I recently stumbled upon a book entitled 365 Thank Yous – The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik.
As with so many of us, John’s life didn’t play out exactly as he planned.
Now in his early 50’s, every facet of his life was crumbling around him from his career, to his finances to the relationships he once fostered with family and friends.
Lost in a state of hopelessness, John went for a walk one New Year’s Day. It was during that time when he realized he needed to stop focusing on what he didn’t have and instead find some way to be grateful for all that he did.
His solution was to acknowledge all the acts of kindness he received with a hand-written thank you note.
Setting aside his personal struggles, he committed to writing one thank you note each and every day for an entire year. And that’s just what he did.
Kralik writes, “I did not view writing thank-you notes as a self-help system, nor did I view it as a new, positive psychological method to delude myself into believing that my life is better than it really is or to cultivate an artificial state of well-being.
This is just an exercise in average good manners.”
Let’s face it, as American’s we’re used to focusing on the negative aspects of life. We complain incessantly about people, situations or circumstances, all the while ignoring the bounties our life possesses.
And by ignoring those bounties, we’re preventing ourselves from being truly grateful and fully deserving of that kindness. Kralik writes, “By being thankful for what I had, I realized that I had everything I needed.”
Thank yous – could they work for me?
Kralik’s thank you project intrigued me. I began wondering if incorporating such a routine into my daily life would be as meaningful and inspiring as it has been for him.
Kralik writes, “A handwritten note still plays an important role. It doesn’t take a lot more time or effort than writing an email, which inevitably is buried in the annoyance of a glowing screen and promptly lost in cyberspace.
A handwritten note just feels like sincere gratitude. It conveys your physical presence to the receiver. You are right there.”
And so, I decided I would give it a try – though on a much smaller scale. I’m committing to 30 thank yous in 30 days, tracking my progress on an excel spreadsheet just as John had done.
With the cards in hand and pen at the ready, I was surprised to find myself riddled with ungratefulness. I found it difficult to find people to write to, and what to write about.
I consider myself an incredibly fortunate individual, so why did I find myself sitting there staring at a blank card?
Re-reading a few pages of John’s book, I came across this statement. “The best thank-you notes will stir in the recipients’ hearts the knowledge that their gesture was truly appreciated.”
I realized this was not about thanking someone for a grandiose gesture. No, this project was about the everyday ordinary kindness people so thoughtfully and humbly provide us.
It could be someone from our past or our present, someone we still talk to or someone we lost track of decades ago. The important thing is that you’re thanking someone for their voluntary kindness.
Kralik writes, “At the risk of making an unscientific and directly moral statement, I will say that writing thank-you notes is a good thing to do and makes the world a better place. It also made me a better man.
More than success or material achievement, this is what I sought.”
My journey to be a better man begins this week – I’ll keep you posted.