Gratitude isn’t easy for me. I can’t help but notice how similar the word is to “platitude.” I have thought of it as thin, perfunctory, forced. I am changing my mind. And that’s changing the way I lead. It can change the way you lead, too.
What is it? Gratitude is acknowledging that something has been given.
Even before you go on reading, what do you notice when you read that sentence? This is not a rhetorical question. Keep the question fresh in mind and notice: what’s given?
Let’s assume for a moment that some things are given: they just happen. That’s no reason to be grateful in itself. Some of those things are problems, tragedies, or idiotic annoyances.
Whatever the causes, things that just happen are happening uniquely to you. When something happens to me, everything that went before contributes. That’s why it may feel familiar.
Yet, the sheer complexity of things means that no two moments are the same. Right now, we’re handed a once-in-a-lifetime gift. You could say that complexity conspires to give it to us. I didn’t make it happen. I can be grateful for that. It wasn’t a sure thing. But here it is.
Every one of these moments carries an opportunity to do something with it. It’s fresh and different from the one before. Sure, that’s subtle. But here comes another. And if I don’t act now, I can still act. Now. Or even now.
The three ways
Practicing gratitude turns our attention to opportunities. It helps us become more aware. “Here’s a moment that I can do something with, right now.” As a leader, I have choices.
It helps is develop faith in opportunity even if we feel have few or no options. We do have options. In this moment, or the next one. As a leader, I stay hopeful. Circumstances aren’t conspiring against me. They’re just circumstances.
Gratitude can also help us be a little more forgiving when we or others let a crucial moment pass. There’s another moment coming with its opportunity inside. So as leaders, we use that awareness of opportunity to encourage folks to act now. Or now. As a leader, I build up people to ensure they use their opportunities well.
I’m learning to worry less about leading skillfully. This moment is unfolding an opportunity. Developing awareness helps me recognize the slight differences that create them. It’s not just about what I should do, and not at all about what I can do perfectly. It is a new habit – or practice – that involves recognizing that a moment is unfolding an opportunity, which is the chance to take an action that will fit it.
And if I don’t get it just right, here comes another one for me to open.