Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Develop An Attitude Of Gratitude
How To Show Your Gratitude For Others
By Elizabeth Harrell

Why show gratitude? Is it just the right thing to do, or does it have some other intrinsic value? Demonstrating sincere gratitude takes energy and thought, and having an attitude of gratitude requires the conscious effort of being thankful. So how can practicing gratitude have a permanent effect on you and those around you? Read on to find out.

When someone expresses thankfulness, it not only impacts the receiver, but it also has benefits for the one giving thanks. Recognizing the blessings in your life and acting upon them regularly increases your awareness and appreciation. Sharing your gratitude improves your quality of life because it can only result in positive emotions. Learning to appreciate what you have also makes life more valuable and meaningful.

Being Grateful to Those Who Light the Flame
Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, once said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Everyone hits rough spots – and some people seem to survive avalanches – but often, other people are sent our way to rekindle our faith and keep us from despair. Who are the people in your life who deserve gratitude for supporting you when you needed it most?

Being Thankful For a New Opportunity
Each day we’re given a new chance to make a difference in the world. Until we are gone, there is always hope of finding happiness. Meister Eckhart, a German theologian from the 13th century, wrote: “If the only prayer you said your whole life was ‘thank you’ that would suffice.”
By maintaining an attitude of gratitude with each new day, you develop the habit of appreciating what you have instead of dwelling on what you don’t have. You’ll have more peace and joy because your outlook begins on a positive note. You’ll also handle challenges differently if you begin with an appreciative mindset.

Modeling Gratitude
Saying “thank you” isn’t tough for most people. Modeling a spirit of gratitude takes much more effort, and a shift in thinking is the first step.

Acting on thoughts of gratefulness is more challenging. People who model gratitude don’t take others for granted. They don’t make assumptions about how other people should treat them or what others should do for them. They don’t walk around with a sense of entitlement, feeling they are owed more from the world.

Sometimes we get so focused on our “rights” that we forget to be gracious and appreciative of what we really do have. When modeling gratitude, we develop an awareness of appreciating small everyday experiences. For example, you might be quick to complain when traffic, making it hard to get to work on time. However, do you appreciate days when the lights seem to all work in your favor? Frustration comes from unmet expectations, but gratitude results in not having expectations and truly finding the joy in whatever comes your way. This is not a typical thought process for Americans, who are so used to getting what they “deserve” just like everyone else. However, modeling gratitude will attract others to you and improve your overall attitude. Children who observe grateful parents learn to be thankful. Bosses who demonstrate a spirit of gratitude will find that their employees are more grateful.
John F. Kennedy expressed it eloquently when he said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

When to Express Gratitude
At times it is obvious that gratitude should be expressed, such as when someone does you a favor or gives you a gift. But there are many other times to be grateful; times we normally take for granted. Here are a few examples:

* When children behave.
You might be thinking, children should behave, and that’s true. But demonstrating gratitude for their good behavior will only promote more of the same.

* When someone does a job well.
I have tracked down managers to let them know when a store clerk treats me kindly or just has a great attitude. I try to express my gratitude in front of the employee with the manager to ensure the employee hears it.

If you have a housekeeper or lawn service, add extra payment or treat them to home-baked cookies occasionally to express your appreciation for their continued good work. I have a friend who leaves soda and snacks on top of her trashcan for the garbage collectors each week. Who thinks to thank the garbage collector?
* When your spouse goes to work every day.
It’s so easy to accept the benefits of your spouse’s income without ever really saying, “I really appreciate how hard you work for our family.” Even if your spouse doesn’t thank you for doing the same, be the bigger person. You might see a change of attitude.

* When friends or family members do you a favor.
It’s especially easy to overlook close friends and family when it comes to being gracious. We get so used to some people being there for us that we can’t imagine them not doing so. Maybe a friend picks up your daughter from dance, or your sister babysits your children. Think about those people in your life who are there in a pinch or regularly make your life a little easier.

* Good neighbors.
Even if you’re not close friends with your neighbors, appreciate how nice their lawns look, how they never throw loud parties and how they drive through the neighborhood at a respectable speed.

How to Express Your Gratitude
There are many ways to say “thank you,” but the best ways are those that have some thought behind them. Make a fabulous sugarless dessert for someone who is diabetic. Edge your neighbor’s yard the next time you do yours. Surprise your children with a trip to the movies or the local ice cream shop. Give your spouse time to do whatever he enjoys most, or create a romantic evening unexpectedly.
Clean your single sister’s apartment while she’s gone for the day. Bring baked goods to the librarian who is always so sweet to your children.

Tracking Gratitude
I keep a “blessings” journal where I simply list those people and things that I am grateful for in my life. Much of the time, I carry it in my purse to make notes even when I’m not at home. Sometimes when I think of a person I’d like thank, I make a note of it, including a nice way to express my gratitude. If I don’t write it down, it will never happen. As the journal gets full, it’s fun to look back and see all of the ways I’vw been blessed. It’s easy to feel gratitude when you see your life in those terms.

Do You Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses?
Chances are you've taken tests or have had interviews where you were asked to detail your strengths and weaknesses. It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are, but you can do it. Find out where your inner strength comes from by taking this quiz.

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