In 2007 I sat down with a mentor of mine - his name is Jim - for one of our quarterly breakfast meetings. Between bites of oatmeal (him) and pancakes (me), Jim asked me a question that changed my life.
Have you ever had that happen? Have you ever walked away from a meeting with someone KNOWING that that conversation had the potential to change everything?
Here was the question he asked, “Jason, what’s your gratitude plan for your business?”
I had a business plan. A financial plan. A marketing plan. I even had a “hire-a-freelancer” plan! I had a customer care plan, as well as a product development plan. But…a “gratitude” plan?
As a social psychologist, I study interconnectedness. I write down hypotheses and then I go do my research. I read studies, I interview experts, I find information and statistics that prove (or disprove) what I set out to find. Well, this one discussion almost 9 years ago was one of the most “interdisciplinary” ones I’ve come across.
Here’s that question, and I invite YOU to answer it:
Brain, Consciousness, Gratitude and Productivity
I consider myself a “Journeyman Neuroscientist.” Not unlike the 3 summers I worked as a journeyman carpenter, I continue to learn, study, ask questions about, and take classes on the Human Brain. I’m currently mid-way through an 18-hour course titled, “Understanding the Brain” led by Professor Jeanette Norden, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
As I consider the main premise of the course - to make the case that the brain and the mind are related - I continue wrestling with an attempt to understand WHY we do what we do, HOW we do what we do, and WHAT we can do in collaboration to make things better for one another.
The “game-changer” as I have labeled it…If we are aware, SO much happens. When our awareness is compromised, so LITTLE happens. The Get Momentum THEME for November is “Building Meaningful Relationships.” As I reflect back on that question I heard in 2007, and think about the next decade of the work I plan on doing, I understand that those questions the mind/brain wrestle with are the SAME ones that can keep me up at night…or wake me in the morning.
“Fear comes from uncertainty; we can eliminate the fear within us when we know ourselves better. As the great Sun Tzu said: “When you know yourself and your opponent, you will win every time. When you know yourself but not your opponent, you will win one and lose one. However, when you do not know yourself or your opponent, you will be imperiled every time.”
- Bruce Lee
But, many business owners today feel bound by the Age of Information management to stay connected, especially checking email about as often as a new one comes in. Students at Stanford University* proved that heavy multitaskers paid a price for their continued refocusing patterns. Since no one thing got all of their attention, many smaller things were attended to, often at the cost of not getting the most important things done. In 2009, Professor Clifford Nass put it best, “They’re suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them.”
Ah, and HERE is what I’m thinking about. But, I am not just thinking about it THIS week; I think about this every day. Every day I sit down at a desk, a restaurant table, an airplane seat…somewhere, and I write a thank you note. Handwritten. To someone specific. In that letter, I share with someone who helped me that day; someone who did something special, someone who made my day a little bit better.
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
- Oprah Winfrey
This wasn’t the plan when I had breakfast with Jim that day. But, over time, it became the plan. I don’t always write my last name, I rarely add my return address to the front of the envelope, and I NEVER include a business card. These letters are my way of connecting with the human BEING behind the human DOING. That is, I acknowledge what they did, but I focus on who they are.
And, here’s where it gets crazy…
I notice movement more and more these days. I notice people getting things done. I notice me creating time in the day to write my gratitude card. I notice good things going noticed in and around the organizations I serve and the leaders I support as an executive coach. And, more than anything else, I tune in to the “why” more and more.
A lot of people get to the end of the day and think about the things they DIDN’T get done. Many people leave work only after they’ve spent time organizing the work they need to work on tomorrow. Some people even continue working after dinner, well in to the night. What we are learning about the social and personal pressure to perform proves the opposite is what we need to be doing.
When you think about your own “gratitude plan,” start with the Process of Acknowledgment (PoA). (Click to Tweet)
Every day before you leave the office, reflect back on SOMEthing that happened that day that is positive. If possible, reach out via an email, a text message, a phone call or (gasp!) a handwritten letter and let someone know that what they did matters.
People want to know…