Like many people, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The best part to me is that as a country, we all pause and take time to reflect on our lives and give thanks. We come together to help those in need. But after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, I have a slight addition to the gratitude practice I recommended in the blog I wrote last Thanksgiving.
Re-thinking the gratitude list
Many people have the habit of writing a gratitude list so they can be conscious of the good things in their life. And last year at Thanksgiving, I encouraged people to make intentional gratitude part of every single day; I still believe that holds a lot of power and practice it daily. After reading Option B, however, I have a new perspective on the gratitude list.
In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, she describes that after the sudden death of her husband, she felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. She explains how author Adam Grant challenged her to keep a contributions list.
In his opinion, a gratitude list is passive, but a contributions list is active. It recognizes progress and reminds you to make a difference. In the book Sheryl explains that at first it was hard for her to write down three things that she did well each day. At the beginning it was just “I got dressed today.” But as she got more used to it, it really helped boost her effort throughout the day.
I love this shift in thinking. Yes, we should count our blessings. But what if in addition to writing what we are grateful for, we acknowledge how we made an impact in the world around us. By exploring our outward impact, we are less introspective. And this might help reconnect you with your purpose, which is what truly guides us towards fulfillment.
Thinking about this concept in a business setting makes perfect sense. If you are the top sales person you can’t just sit back and be thankful for the fact you’re crushing your numbers. You have to continue to contribute to your success to make an impact. And the converse is also true – if you’re a sales manager and someone on your team has potential but has yet to find success, encourage her to start his list of contributions to the team. Maybe they are only internal activities – “I brought bagels to the office today!” or “I was a great sounding board for John as he prepped for a sales call” – but more than likely they will boost confidence, which could increase results.
As a mom, I love to try to weave this mindset into my conversation with our daughters. The other day my daughter lost her basketball game and came home disappointed in the result. Later in the day, when I could tell she was still a bit bummed about the game, I tried to have her tell me all the great things in her life. “I know you are bummed about the game, but what is awesome in your world?” I added in this question as well….”what are a few ways you positively impacted the team today?” I believe these kinds of conversations help shift mindset and help us recover and re-focus more quickly.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Both a gratitude list and a contribution list have their merits. At different times in your life you might need one more than the other. Regardless of whether you’re a business leader, a parent, a coach or even all of the above, start adding your contributions to your daily journal to see how you can change your thinking. My hope is that this Thanksgiving, you count your blessings and your contributions to make this holiday even more meaningful.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.