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In my twenties, it seemed easy to maintain a positive outlook on life. It was a simpler time with much less that could go wrong. As the years went by, I started accumulating responsibilities – and bad things happened along with the good ones. When I started my business, I faced new, unknown challenges. At one point my company almost collapsed. As a result, my outlook shifted to a more negative place. Business issues and other life responsibilities took over in 2007 and made some days downright bad. My tone changed from happy to gloomy. I started having trouble seeing the good in things. That change in outlook affected my health and invited more “unhappiness.”
While not a conscious effort, I began to gather strategies to recapture the happy, positive mindset of my twenties. I had previously thought that whether someone thinks the glass is half full or half empty was genetically determined. At some point I realized that any hardwiring could be overpowered by events. My parents taught me that a positive attitude is the basis for a good life. I never thought maintaining it would require practice or support, but as it turns out, it does.
Today I practice three solid habits to keep my outlook positive.
Related: Want a Big Business and Life Hack? Learn to harness the power of gratitude. Here’s how to do it.
1. “The Greatest Hits” Gathering
As a business leader, most of the company’s challenging problems land on your desk. When you see so many problems, you get the feeling that there are only problems. Rationally, you know that’s not the case, but to instil the right perspective, we’ve started our “Greatest Hits” meetings.
Every week at 9:00 am, the key people of our company share their latest and greatest hits for 10 minutes. Prior to the meeting, they fill in our unique Post-It with their answers. Each person shares two examples of something they are proud of: something remarkable they saw someone else do or something that happened in the company. Then they share a personal hit – something from their personal life that they are grateful for.
With six attendees, we hear 18 positive things that went well each week. That’s almost 1,000 good things in a year! Without this process, I wouldn’t even be aware of most of these 1000 greatest hits. The big benefit for me is a weekly reminder that 90% of things go right, even when it feels like 90% go wrong. It also boosts team morale and confidence.
2. Thankful Thursday
Another habit I developed is now known as Grateful Thursday. Every Thursday afternoon I express my gratitude to others for what they have done for me during the past week.
I use a few prompts for this. I jot things down as they happen on a “Grateful to You” notepad. I keep my post-it note from the Greatest Hits meeting to get other ideas. I look at last week’s calendar to jog my memory about everything I’ve done and who I’ve met and look at my phone photos. I write it all down on the Grateful notebook and then decide how best to appreciate those people.
This practice has evolved to the point that I have a gratitude wall in my office with a series of cards that I send people. I spend about 20 minutes sending cards, letters, gifts, emails and entering relevant company items into a Core Value Highlights database.
This habit accomplishes more than you might think. Of course, I realize all the things I should be thankful for (usually four to eight a week) and appreciate them more.
In team members, it reinforces positive behavior, remarkable actions and notable work achievements. I find that people are universally motivated by being appreciated. If you do that right, they are more motivated, repeat the excellent performance, and enjoy better morale because they feel appropriately valued. I often see my notes on their office walls. I think appreciating people is a major contributor to the high ratings we get on Glassdoor from former employees. In my experience, I get five times more feedback from showing gratitude to team members compared to monetary recognition in the form of pay raises or profit sharing.
Even non-employees like to be recognized for doing something for the company. Handwritten thank yous are rare enough now that sometimes I even get thank yous for the thank yous!
Related: How to Practice Gratitude as a Business Skill
3. The 90/10 rule
Think about it: most – let’s say 90% – of the things you worry about will never happen. It could even be more like 95%. When I first heard that 30 years ago, I didn’t necessarily believe it. But after 30 years of observing what I emphasize or think about versus the final result, the rule is absolutely true.
The trick is to retrain your human nature, which sustains itself by worrying, to try not to worry while life is happening around you. That’s probably a whole separate article in itself – but if you can train yourself to only worry or dwell on something when it actually becomes a legitimate problem, you’ll be 90% happier.
The habits I practice are by no means an all-encompassing list of how leaders can keep gratitude top-of-mind to take their business to the next level and stay positive. But it is the three that I regularly put into practice. Each has nuances that are beneficial to me and my team (or both).
No matter how you incorporate gratitude into your business, I encourage you to do so. Start now, get creative, experiment with different techniques and find what resonates most – because everyone benefits from an increase in gratitude and innovative ways to integrate it.