Do you need some motivation for practicing gratitude this Thanksgiving? It turns out that gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships.
Advisors and business owners who feel honored to work with each other close deals at substantially higher rates and are happier with the outcomes, which leads to more high quality referrals – repeating the cycle of success again and again.
In The Seller’s Journey I tell the story of an owner who was so grateful to the advisors who helped him sell his business that he invited them to join him on an epic trip across Glacier National Park to celebrate his success. Along the way, they relate the physical challenges they face crossing the glacier to the emotional obstacles he overcame in letting go of his business without regrets.
What if you could cultivate those kinds of results in your own deals with just a few simple tweaks? You can.
And, for the next three weeks, you can get copies of the book at 15% off so you can share it with your own clients, prospects and deal partners. Grab your copies here.
For more on the science behind why that kind of gratitude leads to higher close ratios, more referrals, and greater satisfaction for everyone involved, read on …
Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, has been studying its effects on physical health, on psychological well-being, and on our relationships with others for more than a decade.
Emmons and his colleagues studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated.
The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. It is a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
Indeed, this cuts to very heart of the definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. That’s what we see playing out among the characters in The Seller’s Journey – they realize the success of the deal was dependent upon all of them and how they worked together.
What good is gratitude?
So what’s really behind Emmons’ research results—why might gratitude have these transformative effects on people’s lives and on your business success?
I think there are several important reasons, but Emmons highlights four in particular.
First, Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions.
Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house—they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted. Like the relationships with our clients and our colleagues.
Gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. Business owners and their advisors who are actively experiencing gratitude, are more engaged in the process of the sale.
Next, Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness and often derail our deals.
This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t or fear that they will take advantage of you. Those are very different ways of relating to the world, and sure enough, research has suggested that people who have high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy and are more collaborative. Want less Seller’s Remorse and conflict in your deals? Cultivate gratitude in yourself and your clients.
And, Grateful people are more stress resistant. There’s a number of studies showing that in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering, if people have a grateful disposition, they’ll recover more quickly. I believe gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-transaction stress and lasting anxiety. They’re able to see the deal to a conclusion rather than bail when things get tough.
Plus, Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you’re grateful, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you—someone else has provided for your well-being, or you notice a network of relationships, past and present, of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now.
Once you start to recognize the contributions that other people have made to your life—once you realize that other people have seen the value in you—you can transform the way you see yourself and trust the others in the transaction more.
Challenges to gratitude
Just because gratitude is good doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Practicing gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies.
One is the “self-serving bias.” That means that when good things happen to us, we says it’s because of something we did, but when bad things happen, we blame other people or circumstances.
Gratitude really goes against the self-serving bias because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success. We accomplished some of it ourselves, yes, but we widen our range of attribution to also say, “Well, my customers gave me this opportunity.” Or, “I had mentors. I had advisors, peers—other people assisted me along the way.” That’s very different from a self-serving bias or the myth of “the self-made man” (or woman).
Gratitude also goes against our need to feel in control of our environment. Sometimes with gratitude you just have to accept life as it is and be grateful for what you have. We could use some of that these days, as so much seems to feel outside of our control. For owners and advisors who react poorly to uncertainty, gratitude is a useful tool to restore perspective and balance.
Finally, gratitude contradicts the “just-world” hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve in life. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. But it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Bad things happen to good people and vice versa.
With gratitude comes the realization that we get more than we deserve. Emmons recalls a comment by a man at a talk he gave on gratitude. “It’s a good thing we don’t get what we deserve,” the man said. “I’m grateful because I get far more than I deserve.”
This goes against a message we get a lot in our contemporary culture: that we deserve the good fortune that comes our way; that we’re entitled to it. If you deserve everything, if you’re entitled to everything, it makes it a lot harder to be grateful for anything. Grateful participants are less selfish and more inclined to work toward win-win solutions for everyone.
Partly because these challenges to gratitude can be so difficult to overcome, how can we go beyond just occasionally feeling more grateful to actually becoming a more grateful person?
A simple gratitude journal exercise works – just beginning or ending each day or meeting with a simple list of three things to be grateful for.
At home, you can also use concrete reminders to practice gratitude, which can be particularly effective in working with children, who aren’t abstract thinkers like adults are. For instance, I read about a woman in Vancouver whose family developed this practice of putting money in “gratitude jars.” At the end of the day, they emptied their pockets and put spare change in those jars. They had a regular reminder, a routine, to get them to focus on gratitude. Then, when the jar became full, they gave the money in it to a needy person or a good cause within their community.
Practices like this can not only teach children the importance of gratitude but can show that gratitude impels people to “pay it forward”—to give to others in some measure like they themselves have received.
The way we practice gratitude in our personal life influences how readily we can cultivate it with our clients and deal partners, too.
Power up Your Gratitude Practice a Notch
I personally have a more direct practice – each time I purchase something beyond a basic necessity, I match that same amount for a charity. I make the matching donations every month, instead of at the end of the year, to keep me in touch with the reality of all that I have and to keep myself connected to how grateful I am all year in little ways, not just at tax time for a deduction.
For example, I recognize that I’m fortunate enough to be able to dine out whenever I want, and that’s a luxury others who are struggling to feed their families don’t have. So each month, I calculate the amount I spent on dining out and contribute that amount to a local food pantry. If I can eat out, others should at least be able to eat that month.
When I take a vacation, I match that same amount to an organization that provides housing for homeless. It’s a luxury to be able to leave my comfortable home and go somewhere else – others should at least be able to have a safe roof over their heads, no?
When I purchase a sweater or new shoes, I contribute that same amount to an organization that helps women prepare to re-enter the workforce.
You get the picture. Even with all the challenges we’re facing in these tumultuous times – there’s a lot to be thankful for in my life and I’ll bet in yours, too. Making these contributions monthly, rather than annually has helped me to become more mindful of all that I have instead of feeling miserly. It keeps me conscious of the value of what I am spending money on, as I make decisions, rather than wondering where money went at the end of the year and thinking something selfish like “Oh, I can’t really afford to make a contribution right now.”
Because I’m making these contributions monthly, I’m more in touch with the abundance I have, it’s cultivating my gratitude much more directly and I’m happier with what I have. It allows me to behave more generously with my clients and peers and, as a side benefit, I value each purchase I make more than I did before I undertook this tangible practice of both thanks and giving.
Each time I make a non-essential purchase, I ask how much I really want it. Do I want whatever it is enough to also make sure someone else less fortunate has an essential version of my luxury? I’ve found that I value the sweater much more, knowing that someone else also has something warm and lovely to wear. I enjoy my vacation away from home so much more, knowing someone else has a home to spend those nights in safely. I enjoy my meal out, knowing someone else’s belly is also full that night. It makes me look for ways to express that gratitude in my personal and professional relationships – to look for ways to ease the challenges others are facing.
This week (and in the ones to come) as you celebrate Thanksgiving and our upcoming holidays, know how grateful I am to be part of this professional community with you. I hope you find many ways to Give Thanks and feel the rewards that come from living with gratitude.
And, if it feels right to you to share copies of The Seller’s Journey with your clients, prospects and deal partners, you can grab your discounted copies here through December 15th.