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Personal growth starts with practicing gratitude

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenSeveral years ago, I had the opportunity to hear a woman speak about grace in the workplace. She talked about creating a gratitude journal, commenting that it didn’t have to be anything fancy but could be as simple as an inexpensive spiral notebook.

In her gratitude journal she writes things for which she is grateful regarding her job and her co-workers. For example, she mentioned that she often writes things in it about her co-workers’ strengths or talents, or qualities they may possess that she aspires to or perhaps just nice things they’ve done for others in their office whether it’s bringing coffee for everyone or providing extra umbrellas. She explained that if she’s having a bad day at work or finds herself frustrated or upset with a co-worker, she pulls out her gratitude journal and reads it and is reminded of the positive things about her co-workers, thus helping her recenter her negative feelings.

It made a lot of sense to me. I was already on a personal mission – attempting to lean in, practice mindfulness, observe compassionately, be intentional and in the moment – you know, all those buzz phrases we’re always hearing, so a gratitude journal seemed like it would tie in nicely.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is a couple of 40-something men who have been best friends since elementary school. One of the things they do each December is individually create their top 10 list of memorable moments throughout the year and then go through their respective lists on the podcast. It varies a little, but usually includes things about their respective spouses and families, trips they took, career-related activities and accomplishments, things they learned or new hobbies they tried.

It really impacted me the first time I heard it and as I’ve been listening to them for years, I’ve heard them do this numerous times. So, several years ago I decided to make my own list and it was truly rewarding. For me, the easiest way to start was to go through the photos on my phone. By doing that I was provided with a month-by-month scrapbook of what we did over the year, thus jogging my memories and allowing me to make a list of what I considered to be my most memorable – or I prefer the superlative most meaningful – moments of the year. I don’t rank them in any particular order, I just make the list. It was such a good feeling after finishing it the first time because it reflected some wonderful times. Perhaps more importantly though, it reminded me of how fortunate I am and how much I have for which to be thankful.

This year as I was compiling it, I got a wild hair and decided to create a Venn diagram to visualize what I considered the high points of my year. And just like my podcasters Rhett and Link, my list centered primarily on three things: our family, specifically the trips we took and things we did; our job stuff, such as things we learned or achieved; and our individual accomplishments, whether they were career-related, school-related or just little personal victories.

I never started that gratitude journal but it is something I think about often. And for me, I think this end-of-year exercise has become my own version of a gratitude journal.

I recently experienced an event that I refer to – perhaps too dramatically – as a Christmas miracle. I call it that because it occurred just a few days before Christmas and because it reminded me that there are still good people out there for which I am grateful.

My purse was stolen back in September. I was disappointed but knew it was my own fault. I had stuck it in the console of my husband’s truck and forgotten to retrieve it upon our return home. On the Wednesday before Christmas, after running some last-minute errands I returned home to find a pile on my front porch. There were three Amazon packages, a package from Target and a stack of mail. What caught my eye, however, was what I saw gently tucked behind the packages and mail – my Jon Hart leopard-print wristlet – my purse that was stolen in September. It was wet and mildewy and wrapped with a piece of notebook paper with a handwritten message that said, “found this down the street, opened up and found this address on license.” My heart jumped and I became breathless. I picked it up and could tell by the heft of it that its contents were intact. Upon further inspection, everything that had been in it was still there, except for $3, the only cash that was in it. I was immediately flooded with gratitude and wished I knew who had found it and returned it so I could thank them properly.

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions. I can’t explain exactly why. I just feel like they are a setup for failure. What I do believe in, however, is continued personal growth and I think that starts with practicing gratitude.

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