” Because it is embodied in the very word of the holiday we celebrate this week, what better time
than Thanksgiving to focus on all it does for us – spiritually, emotionally and physically, Ms. Barker concluded.
But, while journaling gratitude and enjoying its benefits, there are limitations to what it can do, Ms. Barker wrote. It won’t make money problems go away or turn sorrow into joy or make a deadly diagnosis disappear. What it will do is refresh the way we look at life. It will add color to the black and white of the seemingly mundane.
Studies have linked gratitude to reductions in stress and lower blood pressure.
You can express gratitude in many ways: writing a thank you note, telling someone how much you appreciate something they did for you or letting loved ones know that you appreciate them and that you care.
And now one last note. Today I wrote three gratitudes in my journal. But I sit here in the studio I realize one very important point of gratitude that I left out. I am grateful for you, for listening to the podcast and for following our twice-weekly blogs and for your kind words about our content. Thank you.
From all of us at JohnGSelf, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Safe travels.