Coaching Corner: Gratitude

Years ago, during a time when I was feeling scattered, tired, overwhelmed, and used-up, I began reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s, Simple Abundance.  Sara introduced me to the concept of keeping a gratitude journal, which I did for quite some time.  The gratitude journal’s mission is for me to identify five things I am grateful for each day.  I found my old journal, and while looking back on my entries, discovered that I’m often the most grateful for the small things in life, like silence, sunshine, music, the smell of rain, a hot cup of tea, a hug, a smile, warm bread, a kind deed.  I was struck at how much and how little it takes to be grateful.

Last month I started a new gratitude assignment.  I decided to take five minutes each morning to list everything I’m grateful for from the day before.  The first morning, that five minutes seemed to last for a long time.  I really had to think after the initial eight to ten entries.  I realized I was out of practice!  I was too focused on my list of to-dos, and hadn’t taken time to appreciate what’s here now.  I decided to change that.  The next day I tackled my journal with a new sense of purpose.  It got easier, and my list grew longer.  By the third day, I noticed that as my list expanded, I was internally debating whether something was worthy of being on the gratitude list or not.  On what scale do I rate my gratitude?  What’s good? What’s bad?  As I began to think this quandary through, I was reminded of a series of classes I had taken a few years back, where one of the principles of a systems worker was described as taking the stance, “who knows what is good and what is bad?”  In working with teams I’ve noticed that when the topic gets intense, or someone finally names the “elephant” in the room, the initial reaction of the group ranges from anxiety to fear, but it is also where the next possibility exists.  In my personal life an example might be a fight I may have with my husband and how what seemed stressful is actually the door to a deeper understanding of what’s important. Or, how many times have you heard someone mention an unwanted life changing event as, “the best thing that ever happened to me.”  And finally, don’t forget the cliché, “it’s always the darkest before the dawn.”  It occurred to me that it’s all a gift that has the potential to take me to higher ground.  The answer then for me to the question, “How do I live from a place of gratitude,” is easy, just be grateful for all of it.  Who knows what is good and what is bad?

Self Directed Coaching Assignment:
Begin a gratitude journal.  List five things each day that you’re grateful for, or take five minutes each day and write volumes of what you are grateful for.
Or
Find 30 minutes and a quiet place to reflect on the following questions.  Have blank paper available.

  1. How often do I show appreciation for others?
  2. How heartfelt are the thanks I offer, not only by me but by others?
  3. How many acts of service are necessary for me to have one meal (how many people were involved in growing it, picking it, preparing it, serving it, clean up, etc.)?
  4. Who in my life deserves my acknowledgement today?

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