A New Habit of Gratitude For Greater Happiness
A Template For Success Incorporating A New Habit
September is my birthday month and gratitude is on my mind. Even more so this year, where I am finding myself in Germany surrounded by a developing refugee situation, which is on everyone’s mind.
When you see people at the margins, Syrian refugees in Germany, the homeless in the US, or beggars in India, you can’t help but feel appreciation for your own health, for a roof over your head and enough food on the table. Most of us feel gratitude on certain occasions, but feeling gratitude and appreciation for others is one thing.
Expressing this gratitude is something else entirely.
We write birthday cards and may be holiday cards. We send thank you notes after dinner invitations, a tradition that is quickly becoming extinct though. Given the infusion of technology, fewer and fewer people send notes in the mail.
When was the last time you received a heartfelt note in your mailbox? When was the last time you sent a note yourself?
A CEO client once told me that he takes time every Sunday to write thank you notes to people who deserve to be acknowledged in his life.
I found that very noble. As much as I tried to emulate that, it never worked for me. Activities that I only do once a week tend to fall by the wayside over time.
What does work for me are daily habits: Writing in my journal, working out, eating nutritious food in regular intervals etc.
Therefore, I have decided to commit to my own challenge:
Write One Thank You Note Every Day For 365 Days.
Starting on my birthday, I have been and will continue to write one thank you note every day to people I love, to people who deserve to get acknowledged, to people that go the extra mile.
One Card a Day.
It doesn’t seem like that much considering that I send 100 Holiday Cards every year. Nonetheless, life happens and I nee to be prepared how to handle days where time is of the essence, i.e. travel days, conference days, offsite days etc. I I needed to prepare to make sure I will stick with the plan.
In case you want to join me in this challenge, here is the template for success to start and succeed with a new habit:
1. Make a Declaration
Tell a friend, family member, colleague about your commitment. By committing out loud, you make a promise that you now need to keep.
2. Designate the Start Day
Determine which day you want to start. I picked my birthday as the start date, but any day would be fine, i.e. our new year’s day, next Monday, today.
3. Prepare Your Note Cards
People tend to think of Germans, like me, as super organized. I hate to burst that bubble, but this is the perfect example of my disarray. I found note cards and envelopes in various boxes (still from my move a year ago!), in drawers and pouches. One box had envelopes another had note cards. What a mess. I matched notecards to envelopes and slid the notecard into the envelope flap and placed all of them in a box. I also found an 8.5 x 11” pouch to hold my cards while I am traveling.
4. Create Checklist
In Excel or Numbers create a checklist with date, name and address, so you can keep track of notes sent every day and to make address corrections as needed.
5. Purchase Daily Calendar
Find a fun daily calendar with quotes or cartoons, one of those, where you can rip off every day. Include one every day in your notes for fun and to keep you on track for your daily task.
6. Print ‘365 Day’ Label
Design and print or order labels to identify that the letter is part of a bigger project. I printed mine on Avery labels and stuck one on every envelope.
7. Purchase Stamps
Stamps are a piece of art. My dad collected stamps. When has this become old fashioned. Stamps are an art form and you can send a mini piece of art with your note. For my German letters I found these fun ‘Asterix and Obelix’ stamps.
8. Start Writing
Here is the key: Connect your new habit to a habit you are already successful with. For example if you brush your teeth every day (which I hope you do), connect this habit with the new one. Every time you brush your teeth, you will write a note. I decided to attach my new habit to my journal writing, since it is also a writing exercise. Be creative and set yourself up for success.
9. Anticipate the Change
Even with the best intentions some days will be challenging. The first 30 days are crucial. As I am writing this newsletter I have completed 5 Thank You’s – 360 to go. Let’s see what challenges arise. I am determined. Are you?