It is not happy people who are thankful, but it is thankful people who are happy” – this is a quote I saw some time back, and it has remained with me.

Matt Lundquist, an author writes, “What makes gratitude meaningful isn’t the intensity of it but the specificity of it”. Being grateful is a decision you make intentionally; it does not happen automatically.

Please read on to find out a few characteristics of leaders who are grateful:

  • Grateful leaders see life with a positive attitude and are optimistic

Be thankful for what you have; you will end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”, says Oprah Winfrey. We can be very concerned about many things we do not have and allow these things to stress us out. Such a negative attitude prevents us from enjoying our present moment(s). “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become” says Robert Holden.

The example of Helen Keller is worth mentioning. The American author, political activist, and lecturer lost her hearing and sight when she was only 19 months old. She was not even a few years old when this happened. Growing up, she had every reason to be ungrateful and bitter in life. However, she decided to turn her handicap into an opportunity. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her thankful heart and attitude led her to declare boldly and with much grace, “so much has been given to me, I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” What was given to Helen was the opportunity to read, to encourage others and to empower others. What she did not have was the ability to see and hear but she was grateful. 

  • Grateful leaders are content, confident, purposeful and have a great focus

Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. “If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more?”, Roy T. Bennett asks this legitimate question.

Many people are battling negative emotions like jealousy, envy, greed, unhealthy competition because of lack of contentment. It is good and alright to desire to have more but it is dangerous to be ungrateful for what we have. The ability to pause and to count your blessings and achievements and to refuel for the challenges ahead is an inner strength of top performers. “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life”, according to Rumi.

Brian Tracy advises, “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” A grateful heart is a content heart with a positive attitude and great focus.

  • Grateful leaders complain less and are great solutions providers

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr.Doris Day adds to it by saying, “Gratitude is riches and complaint is poverty”. It is difficult for people who complain to see opportunities. When we are grateful, we can easily see within us pathways to success and as we walk these paths, we will surely experience success. Gratitude appears to be an eye-opener or a magnifying glass to the things we already have and to who we already are. This certainly points to the debatable fact that poverty of mind and attitude is a more severe form of poverty than that of lack of material gain. If our attitude resonates with this, we can boldly confirm what William Arthur Ward says in his quote: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Consistently complaining, fear, worry and anxiety can be signs of a heart that is not grateful enough. Tony Robbins observes “When you are grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears.”

There is a very good example of a man who always complained about his spouse and could see no good in her. He decided to visit a marriage counsellor who listened to him. Afterwards, this counsellor thanked him and gave him a sheet of paper. “George kindly honestly write the good qualities of your spouse on the sheet”. After writing them down, the marriage counsellor said to him, “Thank you for the 31 qualities you were able to write about your wife. The key to your marital challenges lies within these 31 qualities you have written down yourself. You have at least one quality you can be grateful for every day of the month till the end of the month. Focus on these qualities and we will meet in three months to do a review”. In the fourth month, as agreed, they met and George confirmed that as he focused on Alice, his wife’s qualities, he praised her more and complained less he realized that her attitude towards him had drastically changed for the better.  

This leads us to our next key: appreciating others.

  • Grateful leaders know the power of thanking and appreciating others

According to Charles Schwab, “the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Ralph Marston also advises, “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.

In his book Think Big, Ben Carson the first black neurosurgeon who divided the Binder Twin brothers, underlines the power of appreciating others especially people who have played key roles in our lives by appreciating people in his life. He was intentional and went into detail to provide names and exactly what he appreciated them for. Here is what Ben Carson wrote about his mentors, his inspirers and influencers – “Throughout my life at various times, specific individuals have touched my life and enabled me to climb from the bottom of my class to the top of my profession. I couldn’t have done it without such special people”.

John F. Kennedy is right when he says, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Being grateful to those who have made a difference in our lives is not an option but a must. I am always grateful to my dear spouse who taught me how to speak English and hasn’t stopped correcting me when I make mistakes. I will also be forever grateful to my father who was a consultant himself and who encouraged my desire to become one too.

  • Grateful leaders are emotionally healthier and tend to be happier

According to Zig Ziglar, “gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

I saw a 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in which researchers had subjects fill out a baseline survey assessing their mood and symptoms of physical discomfort. Comparisons were made among the groups. These groups included:

  • One that kept a weekly journal of things they were grateful for (e.g., friends and family)
  • One that kept a weekly journal of hassles in their life (e.g., roommates who are messy)
  • One that was instructed to journal on random events (e.g., ate six burritos this week)

A little over two months afterwards, the comparison showed that the subjects in the gratitude group showed a significant increase in overall life satisfaction along with a decrease in symptoms of physical discomfort.

  • Grateful leaders are humble and wise

Cultivating an attitude of remembering where we are coming from and not despising our beginnings helps us to be grateful in life and to be empathetic. Anyone who has failed many times in life and finally succeeds with the help of a good Samaritan understands failure. If he will remember how he used to struggle, he will be slow to criticize those who pass through similar challenges and can instead lend a helping hand.

In summary, we agree with Rumi who said, “wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life”.

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