In my twenties, it seemed easy to maintain a positive outlook on life. It was a simpler time with a lot less that could go wrong. As the years passed, I started collecting responsibilities — and bad things happened along with the good. When I started my company, I faced new, unchartered challenges. At one point, my business nearly collapsed. As a result, my outlook shifted to a more negative place. Business problems and other life responsibilities in 2007 took control and made some days outright bad ones. My tone changed from upbeat to downbeat. I started having trouble seeing the good in things. That change in outlook affected my health, inviting more “misfortune.”
Though it wasn’t a conscious effort, I began to collect strategies to recapture the happy, positive mindset of my twenties. I had previously thought that whether a person thinks the glass is half-full or half-empty was genetically hardwired. At some point, I realized that any hardwiring could be overpowered by events. My parents taught me that a positive attitude was the foundation for a good life. I never thought that maintaining one would take practice or need support, but as it turns out: It does.
Today, I practice three regular habits to keep my outlook positive.
1. The Greatest Hits
As a business leader, most of the company’s challenging issues make their way to your desk. When you see so many problems, you get the feeling that’s all there is — problems. Rationally, you know that is not the case, but in order to instill the proper perspective, we started our Greatest Hits Meeting.
Weekly at 9am for 10 minutes, the key people in our company share their latest and greatest hits. Prior to the meeting, they fill out our unique Post-it prompting their answers. Each person shares two examples of something they are proud of: Something noteworthy they saw someone else do or that happened around the company. They then share a personal hit — something from their personal life that they are thankful for.
With six attendees, each week, we hear 18 positive things that went right. In a year, that’s almost 1,000 good things! Without this process, I would not even be aware of most of these 1,000 greatest hits. The huge benefit to me is a weekly reminder that 90% of things are going right all the time, even when it feels like 90% are going wrong. It boosts team morale and confidence, too.
2. Thankful Thursday
Another habit I developed is now known as Thankful Thursday. Every Thursday afternoon, I express gratitude to others for what they have done for me over the prior week.
I use a few prompts for this. I jot down things as they happen on a “Grateful to You” notepad. I keep my post-it note from the Greatest Hits meeting to spark other ideas. I look at the prior week’s calendar to jog my memory on everything I did and who I met with, and I review my phone pictures. I write it all down on the Grateful notepad, then decide how best to appreciate those people.
This practice has evolved to the point where I have a gratitude wall in my office with an array of cards I send people.
I spend about 20 minutes sending out cards, letters, gifts, emails, and entering relevant company items in a Core Value Highlights database.
This habit accomplishes more than you might think. Of course, it makes me realize all the things I have to be thankful for (usually four to eight each week) and appreciate them more.
With team members, it reinforces positive behavior, noteworthy actions, and standout job performance. I find that people are universally motivated by being appreciated. When you do a good job of that, they are more motivated, repeat the excellent performance, and enjoy better morale for feeling properly appreciated. I often see my notes on their office walls. I think doing a good job of appreciating people is a major contributor to the high ratings we receive on Glassdoor from former employees. In my experience, I receive five times the feedback from showing gratitude to team members compared with monetary recognition in the form of raises or profit sharing.
Non-employees also enjoy being recognized for doing something for the company. Handwritten thank-yous are rare enough now that sometimes I even get thank-yous for the thank-yous!
3. The 90/10 Rule
Think about it: Most — let’s say 90% — of the things that you worry may happen never come to pass. It might actually be more like 95%. When I first heard that 30 years ago, I didn’t necessarily believe it. But after 30 years of observing what I stress or think about versus the final outcome, the rule is absolutely true.
The trick is to retrain your human nature that self-preserves by worrying to not worry while life is happening around you. That is probably a whole separate article unto itself — but if you can train yourself to only “worry” or dwell on something when it actually becomes a legitimate problem, you become 90% happier.
The habits I practice are by no means an all-inclusive list of how leaders can keep gratitude top-of-mind to elevate their companies and stay positive. But they are the three that I put into regular practice. Each has nuances that are beneficial to me, my team (or both).
No matter how you incorporate gratitude into your business, I encourage you to do so. Start now, get creative, experiment with different techniques, and find what resonates most — because everyone benefits from an increase in gratitude and innovative ways to incorporate it.
Barry Raber is a serial entrepreneur, president of Carefree RV Storage, a 22-year member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), the founder of Business Property Trust, and an EO Portland Entrepreneur of the Year. He shares his successful business secrets at realsimplebusiness.org. Read his previous blog contributions on Implementing A Collaborative Approach to Strategy, 3 Steps That Create a Bigger Future for You and Your Business, and How to Run a Company With Two 10-Minute Weekly Meetings and Post-It Notes.
This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur magazine and is reposted here with permission.