Around Thanksgiving, we often reflect on the things we are most grateful for: our families, our health, our jobs, etc. Why do we wait until November, the eleventh month of the year, to appreciate the things we are thankful for? Practicing gratitude should be a year-round discipline as the results are real and impactful. In case you missed our last blog post on how gratitude leads to results (even for mutual fund wholesalers), let’s go for take two with more quick-and-dirty on gratitude:
First, let’s talk about what gratitude is not. Gratitude is not indebtedness. The two are easy to confuse and for good reason; the idea that there is an obligation to repay a favor has been around for centuries. In the fourth century B.C., pre-Socratic philosopher, Democritus, said, “Accept favors in the foreknowledge that you will have to give a greater return for them.” This tit-for-tat mentality results in feeling indebted to anyone who does something nice for you, leading to wanting to avoid the person or not accept favors from them again to steer clear of that feeling in the future.
The other end of that spectrum is entitlement. Entitlement is the belief of being inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. This term is tossed around quite a bit to define my generation (and yours too, if you were born after 1982). Entitlement, like indebtedness, ultimately brings along negative feelings. Tim Urban wrote a great article on exactly that. If your expectation is that you are always deserving of great things, just for existing, you are inviting disappointment into your life when reality inevitably proves otherwise.
So what’s the alternative? Gratitude.
Gratitude can be conceptualized on state and trait levels:
State level- the short-term experience of the emotion of gratitude
Trait level- the frequency in which you feel the emotion of gratitude
Basically, trait level gratitude is how often you experience state level gratitude.
Studies have found that people who have higher trait level gratitude appraise the help, favors and kindness they receive at a higher value than people with lower trait gratitude. Why? Gratitude is like a muscle. The more often you exercise it, the easier and better it becomes.
As a third party marketing firm, we try to infuse every interaction we have with gratitude: from keeping in contact with our investors (RIAs) and finding ways we can help them in their due diligence process, to helping our mutual fund clients develop a marketing plan that incorporates traditional marketing, inbound marketing AND sales, to interacting with our own internal team and our external partners and vendors. We believe in the power of gratitude and we’ve seen the real results.
At the beginning of this year, the founder of our third party marketing firm, Stacy Havener, implemented a new way to help the Havener team reflect on the good and the positive. During our weekly team meeting, we each share a positive achievement: big or small, personal or professional. The goal is to measure our progress from where we started, not against an ideal elusive outcome, and to be grateful for the positive progress we are making. We all need to protect our confidence.
When we first started this confidence building ritual, there would be long pauses between turns. Phrases like, “Um… I don’t know anything positive that happened this week” or, “I can’t think of one right now” were not uncommon. As the weeks continued though, it became easier and easier. Before we knew it, the pauses were replaced by several of us having multiple positive focus topics that we couldn’t wait to share with the team.
We quickly embraced that illustrating progress through small wins minimized the negative impacts we were assigning to the more challenging elements of our week. This practice in gratitude, and in progress, not only helps to protect our confidence and celebrate oft-overlooked positives in our lives, but it also helps to move the proverbial ball forward. Measuring your achievements from where you started better aligns your team of mutual fund wholesalers, RIA support staff, portfolio managers, etc. toward the end goal while motivating them to keep moving forward. One grateful step at a time.
This same concept is easy to practice in your personal life as well. I have an eight year-old daughter who sometimes struggles in the gratitude department. On Sundays, we review the week using this worksheet:
This exercise helps both of us remember there is far more good than bad. By remembering three things we were each grateful for, good behavior or feeling loved, we train our brains to gravitate towards the positive and focus on the progress. Want to give it a try? Download a version of this worksheet here!
How do you practice gratitude in your personal or professional life?
We’d love to hear your ideas!
About the Author
Laura Lewis is the Operations Manager at Havener Capital Partners. She is responsible for translating data and statistics to actionable improvements in sales and marketing processes. Analyzing structured and unstructured data sourced from both external and internal sources including sales opportunities, marketing campaigns and market research, Laura helps the firm increase efficiencies on behalf of our clients.