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Gratitude: The Forgotten Factor in Wellbeing and Leadership

gratitude-wellness-leadership“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open … No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

It may have been American modern dance choreographer Martha Graham who authored these words, but it was a very dear friend who recently sent them to me. With perfect timing, the quote landed in my email box one afternoon, and I knew at first glance that it was worth reading repeatedly. One day my eyes lit on “there is only one you in all time.” (Wow!) The next day I tuned into “you do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.” (What a relief!) Today, I feel fueled by the “blessed unrest” which Graham’s quote so powerfully conveys.

Yes, I could delete the email, but I don’t. Why? Because every time I read her words I feel grateful. Grateful for this unique expression called life. Grateful to be in this creative soup of humanity, made richer by the likes of people like Graham and the friend who shared her words with me. It wasn’t only the electricity in Graham’s quote that was energizing me, but the gratitude I experienced each time I read it.

The latest wellbeing research says that gratitude is proving vital to health and wellness. While most people think of gratitude as a virtue for the religiously inclined, in actuality it is a quality all of us can take on. Sometimes it helps to be reminded, like Graham’s quote does for me. Or you might find a cue to gratitude in award-winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s awe-inspiring images of our world. Or perhaps you could use this 14-day online Gratitude Journal, to turn gratefulness into a daily habit.

When we emphasize gratitude in our lives, the benefits are many. The Greater Good Foundation, an organization advancing the science of gratitude, reports that people who adopt a grateful orientation also experience:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated

Robert Emmons, University of California professor and author of the book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, goes even further. He says that grateful people are more apt to achieve their personal goals and are less likely to judge success in terms of material possessions or wealth. With all its benefits, Emmons claims gratitude is a forgotten factor in the science of health and wellbeing.

I believe gratitude is also a forgotten factor in leadership practice. Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, would agree. Quoted in the new book, Grateful Leadership, Rauch says: “Magic occurs when strength of purpose is coupled with a culture of trust, care, and gratitude. This focuses on optimizing the value for all the stakeholders, which translates into an increase in revenue.”

Like Graham’s quote, Rauch’s next words struck me as ones for leaders to read again and again. “Gratitude,” he says, “is an elevating force that links corporations to humanity, thus strengthening relationships which are instrumental to corporate success.”

In revisiting such powerful words each day, I’m trying to do my part to keep gratitude from becoming a forgotten factor in my life and work. How do you make gratitude a regular practice?

Photo by hurricanemaine

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