When you hear the word gratitude, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? How does gratitude make you feel? Generally speaking, gratitude evokes good feelings and an invitation for more of what you value and appreciate. Thanksgiving is a time of year when we collectively put greater attention to what we’re grateful for and then we move on. Believe it or not, being in a state gratitude isn’t first nature and doesn’t just happen automatically. It’s a learned practice and a focus that involves awareness and daily effort. Your ability to feel gratitude is shaped over time through significant moments, conditioning and your environment.

So what is the practice of gratitude? Every moment in our day is an opportunity to practice feeling grateful for something, anything. To feel gratitude, you simply direct your focus to what you appreciate, like, love and value in any given moment, allowing that energy to lead the way. Sounds easy enough, right?! The interesting thing is that it’s almost counter-intuitive to focus that way. It seems easier or safer to focus on and point out the things we don’t like in ourselves, other people and situations.

In fact, as human beings, we tend to be naturally or privately critical and judgmental, which is the complete opposite of gratitude. The thing about judgment is that it reflects a discontentment in ourselves that stems from shame, frustration, embarrassment and grief. That said, I’m not suggesting we go through a series of counseling sessions to uncover our patterns of judgement; rather, one of the best ways to counter the urge to judge is to flip it around to gratitude. The more you feel grateful for what is, the easier it is for you to let go of judgement overtime.

Accepting yourself, everyone and everything for exactly what is and who is, is an important part of practicing gratitude, not to mention incredibly freeing. Sure, not everyone is going to fit your standard, nor do they have to. Not every situation is going to work out exactly how you want, yet it’s comforting to know that everything is working out for you in the most perfect path leading you toward an identity that matches your desires.

Gratitude in your business is also a daily practice. Without gratitude for what is and who is, you won’t see the opportunities, strategies and low-hanging fruit right in front of you. People will always do more for those who appreciate them than those who don’t. As a leader, what does gratitude look like for you? Do you value your clients, customers, partners, staff, vendors and affiliates, or do you see them as a means to end, a necessary evil, a pain in your butt, etc.? How often do you express gratitude for them and to them? Practice feeling grateful for what you value in others, giving that more attention than the things you may not like about them.

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