April 2013 Interactive presentation @Hannover Messe
With whom are you sharing joy of waiting?
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What are you grateful for today?

And why is it important to be thankful in everyday life…
On the eve of Thanksgiving on November 23rd and Advent starting on December 1st I would like to invite you to reflect on the power of gratitude and propose two TED talk presentations focusing on the link between gratitude and happiness.

The countdown before Thanksgiving (three more days) and advent (ten more days) made me reflect on the power of thankfulness. What are you grateful for today, before the “official thanking season” starts?

Before you look back at the year full of events that brought two kinds of tears: those of joy and those of sadness, take a while, lay back and let me share with you a short story.

Early autumn this year I conducted an intercultural training on virtual leadership in one of the southern German companies. When asked about the biggest challenge in the intercultural communication at the moment, one of the participants said: “I cannot hear this stupid stuff regarding gratitude any more. What should I be thankful for? For struggling with getting results from my team members from overseas on time? For wasting time on small talk when we are behind schedule? For lacking communication and not replying to my e-mails?” As an interculturalist, I immediately noticed my conscious bias and bit my tongue. As Joanna, I lay back in my chair and smiled. I could not resist asking two questions: “And what are you thankful for when you think of your position as a project leader? Why have you decided to lead a multicultural virtual team?” Short silence… and a disillusion in the answer: “Because I had to!”

You cannot imagine how often I hear: “Because I had to” or “Because I have to”.
That was the reason why I started to search for the answers to the question “How can we manage the shift from must to enjoy?” In the moment I focused on that challenge the whole fan of opportunities unfolded. Let me share just three of them with you, which are powerful (and its power I experienced on my skin) and had been confirmed by the scientific research:

1. We do not notice how great life around us is because we ignore wonderful stories. We do not appreciate the beauty of the surrounding behind the window, the magic of a moment when a colleague simply smiles, the smell of coffee in the morning and this missing gratitude leads us to feel unhappy and disappointed most of the time. Practice 3 gratitudes per day for 21 days in a row and you are going to feel happier (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

2. Gratitude is not about saying thank you; it is not about giving presents to thank someone for something. It is above all about life philosophy; when you do not even notice that you have got the natural need to express your “thankfulness” with words, a smile, a tiny gesture, flowers or a “little something”. Practice random acts of kindness and you will quickly notice the positive change around and inside you (Lyubomirsky, 2005).

3. Discover the power of storytelling. Especially, those stories you keep telling yourself and your surrounding. GRATITUDE IS ABOUT EMBRACING YOUR NARRATIVE.

Practice journaling (write down one positive experience within the last 24 hours) and experience how your brain gets rewired to enjoy more (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006)

More proposals on focusing on happiness instead of the “duty aspect” at work can be found in a witty TED talk The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance by Shawn Achor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M
Remember, however, that you are not the only author of the powerful stories that can change your approach towards being happy at work and simply in your life. “The big part of our narrative is the stories we accept and reject from other people”, highlights Jennifer Moss in her TED talk on The epidemic of smiles and the science of gratitude https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=mJKc4YBRigM and my question sounds: “What narratives lead my clients to be convinced that they cannot enjoy their work, that they have to do their jobs?”

As John Lubbock notices: “Happiness is a condition of the mind not a result of circumstances”. Happiness is so to say the choice! HAPPINESS IS OUR CHOICE and, as you have seen above gratitude is one of the most important keys to its door.

What am I thankful for today?

First of all, for the flow, I experienced while writing this text. Writing not always happens in the flow state;-).

Secondly, for a piece of chocolate, given to me by an open-minded young woman, who visited me this weekend. It made my day when I looked outside and saw the “grey in grey” sky.

Last, but not least, for being an elephant in a porcelain store and "almost" destroying the macarons and a glass etagère. But this is another story…

P.S. Why it is worth to be an elephant? Watch the second proposed TED talk to the end to find out the answer and read my upcoming blog on December, 1st.
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