Leading with GRATITUDE

“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”

– Eckhart Tolle

I am a future-chaser. I’m always thinking about the next big idea, the next project, the next goal. I start planning my next vacation while I’m on vacation! I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. It’s what motivates me to push harder, go further, and get better. 

After all, isn’t that what being driven and ambitious is all about?

This “pursuit mindset” can be a blessing… and a trap. As an overachiever that has managed overachievers, it’s fairly easy to spot this trait in others. It’s in the person who shrugs off amazing results after a grueling, emotional process. Or the person who recounts all the little things that went wrong after a virtually flawless campaign. It’s when you give your top performers a hearty “congratulations” and they don’t immediately recall what it’s for because they’ve already moved on to the next project.

I’ve learned that there’s a thin line between overly ambitious and never satisfied. When the chase of next, newer, and better has no real destination, it can lead to stress and burnout is sure to follow. 

That’s where practicing gratitude can help.

What Does It Mean to Practice Gratitude?

The simplest definition of gratitude involves expressing thanks or appreciation, but the heart of gratitude speaks to something deeper. When you practice gratitude, you take time to consistently recognize the positive things in your life and how they affect you. 

Practicing gratitude is a habit that becomes a mindset over time. Studies show that the benefits of practicing gratitude range from enhanced mood and increased optimism to better mental and physical health. 

I’d argue that everyone could use all of the above.

Gratitude Helps Shift Your Focus

Ever get overwhelmed by everything you haven’t done? And all the tasks you don’t have time for? 

When we pour our mental energy into problems, negativity, and lack, it can become all-consuming and exhausting. Focusing on solutions, positivity, and abundance will not only make you feel happier but it will also make you much more productive.

For example: I love a good list, and it feels so good to check things off once tasks are completed. But when I have to pivot due to unforeseen circumstances, a long list of unchecked boxes looks pretty sad at the end of the day. Now what? Wallow in self-pity about all the things I didn’t get done? Ouch. Stay up all night to check off all the boxes? Guilty. But yikes. 

What we focus on becomes our reality. If we focus on not having enough time, we will run out of it. If we focus on how much we’re dreading an upcoming event, we will likely be miserable leading up to and during the event. By focusing on what we can control and breathing gratitude into challenging situations, we can view them through a more positive lens. 

When it comes to your unfinished checklists, you can be grateful for what you actually accomplished. You can even create a new list of the tasks you completed and check them off. Instant win. A step further is to use the list of unchecked items to be grateful in advance for the things you’re going to accomplish next. And you’ve already written them down, so you’re ahead of the game. What an organized, forward-thinker you are! You’re welcome.

Gratitude Helps You Appreciate the Present

Your overactive ambition may fool you into believing that happiness exists in the future – that success is on the other side once you finish one more project, accomplish one more goal. But once you get there, how much better do you truly feel? Taking stock of all the existing awesomeness in your life right now can be eye-opening and healing. 

Look around.

There are blessings abound if you just take a moment to identify them. Waking up this morning, the air that you breathe, the ability to provide basic needs for your family. Think about the things (and people) you are grateful for and truly thank them in your mind, out loud, or on paper. Stay in that feeling for several seconds as you say each thank-you.

Look within.

Think about the amazing traits within yourself that have brought you to where you are today. Are you a loving friend, a great mom, a caring coworker, an excellent gift-giver? Think about what makes you, you, and give yourself a mental hug for being such a badass. You deserve it. 

Don’t confuse stillness in the present with complacency. You’re absolutely allowed to want more, bigger, and better for yourself and those around you. 

Gratitude is about seeing and appreciating what you already have and who you already are. It helps calm the part of you that wants to run frantically after that new thing, simply for the chase. Think of gratitude as a foundation—it keeps you grounded and gives you something strong to build upon. It’s hard to grab for what’s above when you don’t have steady footing below.

In Conclusion, Gratitude Breeds Greatness

There’s no shame in being an overachiever. I see you and accept you. But let’s not get so caught up with what we want to achieve next that we don’t stop to reflect on how blessed we already are. As you go after your wildest dreams, be sure to show gratitude for where you are in this very moment. 

Bonus tip for managers: If you’re a leader at your organization, make an extra effort to express gratitude to those who report to you as well. Everyone could use a reminder of how valuable they are to others. Hopefully, it will help them pause to focus on the goodness in their own lives and pay it forward to the people in their circle.

With a few practical mental shifts and a little time, gratitude can truly become a powerful mindset. When you can appreciate the present, you can pursue the future with positivity and purpose.

No pressure, but your well-being depends on it.

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