Thought Leader: Adopt the gratitude attitude

Leaders face unprecedented challenges and wave upon wave of change. Uncertainty and unease may be the new working landscape, and although harmless in and of themselves, the meaning that we invest in all pervasive uncertainty or unease can cause powerful tides of anxiety.
This anxiety is fired by worries about future state at the expense of being firmly present in what is here and now. In short, we sacrifice our immediate experience with all its lifegiving energy for mindless rumination that drains us.
Anxiety feeds alienation, which eats away at healthy working culture. Consequently, leaders need practices that offer access to nourishing immediacy, presence, greater resilience and an enhanced ability to focus in busy-ness.
The technical interventions that the leadership industry has traditionally sold, although valuable, are limited here, and many leaders are exploring wisdom practices or spiritual disciplines to complement their leadership practice.
Mindfulness is one such discipline that is gaining popularity. Less well known but equally important and perhaps more accessible is the use of gratitude as deliberate discipline. In fact gratitude may be the holy grail of resilience – it is deeply energising and centring, making it balm against pervasive stress.
Although mindfulness and gratitude are foundational spiritual practices they are also sound, scientifically-verified, commonsense approaches that allow us to live more engaged, healthier lives and to contribute from places of strength. We can’t be grateful in the past or the future. To be grateful is to be here now, to return to our heart to inhabit our self.
Gratitude is one of the most potent qualities available to humanity. It has the power to strengthen individuals and improve relationships, which is valuable to those building community and culture. Practising gratitude is alchemy – it can turn anxiety to acceptance, cynicism to joy, and bitterness to engagement.
I believe it can heal alienation – which is rife at times of organisational turbulence, offer sense of meaningfulness and restore wonder. In short, we feel alive and free again.
Gratitude researcher professor Robert Emmons notes that: “Specifically, we have shown that gratitude is positively related to such critical outcomes as life satisfaction, vitality, happiness, self-esteem, optimism, hope, empathy, and the willingness to provide emotional and tangible support for other people, whereas being ungrateful is related to anxiety, depression, envy, materialism, and loneliness.
“Collectively, such studies present credible evidence that feeling grateful generates ripple effect through every area of our lives, potentially satisfying some of our deepest yearnings – our desire for happiness, our pursuit of better relationships, and our ceaseless quest for inner peace, wholeness, and contentment.”
In addition, gratitude is the key to successful ageing and may be associated with longevity. Positive emotions, such as gratitude, are psychologically beneficial because they can undo the harmful effects of negative emotions. This may have huge implications for those of us struggling to overcome past hurts.
A gratitude practice is disciplined way of noticing all that is good and given around us, including acts of kindness, things we benefit from or enjoy, and the beauty of our surroundings.
You forge gratitude practice by setting time aside daily or weekly to review what you are grateful for. Journaling is massively powerful here. M
Resources
“Living in Gratitude” Angeles Arrien
“Thanks! How practicing gratitude can make you happier” Robert Emmons

Tim Roberts is coach working with senior leadership teams in New Zealand and is Visiting Fellow of the University of Chester, UK.
[email protected]

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