A New Habit of Gratitude For Greater Happiness
While gratitude is on my mind every year as my birthday approaches, this year I am in Germany surrounded by a developing refugee situation. How can I not be grateful?
When you see people at the margins — Syrian refugees in Germany, the homeless in the United States, or beggars in India — you can’t help but feel appreciation for your own health, for a roof over your head and enough food on the table. Most of us feel thankful on certain occasions, but often expressing gratitude and appreciation for others is another thing altogether.
We write birthday cards and maybe holiday cards. We send thank you notes after dinner invitations (a tradition that is quickly becoming extinct). With the infusion of technology, fewer and fewer people send notes in the mail.
When was the last time you received a heartfelt note in your mailbox? When was the last time you sent a note to someone?
A CEO client once told me that he takes time every Sunday to write thank you notes to people who deserve to be acknowledged in his life. I found that noble. As much as I tried to emulate his habit, it never worked for me. Activities I only do once a week tend to fall by the wayside over time.
What does work for me is forming daily habits: writing in my journal, working out, eating nutritious food in regular intervals, etc. So, how to be grateful daily? I decided to commit to my own challenge: Write one thank you note every day for 365 days.
Starting on my birthday, I have been and will continue to write a thank you note every day, whether it’s to someone I love, to people who deserve to get acknowledged, or to those that go the extra mile.
One card a day. It doesn’t seem like that much considering I send 100 holiday cards every year. Nonetheless, life happens and I knew I needed to be prepared to handle days where time is of the essence, i.e. travel days, conference days, offsite days, etc. Proper preparation would insure that I stick to the plan.
If you’d like to join me in this challenge, here is the template for success to start and succeed with a new habit:
1) Make a Declaration
Tell a friend, family member, colleague about your commitment. By committing out loud, you make a promise that you now need to keep.
2) Designate the Start Day
Determine which day you want to begin. I picked my birthday, but any day would be fine — New Year’s Day, next Monday, today.
3) Prepare Your Note Cards and Writing Utensil
People tend to think of Germans, like me, as super organized. I hate to burst that bubble, but this is the perfect example of my disarray. I found note cards and envelopes in various boxes (still from my move a year ago!), in drawers and pouches. One box had envelopes, another had note cards. What a mess. I matched note cards to envelopes and slid the note card into the envelope flap and placed all of them in a box. I also found an 8.5 x 11” pouch to hold my cards while I am traveling. I find I love writing with a fountain pen, because it feels smooth and fluid and you can’t hurry when writing with one.
4) Create a Checklist
In Excel or Numbers create a checklist with date, name and address so you can keep track of notes sent every day and make address corrections as needed.
5) Purchase Daily Calendar
Find a fun daily calendar with quotes or cartoons, one of those where you can rip off a page for each day. Include one every day in your notes for fun and to keep you on track for your daily task.
6) Print ‘365 Day’ Label
Design and print or order labels to identify that the letter is part of a bigger project. I printed mine on Avery labels and I stick one on every envelope.
7) Purchase Stamps
My dad collected stamps. When did this become old-fashioned? Stamps are an art form and you can send a mini piece of art with your note. For example, for my German letters I found some interesting ‘Asterix and Obelix’ stamps.
8) Start Writing
Here is the key: Connect your new habit to a habit you are already successful with. For example, if you brush your teeth every day (which I hope you do), connect this habit with the new one.
Every time you brush your teeth, you will write a note. I decided to attach my new habit to my journal writing, since it is also a writing exercise. Be creative and set yourself up for success.
9) Anticipate the Change
Even with the best intentions some days will be challenging. The first 30 days are crucial. As I am writing this newsletter I have completed five thank you notes – 360 to go!
Let’s see what challenges arise. I am determined to show my gratitude on a daily basis. How can I not?
In what area of your life might you want to incorporate a new habit?
(Ideas: Food, Exercise, Punctuality, Underpromising and Overcommitting, etc.)
What challenge will you commit to?
(Ideas: visit all 50 states of the United States, exercise every day for a month, learn a new language, etc.)
What form of communication is so meaningful to you that you want to engage it every day?
(Ideas: Twitter, Facebook, telephone, handwritten, Skype, text, Face-to-Face, etc.)
If you are up for a challenge, please make sure you let me know what it is so we can hold each other accountable.
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