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noun: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

“THANK YOU” is one of the first words we are taught to say and we are rewarded and judged on how often we say it, especially in America as it has become an automated response. We are made to feel less than if we do not say it so most of us from a very young age start to use it just to keep our parents off our backs.

As a mother, I was hyper-focused on my girls having “good manners” and teaching them to say please and thank you no matter what. I would often pride myself on how “well-behaved” or “polite” they were as little girls. I am happy to say they are still polite as adults however, I feel like I did a disservice to them as a mother by training them to say “thank you” without teaching them how to actually feel grateful.

I think just like most of us we are taught to believe that by saying thank you we were experiencing gratitude and maybe in some cases we are but not always.

I don’t think that most of us can experience authentic gratitude. We share social media quotes on gratitude and we send thank you emojis all while complaining and wishing that our circumstances were different.

My entire life up until that point made me a master of this. I said thank you so many times no matter what situation I was in but I never truly felt gratitude. I was always in a constant state of stress and although I was using the words, I couldn’t realize the tremendous impact gratitude could have on my life until my life was on the line.

At 47 years old I received the call that everyone dreads. The “you have cancer call” and in my case breast cancer. Anyone reading this who has answered that call knows the “kind” at that moment doesn’t really matter. I went through all the stages. The “why me” and the “what now” and l can assure you I was far from saying “thank you”.

I was scared, upset, angry, and SUPER STRESSED! Although the cancer was new, all these reactions and feelings were not. I had felt this way many times before for reasons that now seemed so irrelevant. For example, I had felt this way over business deals, especially when the economy changed (and it did many times and will continue to) throughout my 29-year career.

All of those moments seemed so small and petty to me at this point. However, I do not regret having them because they were my catalyst to change and my greatest teacher on how I would get through cancer and come out better on the other side.

I looked at how stress was the driving force in how I handled every challenge in my life until that point. I knew that the game had changed and that winning this game would be a matter of life or death. I stopped playing the old game and decided I was going to find a way to win the new one. I didn’t want to just survive breast cancer. I wanted to THRIVE. I wanted it all. A healthy & happy long life and I was determined to figure out exactly how to do that.

I realized that if I got through cancer the same way I had gotten through everything else I would be stuck in the same stressful life I had. I wanted a true second chance at life. So I made it my mission to figure out how to have the best life possible.

That's where gratitude came in. I needed to teach myself how to have authentic gratitude. Not gratitude that others expect from me but what I expected for myself. I made the decision that I was going to let the doctors handle the cancer and I was going to focus on how I could make lasting changes to how I felt inside. The only possible way I could think of doing that was to truly feel grateful… even for cancer.

We are taught that we have to fight and resist things and “beat” them and survive them. All of those words are aligned with stress so I decided to take a softer approach. If you have followed me for a while you can tell I am super straightforward and no-nonsense and so my natural inclination was to fight.

It is impossible to be grateful for something while you are also fighting it… so now what?

I approached this like I approach my work. I research it and find a solution using the information and circumstances I have to have the best possible outcome. What I discovered was shocking. There is a vital step that is missing that we are never taught as young children. Before you can really, truly be grateful you need to have ACCEPTANCE. Without that, you can never have authentic gratitude and move through a situation with less or little stress.

I knew that for me to have the best possible outcome I needed to accept the cancer and find one thing to truly be grateful for. This took some time and focus but like anything in life if you want to get better you need to do better.

My only focus was to find one thing that I could be grateful for and that is how it started. I stopped wasting my energy on cancer and just accepted it. I started to focus on finding one thing that I could feel good about.

One email. That is how it all started. A friend had sent me a link to a book that would alter the course of my entire life. This book is “The Power of Eight" by Lynne McTaggart.

I felt so grateful that she had sent it to me. It wasn’t just about the book and how it helped (and believe me it did and still does), it was that I made the decision that day that the first thing I saw I was going to genuinely appreciate and be grateful for. This would not have been possible if I was still focused on the cancer. Accepting cancer made space for me to find authentic gratitude and this is how I healed and changed my life.

Then one email changed everything and I found myself looking for things to be grateful for and feel good about while living with a tumor. I figure, well if I could do that under those conditions imagine what I could do when I was healthy. That is when it all clicked for me and now I live my life from a completely different place.

By accepting every circumstance no matter how challenging, you develop the space to have authentic gratitude and from there you can thrive personally and professionally. So if I can do this with cancer imagine how much easier it is for you to do it with a challenge in your business?

Here is how to get started:

- Pick a situation at work that has you frustrated. This could be a deal you have been working on forever or your quota just increased and you have no idea how you will achieve it.

- Write down on a piece of paper a few sentences describing it. Don’t type it. Go old school here - trust me!

- Now fold up the paper and put it away. This symbolizes you have accepted it. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or understand it. Just leave it alone and stop talking about it whenever possible.

- Focus on finding one thing that you are genuinely grateful for that is part of that situation. Write that down on a piece of paper and carry that paper with you at all times. Add other things that you are grateful for as they come up but do it only when you truly feel it.

- Now let it go and move on. Focus only on what you are grateful for and every time you start to go down the rabbit hole of disappointment, pull out your gratitude paper and read it.

Let me know how it goes!

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