First, seeing the world (and yourself) through the lens of gratitude is a choice. No one can force it on you, no one can take it away from you. In every situation, in every moment, you get to choose whether to react gratefully… or not.
Second, there are a lot of benefits of behaving gratefully. People who live out gratitude more fully:
report higher levels of life satisfaction, optimism, vitality, patience, connection with others, and lower levels of depression and stress. In short, gratitude helps your attitude.
show the capacity to be empathetic and take the perspective of others. And, they are thought to be more generous and helpful by their friends. Which means you’ll have more of them.
place less importance on ‘things’, share more often, and show lower levels of jealousy towards others. Certainly helps with the accumulation of and connection with friends, doesn’t it?
Third and finally, gratitude leads to joy. And not just for yourself. When you express your gratitude towards others, you are giving them a gift, one that is both easier to give and more powerful than you think.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
Y’all have a great-full week!
(Hat tip to Dr. Tim Elmore for ‘benefits of a grateful life’ list.)
We enjoy a lot of treats directing Weequahic. I don’t just mean having the key to Canteen or a chef that makes just a few extra chocolate chip cookies. (And, yes, those are seriously tempting treats!)
It’s so much more than that. We get to travel to see our families throughout the year. We host really bowling parties with a bunch of our kiddos and parents. We get to meet and work with fantastic staff members, spend the offseason working with close friends…. There is so much for which to be grateful.
Sure, running camp has its moments when it’s not all chocolate chips cookies and slush puppies. But that’s with anything we do. We make mistakes from time to time and are grateful for the families who show patience as we learn from those mistakes.
Yes, indeed, we are even thankful for the mistakes. We could not get better without them. (And neither can you!)
Are you starting to catch the ‘grateful’ theme yet? Good… because I’m laying it on pretty thick.
I’ve been a fan of the Jacobs family (especially their son, Lucas) for several years. Ever since reading his Year of Living Biblically, I’ve been a fan of AJ’s writing, too. With his deep dives into things and a humor that is right up my alley, I find myself learning, laughing and thinking all at the same time.
Thanks a Thousand is all about AJ’s attempt to thank everyone involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. And, no, he doesn’t stop with the local barista. When AJ jumps in, he goes deep. For example, he thanked the lady who kept the coffee bean warehouse bug-free.
Along the journey, AJ did a great deal of research on gratitude and shares a number of ideas on how we can develop the attitude of gratitude more fully in our lives. With his permission, I’m sharing seven of his ‘greatest hits.’ And, yes, I’ll do my best to connect them to camp, too!
Focus on What Goes Right
There are so many things that go right in a day that it’s hard to count. We just rarely try! For example, the line moved quickly at the store. All of your homework was turned in on time and done well. A pretty awesome dinner arrived at your door.
As I say at campfire often, when you start being grateful that which you have in your life, well… things get better quickly!
The Art of Savoring
How many of our campers want camp to be over quickly? (The answer is ‘none.’) How many are surprised it’s over so quickly? (The answer is ‘everyone!’) When you intentionally try to stretch out a moment, a taste, a connection, you are savoring things.
It doesn’t take an incredible meal, three weeks at Camp Weequahic, or anything else ‘special.’ You can savor anything you put your mind to draw out. And that act of savoring is closely linked with gratitude.
Practice Six Degrees of Thankfulness
When learning about his coffee, AJ realized it takes thousands of people to make it all come together.
It’s no different for camp: 220 staff members, 700 campers over the summer, 530 sets of parents, the bus company, the food suppliers, the farmers who produce the food, our undaunted US Postal Service workers, the team behind CampMinder….
The thing is, at camp (or at school) you are part of something bigger than just yourself. And that, my camp friend, is important to realize and acknowledge.
Using Gratitude to Fall Asleep
I love this one. We’ve been trying it at home since I heard it last week and I’m thrilled to say it works!
The idea is this: say something for which you are grateful that starts with the letter ‘A’, move to ‘B’, then ‘C’, and on and on until you fall asleep. What a great thing to try at camp next summer!
Thou Shalt Not Have (Delusional) Nostalgia
You often hear people talk about the good ol’ days when things seem like they were better. (AJ’s mantra when he falls into this trap are three words: surgery without anesthesia.)
More often than you would think, our second summer campers say ‘this is summer is different than last summer.’ Yes, it is! Every summer at camp is different because the people – staff, campers, parents – are all a year older and have changed, even just a little bit.
The important point to remember is this: glorifying the past is a thief of joy. Instead, be grateful and excited about this opportunity that you have right now.
Fake It Until You Make It
There are going to be days when you just aren’t ‘feeling it’, when gratitude is hard to conceive of, much less express. One of the leaders of Save the Children, Jerry Sternin, reminds us that it’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.
So, if you want to be more grateful and accrue all the good things which those habit produce, start acting the part, even if you aren’t feeling it!
Parents often ask if our staff can accept tips (thank you, but no) or gifts. I always respond, “they’d love to get a ‘thank you’ note.” We overestimate the awkwardness and underestimate the effect.
Two other quick ideas along these lines: First, ‘I’m grateful’ is more effective than ‘thank you.’ Second, those who write ‘thank you’ notes for a job interview get more call-backs.
Okay, I know that is a lot longer than my usual Friday Night campfire post. I hope you’ll agree, though, that there are too many good ideas to keep it to one page! I challenge you to take one or two ideas and put them into practice.
A Final ‘Thank You’
Finally, I’ve got to add my own ‘thanks’ to the thousand passed along for a cup of coffee. AJ, I’m grateful to have been a (very small) part of this journey and pledge to continue the gratitude drumbeat at Weequahic.
Have a great week everyone!
PS – If you’d like to learn more from AJ’s adventures in gratitude, there are a two options other than purchasing the book. You can listen to AJ on the Tim Ferriss podcast or watch his TED Talk on gratitude. Enjoy!
I’m so thankful that I get time to read in the ‘off-season.’ I get to enjoy fiction, non-fiction, biographies, and a bit of ‘historical fiction.’ Some books I start and put down after thirty pages. Other books make me want to stay up all night.
I didn’t always like to read ‘real’ books. Comic books were more my style growing up. In fact, I’m always happy to talk old school Marvel and DC stories with the campers.
Reading more substantial books came in high school and then flourished in college. I found books that told great stories in ways that I understood – Lonesome Dove, Shogun, Undaunted Courage, and others – and wanted to read more.
I just finished reading a sweet, short book called The Noticer by Andy Andrews. It’s a nice reminder of being thoughtful in your choices. It also provides ideas to broaden your perspective on things.
The story begins with the narrator, a young man in his early 20’s, discussing how bad things had gotten for him. A somewhat mythical man calling himself Jones shows up to ask questions and lend some wisdom. Among the many lessons Jones lays out is that what you focus on increases.
‘When you focus on things you need, you’ll find those needs increasing.
If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on other things that you had forgotten you don’t have – and feel worse!
If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose….
But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.’
The day after I dog-eared that section, I stumbled on an article about gratitude I had squirreled away in my desk. Listed in the article were all the benefits found in practicing gratitude along with a few exercises to increase the habit.
Finally, this morning, I received this in my email inbox:
“Want the simplest way to build a habit of gratitude and color the rest of your day? It’s an easy three-step process:
Put a writing pad or journal and pen or pencil next to you bed before you fall asleep.
Go to sleep.
Wake up and write three things* for which you are grateful before you get out of bed.
*Don’t go easy on yourself and write the same things over and over. Think! Look around! I bet you’ve so many things to be grateful for you’ll never finish writing them down.”
Time to Practice
Ok, universe, I get it! I’ll pass these ideas along about gratitude to the kids at Weequahic.
If things had gotten more obvious, I’d expect a brick coming through the front window wrapped with a ‘be grateful!’ message.
Here’s the fun thing about that simple, one to three-minute morning habit: you awaken to all that is fantastic in your life. And, done over enough mornings, you begin to spend time searching out that which you’ll write down the next morning.
More and more, you’ll be practicing the habit of living gratefully. Do that and not only will you be a happier person, you’ll have a lot more people wanting to be around you.
So, why not give it a shot? I’ll be doing this practice from now until the end of the month. I’ll report back to let you know what I experience. If you’ll join me, I’d be happy for the company and would love to learn what you thought about it all.