Life as an entrepreneur is difficult, at times.
A few years ago, I found myself simultaneously going through a marital divorce, a business divorce, and major back surgery. The stakes and tensions were high, especially with three kids and 50 employees impacted by the outcomes.
The strain of keeping day-to-day operations running smoothly while juggling both weighty conflicts was not easy most of the time. And for the rest of the time, it was downright overwhelming.
After losing a lot of sleep, not having the energy to go to the gym, and gaining weight, I decided to do some research and find better techniques to more effectively manage the stress I was experiencing. I decided to reignite my meditation practice and reinforce my good routines for getting better sleep, both of which helped immensely.
However, there was one new thing I tried that made an even more remarkable difference and has had a lasting impact on my life.
Throughout my research, I stumbled on articles by Robert Emmons on gratitude. I learned that in times of deep hardship and despair, according to Emmons's research, finding things to be thankful for helps buoy our emotional state and increases our resilience.
One of the key points Emmons makes is that you don't need to feel grateful. He argues that you should find things in your life to be grateful for.
After a few conversations with some close friends, we made a Facebook group challenge to start our mornings by sharing five things we were grateful for each day. Our goal was to do this for 90 days and to not repeat any single gratitude during that time.
At this point, many of us have completed multiple 90-day gratitude challenges. We've invited friends and they've invited their friends. The group now has almost 2,000 people, with hundreds of postings every day.
As a result of getting into this habit, I've noticed several things that really impact my day-to-day frame of mind and general mood:
1. Specific gratitudes are more powerful than general ones
In the beginning, I was posting things like "sunshine" and "fresh air." Because we couldn't repeat, I started to get more specific: "Morning sunshine that casts a wonderful glow over the city in the morning" and "breathing in fresh air standing on my balcony as I drink my morning coffee."
I realized that these ideas and images were much more tangible and memorable. They stuck with me longer throughout the day. And some of them I remember months and even years later.
2. Gratitude changes how you look at the world
After a few weeks of posting, I found that I was seeing the world differently. Knowing that I was going to have to post five gratitudes the next morning, I began to look for things to be grateful for during my day.
Even simple things became aha! moments for discovering new posts. As a result, daily events that would have otherwise been monotonous became moments of appreciation.
3. Gratitude changes how you look at yourself
It's true that while looking out at the world searching for reasons to be thankful, you start to change your internal wiring.
You develop a muscle for learning from difficult situations and make change an opportunity to improve and rebuild because you are forcing yourself to see the good.
4. Gratitudes create amazing connections to other people
The Facebook group began with just a few people who all knew one another, and it grew from there. Seeing one another's posts, and those of hundreds of other people, gave us new insight into our lives and our minds. It was enormously powerful to see the posts of other participants.
Starting a gratitude challenge is great when you find yourself needing a mental boost--and it's just as powerful when you're on top of the world. Your mind needs exercise and training to perform well, the same way muscles need to lift weights to get strong.
Gratitudes are the free weights for your mind, which, over time, will build fortitude and resilience.