During the month of November, there are constant reminders of why we should give thanks. This post combines my thoughts on this topic.
When I teach my leadership course in the fall (as I am now doing), I include a mandatory, but ungraded assignment.
- Each student is to handwrite a thank you note or note of gratitude to a person of their choosing BEFORE Thanksgiving.
- Mail the card (I prefer postcards) or hand deliver it to the person.
- Journal about how it felt to write the note and the response received from the recipient.
During the years I have included this assignment, the student response has been extremely positive. There are several lessons I am trying to teach:
- The practice of writing thank you notes has decreased. Yet the impact is more memorable and meaningful than receiving an email or no response.
- In times of tight resources, giving positive feedback and/or expressing gratitude can basically free and a gift.
- Research says students who have an attitude of gratitude–grades, attendance, and interactions all positively improve.
I subscribe to the free daily coaching video called Minute with Maxwell. Every day in a one-minute video, Maxwell (an authority on leadership), shares a new word and a new way of thinking. Recently, Maxwell’s word was GIFT and he concluded: When we receive a gift, we are grateful. But when we give a gift, we are fulfilled. He challenged leaders to ask yourself: What gift can I give to add value and make a difference in someone’s life?”
Oprah was one person who popularized the practice of gratitude and of keeping a gratitude journal. While this is a good thing, I sometimes think gratitude can be a self-centered feeling such as:
- I am so grateful that did not happen to me.
- I have so much gratitude for receiving that grade, promotion, job.
One podcast series to which I regularly listen is On Being with Krista Tippett. In July, Tippett interviewed Ross Gay about his book The Book of Delights where each day Gay wrote about a “delight” or something that brought him joy. He said the practice helped him develop a delight radar or delight muscle. He said “the study of delight made the delight more evident.”
Examples of a delight included ordinary things such as seeing two people sharing the burden of carrying a shopping bag or a sack of laundry, how they helped each other and how they adjusted to each other. Another example was watching a grandmother and her grandchild walk and talk in the park. It brought joy to Ray to observe this kind interaction of love and caring.
Tippett asked Gay several times about how can we find “delights” at this time when there is so much suffering, polarization, fear, and despair. Not only does Ray look for and document delights, but in collaboration he created The Tenderness Project to encourage people to tend to each other and develop compassion and empathy. Based on my research, these are important leadership skills in these uncertain times.
After listening to Gay’s interview and reading his book, I thought a great deal about the distinction between gratitude and delight. While both are important, most delights are found outside of ourselves. Gratitude feels more like receiving and on the hunt for delights feels more life giving. Looking for simple delights that bring joy in ordinary daily living is a way to stay alive, be observant, and focus externally to bring internal joy and happiness. The difference may seem subtle, but worth pondering.
- Gratitude is important but especially giving/showing/expressing gratitude.
- Giving is more fulfilling than receiving.
- Looking for delights that give us joy makes us more aware of the little pleasures in life.
Every day can be Thanksgiving if we remember to give thanks and be on the lookout for delights.
Look for delights today.
Thank someone for something today.