All over the country, indeed around the world, high school seniors are preparing to graduate. Their parents and grandparents beam with pride the moment they hear the school band strike up the Pomp and Circumstance March by Edward Elgar. Rousing speeches and wise words will be conferred upon them along with their diplomas. But what kind of advice can cut through the clutter of selfies and the sticky icing on the cake? What can we say to these young people that they can act upon today and carry in their hearts forever? It’s a simple word with profound power and I’m delighted to pass it along.
In answer to this question, as to how we can inspire young minds today in such a chaotic world, my hand shoots up: “I know, I know, Teacher! I have the answer! Pick me!” The lesson of the day is gratitude. Could it be that simple? A little concept like expressing thanks?
Could gratitude be life-changing advice and something these graduates can use every day to create magic and success in their lives? Yes! Quite categorically, yes, it is.
In honesty, I will admit that this is not an answer I would have thought about when I was 18 years old. Like all teenagers since the beginning of time, I thought I knew everything! What did I need with the social mores of my parents and grandparents?
But as I grew up and learned many of life’s lessons the hard way, at work and within all kinds of relationships, I have discovered that this particular advice is more than just saying “thank you” because you’ve been socialized to do so. The practice of gratitude is so powerful because it’s about consciously feeling and expressing sincere thanks for all things that are in your life and doing it every day in a measured way.
My proposal is that all people, from age 5 to 105 and up, can write a thank you note each morning and it will transform their life! This theory is one that I coined and that I call Spread Thanks. And it has become much more than just a passing thought. I’ve since gone on to prove it out, write a book on it, and start a movement. Once I realized the transformational power in my life, I couldn’t stop talking about it!
The proof is that when you are truly grateful for the things you might otherwise take for granted, your life improves significantly. Miraculously. Here’s why. When you go about your day expecting goodness from others, looking for someone to thank the following morning when you write your daily card, then you don’t have time to worry about what might go wrong today. Instead, you are consciously and strategically on the outlook for what is going right.
We have often suspected, and we’ve been told, that what we focus on comes to pass and it’s true! If you open your heart and mind with grateful expectation each day, you will find goodness in your interactions with others, helpful people to guide you, to assist you in solving your problems, or to just inspire you. You will find synchronicities that open doors to you in new and exciting ways. It happens because you’re living in the moment instead of being consumed by worry, self-doubt or loneliness.
I began to notice that once I became mindful of goodness and thankful for even the smallest of kindnesses, I felt so much better. And then other good things began to happen on a regular basis, like finding money in an old coat pocket that I had forgotten about or having just enough gas while on that lost road to get to the next gas station. Instead of my plumbing problem costing a mint to fix, it was an easy turn of the wrench and cost me practically nothing!
Priming the Pump
Wow! Why were all these good things flowing my way, I wondered? It was because I was using gratitude to prime the pump. Each thank you note that I wrote and sent caused more and more goodness to appear in my life. Daily miracles for which I am — dare I say it again — grateful.
Here’s the advice I would love to give to every young adult on their special day, their Commencement Day. If you have the chance to speak to a group like this, please feel free to share my message from your own stage. Students will quite naturally say thank you to their teachers, parents, mentors, and janitors this day, but I’d like to propose that they strategically plan to make gratitude a regular part of their life by sending a thank you note a day.
And as for me, I am sincerely grateful to my colleague and friend Greg Moore who inspired this blog topic today. He has been tapped to give a Commencement Speech and he told me that he plans to speak about the power of gratitude, that he has been inspired by Spread Thanks to spread it to an incredible high school audience in a few days. If you need some inspiration for a talk of any kind, consider making it about gratitude! It works! Thanks for sharing below how this idea has worked for you or for a young person you know.