06 Dec
Having an Attitude of Gratitude

As we return from our Thanksgiving Holiday having spent quality time with friends and family while also having a chance to reflect on all the things we’re thankful for – some of us returned to our daily routines feeling as if our Thanksgiving Break was very short-lived. So why do we find it challenging to transmit this sentiment of “being thankful” throughout the year?

The English Oxford Living Dictionaries define the word “thankful” as feeling pleased and relieved. We know that these can be fleeting emotions that only exist for a brief period of time. For example, we are thankful when we pass a test or make it through a challenging situation and we’re thankful when someone does a kind act that pleases us. But these events and feelings that come with them, are only temporary- which leads us to search for other ways to relive these delightful experiences.

On the other hand, the word “gratitude” is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return to kindness (English Oxford Living Dictionaries). While closely related, the definitions for thankful and grateful are different in a big way. We seem to embrace a feeling of being thankful when thinking about something good that has happened in our lives or when someone has done something to please us.

Being grateful takes thankfulness a step further and requires that in addition to feeling pleased and relieved, we are ready to show appreciation and to return kindness to others or our community. Being grateful requires action on our parts, we’re not just reflecting on what we’re thankful for but we’re willing to take steps to demonstrate and spread kindness.

In the book, The Energy Bus, we find at the beginning of the story that George, the main character, is not allowing his gratitude to shine through. In fact, the author tells us that George has been in this state for several years, as misfortune had been following him like a dark rain cloud hovering over his life. This is because George wasn’t taking the time to reflect on all the great things that were happening in his life. George had a good job, a loving family, and was in good health- but because he chose the focus on the things that he didn’t like, these things showed up more in his life.

Like George, many of us find it difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the year. We are walking around looking for those quick fixes, those feeling of being pleased, relieved, or simply a few moments of happiness.

In order for us to truly experience gratitude, it requires us to take action. It requires that we step outside of our own needs to fulfill the needs of others or those in our environment.

Think about this- we become depressed and frustrated when we concentrate on ourselves and our personal problems; but we feel most purposeful when we are serving others, loving our passengers.

Having an attitude of gratitude is not always easy, we can all fall back into a default mode of pity parties and blame.

Here are a few exercises that have will help you reframe and refocus so that you continue to move towards your purpose while having an attitude of gratitude:

#1: Thank people often. I’ve learned that what you put into the world usually comes back to you. If you want to be appreciated, appreciate others. Be sure to let others know how much you value them. Give out Fuel-Your-Ride Slips (or thank you notes) to the person who does your laminating or to your custodial staff who keeps our building clean and safe. You’ll be surprised at how these little slips can bring on big smiles!

#2: It’s not about you! Whenever you find yourself whining to yourself or others- take a deep breath and tell yourself “It’s not about me!” Once you realize this secret, you will have the ability to move beyond your ego self into a new world of great possibilities.

#3: Read something inspirational daily (Fuel Your Ride with Positive Energy) Something as simple as a quote can take you to a higher place and release you from negative thoughts. You may find comfort in reading a nice note you received from a staff member, parent, or student or a book that has brought you peace and joy!

#4: Learn from every opportunity. Embrace challenges to find those small opportunities that will push you towards your purpose. We are confronted with problems each day that will help us become stronger and more knowledgeable when approached with a positive outlook. Remember- those small challenges can lead to great opportunities!

As we prepare to celebrate the end of another year and the start of a new one- let’s adopt an attitude of gratitude and share it with our students, families, and staff members.

Happy Holidays!

Niki Spears,
Co-Founder, The Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey