Column: Focus on gratitude


Look around your house (including your garage) and ask yourself the following question: “How much of this stuff fulfills a need versus a want?”  I think you’ll be surprised with the answer.

In his book, “Buyology,” marketing guru Martin Lindstrom points out that the majority of advertising in the world today is focused on the emotion of fear. He argues that this type of “fear-based” advertising plays “less on our generalized anxieties and more on our insecurities about ourselves.”

Why do advertisers focus on our insecurities to sell their products?  One reason: it works. Most Americans get their sense of self worth from their possessions and status in comparison to their peers. And as a result, we continue to buy when we feel that our lives are lacking something. Advertisers help us to recognize this need for more and they have just the product/service to fill this void.

The only way to resist the urge to continually fill your life with stuff you don’t need is to learn to be grateful for your current position in life. I believe that practicing gratitude is one of the most important habits that any professional can develop because it helps us to keep everything in perspective.

But, don’t just take my word for it. In their groundbreaking book called “The Psychology of Gratitude,” professors Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that people who practiced gratitude “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms and felt better about their lives as a whole.”  In addition, these individuals also were also more likely to make progress toward their personal and professional goals.

In other words, learning to focus on what you have instead of what you don’t can help you to enjoy more professional success. It will reduce your stress and improve your ability to the types of effective decisions that lead to bottom-line growth.

To get you started, here are a few simple strategies to help make gratitude part of your everyday life. First, start off by creating a “gratitude list.”  This list will include everything in life for which you are grateful. You will include family, home, friends, etc.

Next, consider keeping a journal where you document all that you are grateful for each day. Here, you will capture unique situations that occur in your everyday life.

Finally, you need to learn to be a good steward of your resources. By that, I mean that you need to give a portion (consider a tithe) of your time and money away to others who are less fortunate. You don’t need to give away all of your possessions and move to a third-world country to understand what it means to be grateful. As with most things in life, the solution is simple.

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