My mother is an excellent model for showcasing thanks and gratitude in everyday life. She sends thank you cards for gifts given, actions taken and just because moments.
When you receive her hand-written card in the mail, you feel her love and appreciation.
These days, I strive to adopt a similar card writing campaign. During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I picked up a box of hand-crafted note cards.
In the box, was a little booklet containing the story of John Kralik’s journey from ungrateful and life-hating moments to a heart of gratitude.
365 Thank Yous
I was so intrigued by his story that I sought more information about John and his journey to gratitude.
He wrote a book titled 365 Thank Yous, so I picked it up, and I couldn’t put it down.
John wanted to transform his cold and callous heart into one that appreciated and showed gratitude for the simple acts of kindness people did for him – like Christmas gifts.
His life couldn’t get any worse he thought, so he started with thanking people for the Christmas gifts they had given him.
He sought to write one thank you card per day.
Some days he wrote more and other days he didn't write any. After awhile he needed a spreadsheet to track his thank you cards.
Over time, John’s heart warmed up as he appreciated the people in his life. The book is an extraordinary journey of how a simple act can transform your heart.
If John can do it, we can too!
The 5 Step Plan for Expressing Gratitude
I have found over time that a hand-written card is foreign to most people today. In our fast-paced world of emails, texts, and tweets, a hand-written card requires a few extra minutes of your time and energy but leaves a lasting impression on the recipient.
Here are five steps to expressing gratitude:
- Be Specific – When writing your thank you note, be specific in articulating why you are thanking them whether it be for a gift or an action.
Example (action): Shirley, Thank you for your kind introduction in today’s meeting. I was not expecting such a gracious and thorough introduction. Your words lifted my spirits all day. All the best, Dave
Example (gift): Charlie, Thanks for the Starbucks this morning – it was just what I needed. That was a thoughtful gesture, and I appreciated it. Have a great day and thanks again – it was delicious! All the Best, Dave
Being specific in your card shows the giver that you paid attention to their action or gift.
- Be Brief – As John Kralik says, “You are writing a thank you card, not a thank you letter.” By keeping it short, you are forcing yourself to be specific about the action or gift.
Helpful Tip: Use a 3×5 card to write out what you want to say to the individual (John Kralik's suggestion).
- Be Immediate With Your Gratitude – surprise and delight them. Most people are not expecting any thanks or gratitude, so your card will catch them by surprise and give them joy throughout their day and week. Don’t wait a couple of weeks to send them the card, send it to them the very next day.
Example: A few weeks ago, I knew I would be traveling this week, so I emailed some friends and asked if they had time for a meal while I was in town.
We set up a time, and I headed to their home for an evening of good food and good company. We laughed, talked shop and spent time enjoying the short time we had together.
This morning, I dropped them a quick card thanking them for their hospitality and their friendship.
Travel Tip: Drop your cards at the hotel front desk and ask them to drop the cards in their outgoing mail – don’t forget the stamp! They are more than happy to accommodate you.
Helpful Tip: Keep a stack of cards at your desk (home or work) and when you want to thank someone, you won’t have to hunt for them.
- Create a Gratitude List – this can be 3×5 index cards, a piece of paper, a napkin or a spreadsheet. You don’t have to identify 365 people like John eventually did, but tracking who you are grateful for will cause introspection and reflection in your life.
Think On This: If you wrote one (1) thank you card per week, you would have written 52 cards by the end of the year.
- Repeat the Gratitude Process – don’t stop with just one card because you completed the action steps. This process is as much about your action of expressing gratitude as it is for the recipient. Over time, you will see your heart change and grow – I guarantee it.
- [Bonus] Teach Your Children Gratitude By Modeling The Behavior – If you have kids, you teach them to be smart with their time, money and resources. Give your child the gift of legacy gratitude. Model for them a heart for expressing gratitude for the gifts, kindness and actions they receive.
Example: I watched my mother write gratitude cards and other notes of appreciation over my forty years. My mom passed this behavior down to me, and I am carrying the family legacy of gratitude forward to the next generation.
Expect Nothing In Return
You don’t write gratitude cards for what you might get in return (i.e. gifts). You write these cards because someone’s actions or gift meant something to you and you genuinely want to thank them.
Challenge: Will you go through the action steps and send one (1) gratitude card this week?
In the comments below, share your experience with completing the challenge and how it made you feel. I will go first in the comments. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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