Making a Habit of Gratitude


A recent comment on last week’s post How to Create a Thanking Culture by Kate Hobbs mentioned that we are a society of entitlement. If this is true, then we may not be noticing the people and things in our lives that we’re grateful for, and we can’t thank them if we don’t notice. Several years ago I started a simple practice that has helped me to notice that I’d like to share with you.

Shortly after the thrill of starting my own business wore off, I went into a deep funk during the tedious process of marketing something that seemed misunderstood; basically, I wasn’t selling anything. Money wasn’t coming in, and I was questioning my sanity in ever thinking I could do what I set out to do. Doors slammed in my face and my bank account was shrinking.

At some point I realized how good I really had it. A loving family, a roof over my head, my good health all took on new meaning. How could I capture and embed in my sad worn out heart what was good in my life? How could I make a practice of noticing what I was grateful for? I really became determined to more actively notice what and whom in my life was good rather than focus on what was missing.

A life changing practice

I’m not sure where the idea of keeping a gratitude journal came from back then. I’ve read about some studies on it since, and I occasionally run into someone who knows about this practice, but back then, it just seemed like a good way to embed gratitude into my life. I began by spending time each evening before bed jotting a few notes about what I was grateful for (often people/things that were top of my mind from that day).

It’s been that simple and that life changing – one or two minutes each evening to record what I’m thankful for in short bullet points. I began by challenging myself to get to five bullet points each evening. At first it was hard to find that many things that I was grateful for, but now it’s easy to come up with and record many more, if I wish.

Soon I noticed things – and people – popping into my thoughts that I was grateful for as I went about my day. I can now reframe difficult situations or people to look for the good in them – and sometimes find a way to be thankful for it before my emotions get the better of me. I rarely think about what’s lacking in my life, and I’m determined to remain grateful for what – and whom – is there. Since I’m better at noticing, I’m also better at thanking. Some of my clients have taken up this simple practice of journaling their thankfulness and have noticed the difference it makes in their life and their leadership.

What habits and practices help you in your determination to be grateful?

P.S. Thank you for being attentive and active readers of my blog.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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