Years ago, I only praised extraordinary effort, and even then, only grudgingly: “You put a man on the moon in ten years? Why didn’t you do it in five?”
As I’ve gotten older and less un-wise, I’ve been working to strengthen my gratitude muscles. Now, I make it a habit to thank the people for the work they do, especially when it’s personal to me. I thank my wife and kids for being my wife and kids, and occasionally for loading the dishwasher or cleaning up their rooms. When I’m in front of audiences, I try to recognize the audience’s impact on the world—it wasn’t hard once I realized that most of us contribute in some way. I make it a point to praise with integrity—hollow thanks create more harm than good, and are as empty as sugar-free soda or decaf coffee. I try to tap into how someone’s actions really move me, and then deliver my gratitude as sincerely and honestly as I can.
From experience, I know the power of gratitude; really heartfelt thanks makes a positive impact on others, especially when it aligns with the actions they are most proud of. It makes me feel good as well.
If you are looking to build your own gratitude muscles, here are some steps you can take:
- Look for praiseworthy actions—they are all around you, all the time.
- When you see something, say something-tell the person how his or her actions impacted you in a positive way.
- Get your intent right—the more genuine you are, the more effective you will be.
- Don’t wait for earthshaking actions—sometimes letting someone know you appreciate the little things is enough. Put enough little things together and you get something amazing.
- Practice—if you find yourself grudgingly praising extraordinary efforts, you will never develop the skill, and miss out on the upside of strong gratitude muscles.