On the streets of my ‘hood, and in the vernacular or teenage youth that I regularly interact with, this is a common greeting.
“What’s good bro?”
A bit like “What’s up?,” it accomplishes the more-proper “Hello, how are you doing?” But it does more. “What’s good?” elicits a positive response. Both implicitly and explicitly, it begs the question: “What are you thankful for? What are you celebrating? Where is there light in your life?”
Paying attention to the good in our lives, both at the macro and micro levels, is the door to joy and contentment in our lives.
The transformative impact of gratitude practices are hardly believable, and yet indisputable.
One of my closest friends, who happens to be an accomplished professor and researcher, has added to this emerging body of work. In his publication, “Cultivating a Grateful Disposition, Increasing Moral Behavior and Personal Well-being,” Joseph Bankard reasons that “Because life is a gift from God…we should strive to live in a consistent state of gratitude…But it requires intentionality and hard work…[but]…in the end this effort equips us to live grateful, happy and moral lives.”
My wife too, has pointed me towards this transformative practice. In response to the reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Anne Voskamp, she started naming instances of “eucharisto.” On days that were once broadly characterized by “good” “so-so” or “bad” she started specifically listing the bright spots of her days. Some days they were just fleeting moments. Other days they were more lasting events. But every day, she named and scribed a handful. In her words, “To be honest, seeking out three items was sometimes all I could manage. Often, just my hot cup of coffee and a quiet house were two of my three. What I do know is that my perspective on life altered. I began to see the world differently.” Today, she continues to list moments she is thankful for; the list is now exceeds 13,000. Practicing gratitude changed everything for her. As an eyewitness to this daily transformation, I am a believer.
With this kind of promise and buoying power, might this also be a near-essential practice for the 21st century educational leader? After all, there are plenty of challenges, high demands, and disappointments that can drag us down, and burn us out of the profession.
Last year I took on a daily practice of gratitude in the school context. I started by adding “gratitude action” to the 7:10-7:20am slot of my Outlook calendar. If the practice is important, then it deserves at least ten minutes of my day, right? In that calendar slot, I would write heartfelt thank-you cards to staff. I would post a celebration on the school social media page. I would walk over to a classroom and affirm a teacher. Or I would list a small accomplishment in the back of my Full Focus Planner. I still don’t know how to measure the change it made. But it made a difference in my leadership.
I assert that committing to a daily practice of gratitude is an essential leadership skill. It will at least give us a better shot at a long career. At best, it will help us lead from a positive place that has lasting impact on the adults and children for whom we work for.
I write this as a personal “call to action” for myself. Three months into the school year, I am too often giving my attention to what is challenging and troubling. I am letting hard things color my countenance and impact my perspective. I want to lead from a different place. And because I know the door that leads to contentment and joy, I am re-committing to a practice of gratitude.
Instead of asking myself “What’s required?” or “What needs my attention today?” I am going to take a cue from my teenage brothers and sisters, asking…