Thank you, take-out restaurants who put two spoons and two forks in the bag, for being nice enough to assume that all this food I ordered is for two people.
— Jimmy Fallon, May 23, 2014
Comedian Jimmy Fallon’s reoccurring routine of writing “thank you” notes on the Tonight Show stands as one of his best trademarks.
Fallon regularly brings attention to the mundane and the trivial by pretending to write notes on fancy stationery to everything from cotton candy to delayed flights to the comic villain Venom.
They lead to big laughs, but entrepreneurs may not realize the comical expressions reflect the importance of weaving gratitude into their daily lives. A focus on what motivational speaker Curtis Zimmerman calls an “attitude of gratitude” can lead to greater personal and professional growth.
From a personal perspective, new age leaders like Deepak Chopra point to research that indicates gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing.
“Gratitude magnifies the spirit and promotes well-being,” wrote authors Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine in their book The Power of Thanks. “In good times and bad, authentic appreciation creates perspective, literally stepping back from the distractions of the moment and affirming something more lasting than passing circumstance.”
How does the existential focus translate to more business success? When people who embrace a positive attitude and transfer it to those they encounter, they attract people who can help build their success. It’s not just about possessing a positive attitude about yourself, it’s about possessing positivity about those you work with and those you encounter.
Zimmerman’s trademark response when someone greets him is, “I’m living the dream.” Chopra says colleagues will be more interested in helping someone who is optimistic, constructive and encouraging.
Tim Askew, founder of the sales firm, Corporate Rain, makes a habit of saying, “thank you” not only to the CEOs and business leaders he deals with, but to their assistants and receptionists.
“Research increasingly shows that thanking folks not only results in reciprocal generosity (where the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker), but stimulate eleemosynary (charitable) behavior in general,” Askew wrote in an Inc. article.
Gratitude also can help managers build more successful teams in the workplace. Vibe communications president Lori Worth said practicing and showing thankfulness helps the manager connect with more people and be more receptive to learning.
“Our business and personal lives collide, like it or not, and one affects the other,” Worth wrote for the Thinking Bigger blog. “The ability to be grateful is key to life balance and happiness, and this transcends into business.”
The question becomes how you go about infusing positivity into your life. Here are four “Be’s” to Being Big on Gratitude, with a little help from Fallon.
Thank you “everything bagel” for being the only breakfast food that looks like it was dropped under the couch two weeks ago.
— Jimmy Fallon, July 20, 2018
You may not want to start the morning with an “everything bagel” from under the couch, but you should consider a moment of reflection that both unclutters the mind of stress and anxiety and refocuses it on positive attributions.
Many consider meditation a key step to generating the positive attitudes that can lead to peace of mind and happiness. ABC News anchor Dan Harris, who once had an on-air panic attack, touts the virtues of meditation in two best-selling books, including 10% Happier.
“I would say the biggest difference for me is not being so owned by my emotions,” Harris told the Washington Post. “I still experience plenty of difficult emotions – most notably for me is anger. But it’s like you have an inner meteorologist who can see the storm before it makes landfall. You’re less likely to be carried away by it. That makes a huge difference.”
A lot of tips exist on how to begin a meaningful meditation routine, and there are a lot of different forms of meditation. Harris said a good way to start involves sitting in a reasonably quiet place and focusing on the feeling of your breath coming in and out.
“Every time you get distracted, you start over again – and again and again,” Harris said. “For many people, the moment they get distracted their ego tells them that they are failed meditators. What you need to know is that the moment you notice you were distracted, that’s a victory. It means you’re doing it correctly.”
Another misconception is that meditations requires an inordinate amount of time. Yet Harris and other experts believe 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference in your life.
Chopra recommends starting with what he calls “The Four Soul Questions:”
- Who Am I?
- What Do I Want?
- What Am I Grateful For?
- What Is My Dharma or Purpose in Life?
Along with meditation, visualization can help. The related practice focuses on envisioning your success and how you need to reach out.
Sometimes success can stem from doing something visual. Robert Emmons, a University of California-Davis psychologist and author of, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says simply keeping a gratitude journal — regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful — can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Two studies cited by HappierHuman state a gratitude journal increases optimism anywhere from 5-15 percent.
The gratitude journal is essentially a version of Fallon’s “thank you” notes, just without the sardonic wit.
Thank you clogs for combining all the frumpiness of slippers with all the discomfort of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.
— Jimmy Fallon, Oct. 12, 2018
Of course, the positive person learns to appreciate the slipper-like quality of the clogs instead of the sensation of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.
A simpler application involves appreciating the blessings of life.
Zimmerman, who has delivered his motivational musings at Florida State University’s freshman orientation sessions for more than 10 years, says his motto of “Living the Dream” stems not from a desire to be catchy or cute, but a sincere effort to be positive.
“After realizing the amazing opportunities I’ve had in my life, I began saying ‘I’m Living the Dream’ every time someone asked me how I’m doing,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t say this out of blind optimism. I say it because it’s a constant reminder of how blessed I really am.”
Such greetings seldom fail to elicit a smile from the greeter. There’s a positive energy that connects with strangers and coworkers.
According to a HappierHuman.com article, multiple research efforts have revealed that gratitude makes people kinder and friendlier, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated.
The research also indicates that gratitude demonstrations lead to less pressure, stress and anxiety. Those who embrace gratitude also feel more supported by their peers and colleagues.
Business coach Michael Jacobs told Entrepreneur that changing his mental attitude led him from several failed startups to a successful app business.
“Being thankful for what you currently have immediately releases any negativity that you might be holding onto,” Jacobs wrote. “Gratitude instantly puts you in touch with the feeling of love. Where love resides, fear and all other negative emotions cannot.”
Thank you, unused chip clips in my kitchen for letting me pretend I don’t finish the entire bag of Fritos all at once.
— Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 28, 2018
Meditation and positivity should lead to heighten awareness on a number of fronts. It’s awareness of your God-given gifts, awareness of life’s positives and awareness of how opportunity can arise out of crisis.
Chopra said the answers people seek during meditation may come later in the day, when awareness and appreciation of inherent gifts begin to materialize.
“Pay attention and notice when time seems to stand still, when you feel completely absorbed in what you’re doing as you use your talents to serve yourself and others,” Chopra writes. “Following these steps will expand your ability to follow the trail of your destiny as it unfolds before you moment by moment.”
Gratitude for blessings and gifts will help shape your purpose, and the sense of purpose will allow you to more successfully take on challenges. There’s a spirituality associated with this level of awareness, but it’s practical applications in business cannot be ignored.
Sharing your gifts can boost your purpose and capitalize on the advantage positivity delivers to your entrepreneurial effort.
“If someone is looking for advice, help them out,” Michael Jacobs writes. “Do not hesitate or doubt your value. Even the smallest of gestures or thoughts shared can cause a massive shift in another individual’s perspective.”
Thank you, hard taco shells, for surviving the long journey from factory, to supermarket, to my plate and then breaking the moment I put something inside you.
— Jimmy Fallon, March 24, 2014
Yes, even after you incorporate mindfulness and meditation, re-enforce your attitude with positive admonitions and grow more aware of your purpose — even after you do all of those things — you may sit down to dinner and have your hard taco shell break the moment you put something inside it.
Just as we suggest beginning the day with meditation, you can end it with a fair and upbeat assessment of what you achieved in the last 24 hours.
Start with all you have to be grateful for on that day and every day. It’s particularly good to identify different aspects that merit appreciation. The emphasis on gratitude should shape your actions.
“In my experience, if you have a goal to improve something in your life, starting with gratitude can be extremely effective,” wrote therapist Ryan Englestad for the website Shine. “I have noticed in my own practice that if I acknowledge being grateful for my wife first thing in the morning, I am more likely to make her tea or get a chore done that she then won’t have to do.”
Next, review specific goals and tasks you set out to meet that day, whether it’s meeting a deadline, appreciating your wife or simply extending your gratitude to others. A hand-written or electronic to-do list can help with the assessment.
Idealist.org author and nonprofit expert Allison Jones found herself bored keeping a gratitude journal, so she shifted to setting specific goals and sharing appreciation with others.
“Instead of focusing on the idea of gratitude, I’m much more specific about completing acts that demonstrate gratitude,” Jones wrote on FastCompany.com.
Celebrate the good deeds done and commit to completing the unfinished acts.
Weaknesses are not to be ignored. Everyone possesses areas of improvement. As Zimmerman says, optimism doesn’t have to be blind. But shortcomings shouldn’t dominate your thinking.
“If you focus solely on what you’re not, you’re not going to experience joy or success,” Zimmerman writes in a blog. “Don’t let the world define you by your weaknesses, and don’t define yourself by them either.”