Wendy Lieber is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in South Florida and co-founder of ContentBacon, which provides tasty, custom marketing content to help businesses attract and connect with customers. This is the fourth of five posts in our "Empower" series, highlighting stories of empowering your words, strength, family, gratitude and teams from EO member leaders who spoke to an audience of global women entrepreneurs at the 2017 MyEO Women of EO Summit in Athens, Greece. The following is modified from Wendy's speech transcript with permission.
Does this sound familiar? It's 3 a.m. and I'm awake. My mind is swirling with petty, evil thoughts about: that email I forgot to send, how I skipped the gym and binged on carbs, and a conversation that didn't go how I'd hoped.
Then it escalates: Am I good enough to run this company? Are all of my employees going to quit on me? What if my customers all leave overnight?
Let's just say my mind was never kind to me at 3 a.m. And it wasn't just at 3 a.m. Those thoughts followed me through the day. I would focus on what I wasn't doing right or what I could do better instead of things that were going well―of which there were many.
I was happy, but I was so focused on where I was going and the goals I was trying to achieve―you know, running and growing a company and everything that comes with that. I was always pushing, striving, trying to get somewhere versus being present in my daily life. Eventually, I realized that wasn't what I wanted.
It was a continuous loop, and I wasn't sure how to escape.
I wanted more because this is the only life we get, right? We should "be present in every moment" and "live every day like it's our last." I embraced such thoughts but didn't quite know how to act on them because I was focused on what wasn't working.
Then I realized that my whole life was an exercise in trying to get somewhere: "I'll be happy once this happens," or "Once I achieve that milestone, I can take a break and be happy."
That wasn't what I wanted for myself or how I wanted to show up for the people in my life. I had glimpses of how to be present but couldn't access it on a constant basis.
And then I found the answer: gratitude.
A very simple, yet extremely powerful, transformational tool. It wasn't a foreign concept to be grateful for what I have, and I was certainly doing so sporadically, but I didn't have a daily, consistent practice.
That's when a good friend invited me to a Facebook group called "90 Days of Gratitude." The concept is to list five things every day you're grateful for without repeating the same things.
When I started, I noticed a difference immediately. I became more present to the wonderful things in life―both business and personal.
I also started asking, "Where can I find the gratitude in this?" The beauty is that there is gratitude in everything, especially in the challenges we face. I became wide-eyed with awareness of how amazing and blessed my life was. I was full of love on a constant basis from this simple habit.
There's a lot of science behind gratitude. Your brain actually changes when you practice daily gratitude. Just like toning muscles at the gym, you can exercise your gratitude muscle. And the more you practice, the more your brain starts to seek gratitude. It became easier and easier to write my daily list.
There's a cascade effect―the more helpful and grateful you are, when others glimpse that behavior, they become instantly more grateful.
There are other great benefits: Gratitude improves self-esteem. It improves relationships; when you are in a state of gratitude, traits that once annoyed you are suddenly things to be grateful for.
Gratitude also improves physical health, mental strength, psychological health, empathy and reduces aggression. You want the magical pill for life? Gratitude is it!
So what does a daily gratitude practice look like? I simply post my "gratitudes" publicly every day.
In doing so, I became present to the miracles in life:
- The sound of rain
- A tree I never noticed before
- Losing a customer and realizing, "Wow, I'll never make those mistakes again."
- Having a meltdown and realizing, "I don't want that to happen again; what were the triggers?"
Seriously, there is so much to be grateful for, and I started to notice. I was sharing for myself, not for anyone around me, so I was surprised to learn that gratitude is contagious. One of my amazing friends reached out on Facebook and said, "I follow your gratitudes every day. They've transformed me."
I was touched, moved and inspired: "Whoa! My gratitudes impact other people?" I didn't expect that. But my Facebook page confirmed it.
Another friend shared that someone important in her life was dying and she'd been kind of checked out. But, she added, "Your gratitudes give me something to look forward to every day because you're such a warrior. I get strength from that."
I'm sharing this with you to emphasize that our stories can transform other people. It's super-simple. Here's how: Every day, write down five things you're grateful for. Do it for at least 90 days―but the real secret is to do it forever. My 90-day gratitude journey is now 700+ days.
And share it. Let people know what you're up to. Tell people that you're grateful for them because gratitude loves company.
It's November, a month innately tied to gratitude in the U.S., making today the perfect opportunity to start your daily gratitude practice. I invite you to start writing down at least 3 to 5 things you are grateful for every day and do it for at least 90 days. If you'd like some extra accountability and a great community of support, join the Facebook group that got me started on my gratitude journey. This practice will make you realize there's something to be grateful for in everything.
As it turns out, we've had it backward all along: Happiness doesn't make us grateful. Gratitude makes us happy.