Thanksgiving can be the start of a tough season for many, as you've probably been hearing in your sessions this week. Being with family is not always easy. Being without family isn't an easier path. The holiday, as it is celebrated today can be all sorts of problematic, from the overemphasis on consumerism to the missing history in the story of Thanksgiving as it is taught in schools. One amazing thing about Thanksgiving, though, is right there in the name. Thanks giving. It is a reminder to practice gratitude. No matter what else is going on, we have yet another opportunity to pause and practice gratitude- a practice that can nourish us in all aspects of our lives.
When building a business, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what you don't yet have. The truth is, that even when things are going well, for many people it's still pretty easy to focus on what's missing, and what is then needed is a practice of gratitude. Here are four ways gratitude can help us in our private practices:
1. Gratitude counters fear and scarcity. As Lynne Twist says in The Soul of Money, "what you appreciate appreciates". Taking time to appreciate all you have- a partner who cooks you dinner, a great fit referral from a local psychiatrist, a consultation group where you can bring tough clinical situations- helps you feel resourced. When you feel resourced, when there is a sense of enough, you are less likely to succumb to fear or a mentality of scarcity. This is a good thing on its own, but the other benefit to a mindset of enough is that it helps you make better business decisions. I don't know any therapist who hasn't made decisions from a place of scarcity that they later regretted. I often tell my consultees, "act as if there is a line of people outside your door eager to work with you," because when there is a felt sense of enough holding good boundaries is so much easier. That boundary may be holding your fee, referring out a client you know isn't a good fit, or keeping the schedule you know you need.
2. Gratitude strengthens relationships. Expressing our gratitude directly feels good. It feels good for us, and it feels good for the person receiving it. We know from couples therapy that offering positive strokes strengthens the connection between people. Extending generosity and gratitude to the people in our network is part of building a strong community, and having a strong community is essential for a thriving practice.
3. Practicing gratitude trains us to look for the opportunity in a challenge or setback. Maybe this goes more under a heading of "growth mentality", but I think gratitude is a part of that. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not naturally a rose-colored glasses person (just look at the intro to this post). I'm generally skeptical of anything that seems like a quick fix. The thing about gratitude, though, is that it doesn't promise to take away any discomfort or difficulty. If you are afraid of public speaking, gratitude isn't going to make the anxiety go away. Gratitude isn't a magic pill to undo the discomfort of feeling completely in the weeds. What it does do is help turn "I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in that last session, " to "I felt pretty lost in that last session, and I'm grateful that I can talk it through with my colleague and get more understanding. There's more to learn here." Gratitude can help us end the pity party and start making use of the situation in front of us.
4. Gratitude can help keep burnout at bay. This goes back to boundaries. When you practice gratitude for what you have and cultivate a sense of enough, it is easier to hold boundaries. Weak boundaries lead to resentment. Resentment and burnout go hand in hand. Gratitude practice helps build emotional resilience, which is necessary to counter burnout and compassion fatigue.
Just off the top of my head here are 10 things I'm grateful for:
- the ability to do meaningful work
- a way to contribute to the world that aligns with my natural talents and temperament
- my close peeps with whom I consult regularly and who have had my back throughout my practice
- my education
- the ability to keep on learning, even (or especially) after I've messed up royally.
- a calm and peaceful workspace
- articles, lectures, and the willingness of others to help me be a better ally to marginalized communities of which I am not a part
- the flexibility to set my own schedule
- mentors, consultants, supervisors, and coaches who have reminded and encouraged me to bring all of my offerings into the world
- the dark chocolate bar I keep in my desk drawer as a little treat when I need one.
I wish you all the best for a Thanksgiving full of gratitude,
If you haven't yet downloaded my planner for 2018, you can do that here: It starts with an opportunity to practice gratitude with a review of everything that's gone well in 2017.