Four steps to year-round gratitude

At Thanksgiving this year, we went around the table and each of us shared what we are thankful for.  While it’s cliché, it felt good to publicly acknowledge how much I have to be thankful for. And I loved hearing the different and sometimes surprising answers around the table.

thanksgivingBut I want to tap into that feeling more often — not just on Thanksgiving.  So, in order to tap into that gratitude, I’ve come up with four easy steps:

  1. discover why you’re saying thank you
  2. connect and show appreciation for the gift
  3. acknowledge that you have more than enough (money, time, possessions)
  4. share your surplus in a meaningful way.


We often say thank you without connecting — even without meeting someone’s eyes.  It becomes as perfunctory as “have a good one.”  So how do we insert meaning into our voiced appreciation?  Start by asking yourself WHY you are thanking someone. Is it because what he did really meant a lot to you, or is it because of the spirit of his generosity (i.e. he went out of his way to do something considerate and generous)?  And of course, it could be both.

Seth Godin wrote “Thank you means two things.” It took me a couple times of reading it through to fully grasp his insight. Here are his two thank yous:

  1. Thank you for giving ME something (pushing the right button and saying the right thing at the right time).  It’s all about ME, the recipient, and how what you gave me was a gift to me
  2. Thank you for being kind and generous — is about the giver who did something thoughtful or kind.  Its about the acts of the giver, regardless of the recipient, and it’s about thanking someone for sharing.


So with this insight into different kinds of appreciation — you can truly say thank you and know what you mean.  You can reach out and warmly clasp someone’s hands, or you can meet his or her eyes with your own, or you can give them a warm hug.  The secondary sensory connection works to reinforce the genuine appreciation.



During my recent participation in Seth Godin’s altMBA, Seth pointed out that many of us have surplus in our lives:

If you have a safe place to sleep, reasonable health and food in the fridge, you’re probably living with surplus. You have enough breathing room to devote an hour to watching TV, or having an argument you don’t need to have, or simply messing around online. You have time and leverage and technology and trust.

Too often we are racing through a day, a week, or a year to get “more” — but more what? And why?  What is enough and where is there more than enough i.e. surplus? You probably have more time than you think, and more money and possessions than you really need.


After reminding all of us that we likely have surplus in our lives, Seth asks one of his many poignant questions:  “What are you going to do with the surplus?” and “What will you spend it on?”

Do you have extra time? And “extra” time includes that spent on social media and watching TV.  It’s probably safe to assume you have surplus.  Remember that old adage: “want something done, give it to a busy person”?  Getting something done is about choosing to do it, and making time for it, regardless of how busy you are.  So assume you have surplus and think about how you might share it.

4a. How to share the surplus:

If you are sharing your surplus time, then do it by something that you already know (your talent can be shared) or by doing something want to learn (you will receive benefit and likely stick with it). There are many ways to share but some examples are:  mentoring someone at work or in your community; shopping for the elderly neighbor; creating something  you can share such as a blog, a podcast, a craft, artwork, or a meal; volunteering at your church, on your town committee, or with a non-profit.


Share your surplus.


4b. Whom to share it with:

If you volunteer with an organization, the recipient might be chosen for you. Or you might choose whom you want to share your gifts with – the neighbor, your blog readership, a co-worker, your partner, a child, the unknown internet world.  Choosing whom will be the easy part, once you are clear on what you are sharing.

And it all starts with being grateful – -really grateful, year-round, for all that we have.

So, what will I spend my surplus on?  Writing, parenting, coaching, and finding new ways to work; and connecting with others and staying centered so I can give more … and more … and more. Because as long as I have surplus, the more I give, the more that comes back to me in so many ways.

What will you share?