A Coaching Power Tool Created by Virginie Scheers
(Executive Coach, BELGIUM)
Gratitude can transform a meal into a feast, A house into a home, A stranger into a friend Melody Beattie
Barbara lives a life that goes at 100 mph. She’s 35 years old and has 2 children: Paul 6 and Jacques 8 years old. She has been married for 10 years to Garry. She is a manager in a multinational company.Saisissez du texte, l’adresse d’un site Web ou importez un document à traduire.
It’s Tuesdaymorning 6am. The alarm rings.
Barbara turns off the alarm without realizing and when she reopens her eyes, she realizes it is 6:50. Damn… she and Garry had fallen back to sleep… she jumps out of bed, opens the curtains and sees that it’s raining outside.She wakes up late, it’s raining … Barbara says to herself that it’s going to be a bad day.She rushes to take a shower and in order to spare time, organizes the rest of her day while washing. She really should not be late this morning because she has an important meeting at the office. Hop, hop, hop. Barbara and Garry wake up the kids slightly abruptly as they are late. Barbara prepares Paul’s clothes as he’s still a bit young to choose by himself. The kids must dress in a hurry.Barbara gets mad because she feels that the children are not getting dressed fast enough. Meanwhile she puts on her make-up, brushes her hair and Garry prepares breakfast. He prepares a large, strong coffee for his wife.
Everyone goes downstairs for breakfast.
After breakfast, Barbara goes upstairs to brush her teeth and asks the children to put on their shoes and coats. Going back down, she sees that Paul has not put his shoes on. She starts to get upset and very disappointed by her child’s behavior which is going to make her late. Paul wants to say something, but Barbara interrupts him as for now
he will listen and quickly go and put on his shoes and coat. And if he doesn’t listen he will be punished.
Paul does not understand what’s going on … He did not hear his mother telling him to get ready and he feels frustrated and angry that his mum will not give him the opportunity to express himself. He crumples the drawing he had made with a pretty heart and a note
I love you Mum.
She drops the kids 5 minutes too late at school and goes to work. Barbara is super stressed by everything that took place that morning and becomes even more nervous seeing the brake lights of the cars in front of her beginning to light up like a Christmas garland. A traffic jam! She gets angry at other drivers that leave a bit of space between the cars… She gets angry because a driver cuts her off. In short, nothing is going well!
Barbara arrives 10 minutes late at the meeting … She apologizes and sits down. She sees the disapproving look of her manager. Pfffff, all that and the day has only just begun!
Because of her nervousness, Barbara feels that the meeting doesn’t go as well as she would have liked. She feels defensive and she feels that everything is mixed up in her mind … It takes her some time to recover from her emotions of the morning.
It’s true that when reading this, we may think that Barbara is having a really bad day. However, things could have gone very differently…
Let’s change the perspective of these events. All the “actors” remain the same but there is a significant difference in the personality and attitude of Barbara. Indeed, she has decided to live her life in Gratitude… Here is her story.
It’s 6 o’clock. The alarm rings. Barbara turns off the alarm without realizing and when she reopens her eyes, she realizes it is 6:50. Oups… Barbara says to herself that Garry and her probably needed those additional 50 minutes of sleep. Like every morning, Barbara recites the lyrics of Thich Nhat Hanh, renowned Buddhist master.
Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
To this, she adds the happiness and gratitude that she feels this morning by waking up beside her husband that she loves so much.
She opens the curtains. Well it’s raining. Barbara realisesthatthe lyrics of Thich Nhat Hanh do not really fit after all. She then smiles as she thinks of the quote of Suzuki
It’s raining, now let’s enjoy the sound of rain.
She’s happy to live in a place where it sometimes rains. It means that they’re lucky to have such beautiful scenery. She loves to be surrounded by so many trees, grassland and green gardens.
She goes to take a shower and when the water starts to pour over her body, she feels full of gratitude to have such easy access to water, just by turning a tap. She is very fortunate and she’swellaware of it. She respects this as, although abundant, water is still very precious in her country.
She and Garry go to wake up the kids. Every morning when Barbara sees Paul and Jacques, she thanks the universe for having 2 wonderful and healthy children.
Barbara helps Paul to select his clothes as it’s still a bit difficult for him to do it by himself. The kids get dressed. Meanwhile, Barbara puts on her make -up, brushes her hair and Garry makes a big, strong coffee for his wife.
Everyone goes downstairs to have breakfast. Barbara thanks Garry for getting it ready and also for the delicious coffee; just the way she likes it. She is so thankful to have met and married that wonderful man.
After breakfast, Barbara goes upstairs to brush her teeth and asks the children to put on their shoes and coats. Going back down, she sees that Paul hasn’t done it and asks him why. Paul answers that he didn’t hear her and that he wanted to give her a present. He gives her a small drawing that he has made with a beautiful heart and a note
I love you Mum.
That small drawing fills her with joy. It is so simple and so generous at the same time. She kisses him tenderly on the forehead and tells him that she loves him as well. She helps Paul to put his shoes and jacket on. And off they go!
She drops the kids 5 minutes late at school and goes to work. Considering the traffic jam, she knows it’s going to be hard to arrive on time at her meeting. There is a traffic jam every morning; it’s part of her daily journey to work. She decides to call her boss and warn him that she will be 5 to 15 minutes late and apologies for it. She’s driving but takes the time to perform her breathing exercises. She focuses on her breathing and is fully conscious of it. Breathing is so natural that we do not realize when we do it anymore… After a few breathes, she does 5 more where during each, she express her thankfulness.
She doesn’t like arriving late and doesn’t want to be disrespectful but she is not going to over-stress about it as it wouldn’t help her today. However, she will learn a lesson from this and will act in order to avoid it happening again. Maybe a second alarm 😉 ?
Barbara arrives 10 minutes late at her meeting. She apologies and sits down. It will soon be her turn to speak.
The meeting went very well. She is very happy with the way she presented her part.
How do you feel after reading these 2 stories? Do you have a feeling of “déjà-vu” in one or the other?
Which of the 2 Barbara’s seems happier and more fulfilled? With which would you prefer to have lunch?
In the first story, Barbara is not conscious of what she has. She doesn’t take the time to look at all the beautiful things around her. She forgets to be thankful for her family, her friends but also for nature, etc.
Like that version of Barbara, many of us are unappreciative. The big majority of our modern West society is closer to the first story rather than the second Barbara because we haven’t learnt to live in such a grateful way.
You probably had more of a sense of serenity and harmony reading the second story, but how can we become like that? How can we start living in gratitude? Is it really possible or is it a utopia?
One important thing is to first understand the real signification of Gratitude.
Here is is a definition from the website www.gratitudeattitude.fr:
Gratitude is a state of mind enabling to recognize that we are accountable for what we have, for what others do for us, for what’s around us. It’s appreciating others, being interested in others and recognizing the value of the other. Gratitude is the feeling we have for each gift of life, every service rendered, a blessing which we feel grateful. An attitude valuing gratitude offers access to wellness.
Gratitude is the contrary of regrets and despair. Enjoy the things you have rather than complain about the things you don’t. Living in gratitude enables to look positively into the future as you enjoy all the good times, nature and your lifestyle, gives importance to people and ultimately you love life with a sense of happiness and fulfillment.
In his book
Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier
Robert Emmons defines gratitude as follows:
We all, for the most, know its general concept. When I feel, I acknowledge having received a gift. I understand its value and appreciate the intentions of the one who made me. This benefaction, gift or personal gain can be tangible or intangible (emotional or spiritual) … Gratitude is an attitude. This is true, but it covers much more. It has also been described as an emotion, a state of mind, a moral virtue, a habit, a motivation, a trait, a way of reacting and even a lifestyle.
Robert Emmons goes further and says that gratitude is observing and recognizing.
First, it is an observation of the good in our lives. With gratitude, we say yes to life. We affirm that, overall, life is good and, as a result of various factors, worth living. […]
Second, gratitude is a recognition that the source of this benefit is at least partly outside of us. It implies […] to recognize that other forces can act towards us with beneficial intentions, disinterested. […]
These two words observe and recognize; what connotations they cover? First, they suggest that some effort is required to create and maintain the state of gratitude.
The fact that Robert Emmons writes that we must make some kind of effort to reach and maintain an attitude of gratitude implies that it is not natural. He indeed writes:
The human mind contains mental tools that seem to work against the tendency to perceive grace. We are forgetful. We take things for granted. We feed high expectations
In the “Petit Cahier d’exercices de la gratitude”, Yves-Alexandre Thalman defines the spirit of gratitude as follows:
[It] results from the awareness of all the privileges that we enjoy, so that nothing is owed to us, or definitively acquired. Such a consciousness, if it was permanent, would be able to transform our lives in wonder. But it is clear that, despite all our privileges, we fail to keep in mind how lucky we are to enjoy.
As we can see through the different narratives, gratitude may change our lives. Gratitude is an essential component of happiness and well-being. On the other hand, we must make an effort. There is real substantive work to be done to live our lives in gratitude rather than in “un-appreciativeness”. Many of us “forget” to say thank you for all the good things around us … We forget to observe and recognize the benefits of our lives. We are unappreciative because we are not conscious.
Concretely, is it possible to live in gratitude?
Yes we can.
Living in gratitude is not a utopia. Living in Gratitude is a choice. Not only should living in Gratitude be a choice, it also takes real commitment to do so. It is daily work, the work of a lifetime. Fortunately there are many exercises that enable us to cultivate gratitude. Here are some described in the book of Robert Emmons and in
Petit Cahier d’exercices de la gratitude.
The last exercise comes from Cheryl Rickman’s Blog.
What I have / What I don’t have
Take a blank sheet of paper and draw two columns. One with title “What I have” and the other with “What I don’t have.” Write down ten things in each column.
Now focus on the first column. Read it again, slowly. Acknowledge how you feel and what emotions you go through.
Now focus on the second column. Read it again, slowly. Acknowledge how you feel and what emotions you go through.
What is your conclusion?
Keeping a gratitude diary.
Every day write down in a diary an attention you have received, a blessing, the consciousness of something that may seem so natural but yet is a privilege. Whether it is being able to enjoy our 5 senses, walking, breathing but also to have water “at will”, electricity, a roof to shelter us, etc.
The fact of writing it down will have a much bigger effect than “only” thinking it. Writing helps to organize and integrate. By making it a daily practice, we amplify and increase our awareness of recognition.
I started to express my gratitude for the small things, and the more I was grateful, the more abundance came into my life. Indeed, that which we focus on, grows. And when we focus on the good things in life, we create more. Opportunities, relationships and even money flowed into my life when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened to me. Oprah Winfrey
Other than the journal, another very similar practice, is the http://www.365grateful.com. Here is what we can find on the homepage of the website:
The ‘365 Grateful Project’. In early 2008, in an effort to fight depression, Hailey started a yearlong photographic project which involved taking one Polaroid photo a day of something she felt grateful for. Initially this was a chore but eventually it became a delight.
The discipline of having to look for the good things that happened every day changed her life in so many ways. Hailey found not only her marriage, spiritual life and health improved, but this project accidentally, wondrously spread and affected the lives of many others.
Remember the difficult times.
Remember the hard times and realize all the time what has been done since and that our lives could have been so much worse.
Learn prayers of gratitude.
In the second story, you discovered the prayer of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist master. Here is another pronounced by the American Indians:
We thank the Great Spirit for the resources enabling this food,
We thank Mother Earth to have created it,
We thank all those whose work has provided it to us.
May the excellence of this healthy food reveal the fullness of the Spirit in us
You can find many prayers of gratitude and grace in different religions. Another possibility is to create your own prayers.
Use visual reminders
If there are phrases, prayers, etc. that affect you, do not hesitate to make a frame to remind you of it every day.
Write messages or letters of gratitude
Think about yourparents,yourpartner,your children, your family, your friends, your neighbours, yourcolleagues,people who havehad a majorinfluence inyour life …Think aboutwhatyou are gratefulfor and describe it in a fewwords.
Now takethe time to sendsuch a messageonceper weekfor example…
We can gofurther andwrite down a letter ofgratitude.This would bealonger messageof thanks andrecognition.
- Writinga letterofgratitudebrings manypositive effects, as much for the one whowritesit as forits recipient.
- Whoeverwrites one realizesall the benefitsthey enjoy.
- The recipientreceivesrecognition signsthat nourish his/her self-esteem.
- Whynot make it2 or3 times a year?
The gratitude walk
On her blog Cheryl Rickman explains all the benefits of walking and she explains how the practicum of gratitude feets well with it because a walk open the mind.
Here is the explanation Cheryl Rickman gives of how to walk with gratitude :
- Walk alone if possible (you can't think if you're chatting to a friend).
- Find a peaceful location to walk in with minimal distractions or people around. The more literal space you have, the more breathing space you'll have and the more freeing the walk will be.
- Take a notepad and pen so you can jot down a list of 10 things you are completely grateful for. Feel that gratitude then walk on. Also jot down any ideas about projects to pursue or actions to take.
- Take a deep breath in for five and out for five and notice your surroundings. Keep your head up as you walk. Look around you, breath it all in, then let those creative thoughts flow.
- Create the time to walk regularly. Just 15 minutes per day or even every other day will have a positive impact on your life.
During the coaching sessions, it is our role to raise our client’s awareness of everything they already have in their life. We are there to make them aware of what they are and what they have.
When we do this, we can see how this makes our client enthusiastic. Our role as a coach is to help them realize everything he has. Everything for which he may be thankful. During the sessions we may ask him to perform the exercise of “What I have / What I don’t have” and so potentially make him realize the benefits of introducing Gratitude in his life.
In the “Positive Psychology: The Science at the Heart of Coaching” Kauffman C. refers to a questionnaire called “Values In Action (VIA)” that measures 24 strengths. This questionnaire is available for free at http://authentichappiness.org. Here is what we can read of it in the book:
Positive psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman (2004) have developed a classification system of strengths called the Values in Action (VIA) strengths survey. The questionnaire measures human strengths in a consistent, reliable, and valid manner; […]Of all the 24 strengths, the five most strongly correlated to happiness are gratitude, curiosity, vitality, hope, and the capacity to love and be loved. These last results suggest that strength-building exercises in these subcategories might be useful.
It is our role as coach to share the different exercises to implement Gratitude in our client’s life if this is what they would like.
- What does it feel like when you are “unappreciative”?
- Think of 3 things for which you are grateful?
- Do you live your day- to- day life in gratitude? What would it look like if you put gratitude over“unappreciativeness”for you and for your entourage?
- How can you support your client when you notice that their level of gratitude is very low?
- What are questions you could ask your client to help them shift their perspective from “unappreciativeness” to gratitude?
- As a coach what can you put in place to be an example of gratitude during a coaching session?
R. Emmons (2008) THANKS! HOW THE NEW SCIENCE OF GRATITUDE CAN MAKE YOU HAPPIER, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York
Y-A Thalman (2012), PETIT CAHIER D’EXERCICES DE GRATITUDE, Jouvence Editions, Genève
Kauffman, C. (2006). Positive psychology: The science at the heart of coaching. In D. R. Stober & A. M. Grant (Eds.), Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients (pp. 219-253). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley