Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
-Marcus Tillius Cicero
Gratitude is a spontaneous emotion, but not simply an emotional response; it is a choice we make. It is a readiness to express appreciation. Gratitude grows as we develop the ability to recognize the good in our lives. Gratitude is how we remember kindnesses such as cherished interactions with others, the compassionate acts of strangers, and everyday blessings. How often do you consciously consider that life is a gift, employment is a gift, beloved family and friends are gifts? This recognition is the basis for gratitude.
Within the family business, it is often easy to forgo the expression of gratitude. Family members have lived together and known each other their entire lives, making gratitude seem either unnecessary or like an added chore between relationships. However, the health of the family business and its relationships can become damaged or weakened without the element of gratitude to alleviate the stresses of everyday life.
It is easy to slip into negative thoughts and wander darkly in our minds. Gratitude is the antidote. As French author Alphonse Karr wrote in A Tour Round My Garden
, "Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses." When we worry or imagine catastrophic outcomes or focus on past hurts or regrets, this negativity separates us from recognizing the blessings in our lives. This is not just regretful, it's personally damaging.
"You pay in your distress and in your need," writes Khalil Gibran in The Prophet
, "would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance."
A developed sense of gratitude provides significant personal benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, enhanced health, appreciation of one's own talents and gifts, and the clarity to live a more purposeful life. A strong sense of gratitude increases not only your personal happiness, but also improves your relationships, helps protect you against adverse life experiences, and scientists say, improves productivity and even your sleep.
Gratitude is natural and can arise like a laugh in some situations. However, every person also has the ability to increase gratitude. The process is intentional. It is made simple by being mindful. It costs nothing and takes little time. For example, you can take a moment before you get out of bed each morning to be thankful for the special people in your life. You can increase gratitude by taking walks in nature or with activities like gardening that build your appreciation of nature's bounty. You augment an intention for gratitude by being kind to the people you meet during the day. It becomes especially important to treat family members and loved ones with love, care, and respect.
Finally, we extend our expression of gratitude by serving others and through philanthropy. Service is on the outside is like prayer on the outside. Gratitude is the intentional habit of recognizing our blessings in how we live and serve others.Read the rest of this series: Part One: ForgivenessPart Two: Compassion
Originally Published on Tharawat magazine