A little more than a month ago, I found a way to drastically increase my productivity and happiness. Because of what I learned, I have become a much better person, and a much better entrepreneur. It has changed my life immensely.
How did I do it?
First, I’ll discuss the reasons why happiness and productivity can be so elusive. It’s something we can all relate to as entrepreneurs.
Happiness and productivity are two of the main things we strive for as we struggle to build our companies. We find it difficult to be as productive as we would like to be.
Every day, we try to get new clients, keep the ones we have, motivate employees, manage our accounting, and do our marketing. Oh, and somewhere along the line, we have to find time to eat, sleep, and take care of our families.
It’s awfully stressful. And difficult. Like riding a unicycle while juggling with bowling balls. No wonder it’s so difficult to be happy and productive!
However, is it really our circumstances keeping us from being happy and motivated? Can you really say that it’s the fact that you’re always busy holding things together that makes it hard to deal with stress?
I don’t believe that.
I’d argue that the real culprit is our tendency to allow circumstances to distract us from the awesome things in our lives. All of us have things in our lives that are positive. In order to be happy and function effectively, we need to start focusing more on those things.
This is where gratitude comes in. If we want to be more productive, we need to adopt a grateful lifestyle.
Gratitude is subject that I’ve become passionate about ever since I learned about its significance years ago. However, it was a little over a month ago when I finally discovered the true power of a grateful lifestyle.
My 30-Day Gratitude Challenge
Here’s the story:
Years ago, I had my first real introduction to gratitude. Sure, I’d already know what gratitude is. Everyone knows what gratitude is.
However, I didn’t yet understand how important it is until I learned about it in a sales training. After the training, I began keeping a gratitude journal, which was amazing. By taking 5 to 10 minutes each day to write down the things I was grateful for, I noticed a huge change. Almost instantly, I became happier.
I’ve kept the gratitude journal off and on in the years that followed. About a month ago, I decided to start again. I had planned to start writing in it each day. Then, I got another idea.
I decided to take it a step further. Instead of writing about gratitude every day, I decided to do gratitude every day. And I did it for 30 days. I called it my Personal 30-Day Gratitude Challenge.
Here’s what it looked like:
- Every day, I sent an email to someone who had done something for me in the past.
- In the email, I told them what they did and how it affected me.
- At the end of the email, I urged them to pay it forward. I asked them to express gratitude to someone else.
It was an incredible journey. I discovered things that I never understood about myself and others. This challenge greatly impacted me as well as some of the people I reached out to. More importantly, I became much happier and far more productive at my day job.
The Science Of Gratitude
The evidence for the impact of gratitude isn’t just anecdotal. There is scientific evidence for the benefits of gratitude. There have been numerous studies on the effects of gratitude. It’s been scientifically proven to improve the lives of those who practice it.
Gratitude Allows You To Impact Others
When you express gratitude to others, it has a tremendous impact on them. It’s something I noticed when people reacted to the emails I was sending.
Many of them said that the email helped them get through a difficult time. Some said it was unexpected, but that it brightened their day. As a matter of fact, I sent one of my emails to a higher-up in the organization.
He personally came and thanked me for sending the email. He had been going through a period of self-doubt and was wondering if he was doing a good job. The email came at the right time and showed him that what he was doing really mattered. I was humbled. It was the last thing I had expected.
But there’s a reason why this happened (more than once).
In his book “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” Dale Carnegie makes the point that one of people’s deepest desires is to feel important. Everyone wants to feel like they matter. It’s the reason we do many of the things we do. When we help others, we feel a sense of significance.
When you express heartfelt gratitude to someone else, you are showing them how important they really are. You’re drawing attention to an action they took that made your life better.
When someone hears that something they did had a positive effect on someone else, it makes them feel important. It shows them that they matter. By showing the people around you that they matter, you could literally make their day!
Additionally, since you know that you’re brightening someone else’s day by making them feel important, you’re also doing something important as well. This is why expressing heartfelt gratitude to someone who isn’t expected doesn’t just benefit them, it benefits you too.
Throughout the course of my Gratitude Challenge, I found myself feeling excited when I was sending a gratitude email. Knowing that the email was going to brighten someone’s day me feel great! This alone made the Gratitude Challenge worth it.
Gratitude Makes You Mentally Stronger
Living a grateful lifestyle can make you mentally tougher. It doesn’t mean you won’t still have to deal with stress. It just means that you’ll be able to deal with it much easier. Stress won’t have as debilitating an effect if you’re practicing gratitude regularly.
In one study (PDF), it was shown that Vietnam veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) fared much better when they practiced gratitude. As a matter of fact, the study made it clear that the veterans who practiced gratitude were able to cope with their condition much more effectively than those who didn’t.
Being an entrepreneur is stressful, but it’s not the same as having been in combat. If gratitude can make Vietnam vets tougher, it can work wonders for you.
During the 30 days, I found that it was so much easier to deal with the daily stress of my job. I noticed that I was able to stay motivated far longer than I had when I wasn’t regularly practicing gratitude.
As an entrepreneur, you run the gamut of negative emotions. You feel fear, frustration, discouragement, and stress almost on a daily basis. If you want to stay sane, try embracing gratitude. It will allow you to deal with these emotions in a more productive manner.
Gratitude Makes You Healthier
Gratitude is not only great for your mental health, it can help you physically too. It can boost your immune system and make it easier for you to adopt healthier habits. It’s been shown that those who practice gratitude also participate in other healthy activities such as exercising and eating healthier.
In another study, it was shown that gratitude has other health benefits. In this study, people who suffered from neuromuscular disorders were examined. The group that wrote in a gratitude journal daily were found to be much healthier than the control group. They also slept better and reported fewer health symptoms.
Gratitude Makes You More Productive
Productivity is obviously very important to anyone who is trying to start a business. Using gratitude is a great way to become more productive almost instantly. It helped me greatly.
In my day job, my performance skyrocketed during the month that I did my Gratitude Challenge. I was so much more motivated and inspired that I crushed my goals and performed far better than I ever had. It can really make a drastic difference in your productivity and performance as an entrepreneur as well.
Robert A. Emmons, one of the leading authorities on the science of gratitude said this about one of his studies:
“Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.”
It’s true. Gratitude makes you a better worker and entrepreneur.
Gratitude Makes You Happier
Finally, gratitude makes you much happier. Common sense, right? Focusing on the things that are going right in our lives is absolutely crucial if you’re going to be happy.
After all, how can you be happy if you always focus on the negative parts of your life? Gratitude enables you to really see how blessed you truly are. Not only that, expressing gratitude draws more attention to it because you’re actually talking to someone else about it.
I’ve noticed that gratitude is a happiness multiplier. When I thought about the act the other person did, I felt great. I felt fortunate to have had someone do it for me.
Also, when I wrote the email expressing how I felt about their act, I felt even better. It was almost like I was giving them a gift. That made me even happier.
When the other person responded, letting me know how much it brightened their day, I was ecstatic. I felt like I was on top of the world.
Because I was focused on the parts of my life that are awesome. Gratitude tends to do that for those who practice it. It’s actually been shown that people who live a more grateful lifestyle become 25 percent happier than those who don’t. Want to be happy? Become more grateful.
As entrepreneurs, our lives are full of challenges and obstacles that cause us to feel a myriad of negative emotions. It’s normal. At times, these emotions can be very difficult to deal with.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’d challenge everyone who reads this to try the Gratitude Challenge. You don’t have to do it the way I did it.
Maybe you only want to try it for one week, or two weeks. Maybe you’d rather place a phone call than send an email. That’s fine.
However you do it, make sure it’s heartfelt and consistent. Everyone has had people in their lives who have done something for them at one point or another.
These people need to know what impact they have had on your life. Try it out and you will find that your life will change for the better almost immediately.
Holding Hands Photo via Shutterstock