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Leaders Practice Gratitude - Part 2

In part 1 of this post (, I shared a powerful moment of gratitude for a fallen Marine who gave his all for our country. The gratitude bubbled up along with the tears.

The gratitude expressed at the fresh grave of a 22-year old Marine comes naturally. There are many other times where gratitude isn’t natural or easy, yet is sorely needed.

Specifically, authentic leaders choose to speak gratitude to those for whom they don’t always feel thankful.

Let’s be clear, I’m not encouraging lying. The idea isn’t to make something up, but to practice looking for the good and expressing gratitude for it.

Good can be found in a vast majority of people and situations, even if it is in excessively small quantities.

Let’s be frank - we all have those people who bring emotions other than gratitude. It may be a family member, a colleague, or even your boss.

Here’s the reality, they are people, too. When they are thanked it lightens their load and buoys their spirits to then give the ability to thank someone else (or at least not be so ornery). It’s a beautiful cycle.

Saying thank you and showing gratitude do not come naturally to many. It must be grown, cultivated, and practiced.

It is practiced by intentionally trying to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes. It’s incredible what some people do despite hardships and toils, and it can only be appreciated and acknowledged by seeing it more fully from their perspective.

Why is it so easy to show gratitude to this Marine and his family? Because I put myself in the shoes of his mother. The immense pain that must hold her hostage in intense grief and loss draws a thank you from my heart and lips.

Here are three basic questions to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and practice gratitude:

  • Do I understand the whole picture? Frequently, we miss the gravity of a situation or outcome because we don’t stop, step back, and ask questions. Someone once said to get to the real reasons for and emotions of a situation you need to ask “why” twice. Practice asking two “why” questions before taking the next step.

  • What would I feel like if I were in this type of situation? We must visualize ourself in the situation as we understand it in order to start feeling the emotional state. To do this well, you need to tell the story as you understand it in your head from a first person perspective. For example, when trying to understand the gravity of the fresh grave of the 22-year-old marine, I put myself in his family as his mother. As a mother myself, the thought of losing one of my children at 22 caused immediate, deep grief. I then felt gratitude when I realized how much was given. I recognize it is not possible to fully inject oneself into a situation never personally experienced, yet it is possible to come closer to a situation by finding similarities to your actual life story.

  • What is amazing about this situation? This is the most important question when seeking gratitude. Once you know at least some of the big picture and the emotions involved, then by looking at the outcomes, actions, or situation you can see amazing things. For example, a person I was serving in my office was frustrated and when I asked a few questions I then understood that she had recently overcome incredible adversity and was trying to get back on track with her education. I recognized her struggle and acknowledged the incredible accomplishments she had just completed. The reality is what she had just worked through were “normal” steps in the process, but in light of her circumstances, they were pretty profound. My acknowledgement of her hard work and gratitude for her willingness to continue turned our conversation around.


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