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Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja

Gratitude Is An Art (Controlling Your Emotional Thermostat)Mick Ukleja

August 13th, 2013 - Do you find yourself fearing the future? You’re not quite sure what it holds and it scares you just a bit? Are you overwhelmed, wondering how it will all turn out? Will you have enough to live on as you plod toward the sunset?

These kinds of thoughts become emotional distractions that can immobilize at best, and derail at worst.

Is there a remedy for this counter-productive thinking? The answer is YES. There is a solution. It’s called artwork – emotional artwork. And gratitude is at the top of the list.

Are you grateful? That’s a big question. You can be grateful for the big things like health, or even the little things like the comforts of your home. It’s not a science as much as it is an art, whereby you acknowledge certain things in your life. We all have a sneaking suspicion that there are benefits of doing this. But what are they?

#1 – Gratitude Creates An Energy Shift. The act of being grateful produces emotions that are positive. Our human tendency is to wait until we feel an emotion and then act on it. The truth is that the action produces the feeling. If I wait for the feeling before I act, I might never get around to it. Therefore, if you find yourself emotionally down or depressed, or if you feel you are in transition and sense that things in your life aren’t going well, what should you do? The act of being grateful will begin to produce your desired feeling.

Acknowledging, even for a few minutes a day, the things you are grateful for – big or little – will shift your energy in profound ways. You won’t be able to help feeling better. You will also discover that this is incremental and builds on itself. The act of thanking precedes the emotional benefits.

So develop the habit of acting before feeling. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The word, emotion, has as its root the word, motion. It means to move. Start moving and the emotions will follow. Wait until the emotions propel you forward and you may never start moving. The act of being grateful will produce the energy shift. And the more you do this, the more positive energy you will create.

But there’s more!

#2 – By Focusing On What Is Good, You Will Attract More Good. You reap what you sow. If you are grateful for your health, your job, your senses, your partner, your friends, you will reinforce the good that already exists. But you will also be laying the groundwork for more good.

So, before I encourage goal setting, I like to emphasize the need to acknowledge what you already have. What is good? What is working? Don’t take it for granted. Then let your acknowledgement turn into gratitude.

When you fill your cup with what is working, you create more capacity and insight into what you want to achieve. This takes an “if only” attitude and turns it into an “as is” gratitude.

So give it a whirl. There is no better time to start than this week. You’ll reap great benefits! You will discover that the benefits become internal as well. The greatest benefits will come from within. So start practicing this art. You can practice it all day long. It will create such a positive shift in your outlook that you might even become addicted to it!

Here are some tips:
• Spend a few moments each day thinking about all the things you are grateful for;
• Start a gratitude journal, and list something each day; and
• Get a gratitude buddy and keep each other accountable.

When you begin to feel anxious and start that emotional panic, it’s often because you are looking for gratification somewhere in the future. That’s when you need to remind yourself you are already grateful. We all fall prey to the hedonic treadmill that keeps us pursuing gratification in the future. This is the destination disease. It’s the idea that, when I finally get there, I’ll have it. Ironically this kind of thinking never grasps gratitude. Believe me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.

The art of gratitude is simple, yet the benefits are deeply profound. So what are you grateful for right now – in the present? Think them out loud. Write them down. Tell someone. You will find the benefits start with happiness and over time will mutate into joy.

(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)