During this time of year you begin to read more and more on social medial about people looking back on the year and reflecting on what has transpired that they are grateful for. Taking time each day to cultivate a sense of gratitude has been proven to help people reduce stress, be happier, and gain more of a sense of fulfillment in their lives. But does it have the power to increase performance?
Like many of the mental tools I use with clients to help them achieve peak performance gratitude has the ability to prime the mind to enter the state of flow. When someone is feeling grateful they are less focused on themselves. They are, in that moment, separated from their ego, and as such no longer being negatively impacted by the inner critic that so negatively impacts performance. it’s when we’re able to silence the inner critic that we set ourselves up to enter the state of peak performance.
Likewise, in a recent article by David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, he discusses how those who cultivate more gratitude and compassion in their lives are more likely to persevere through challenges as well as improves self-control increasing the likelihood that people stay more disciplined in pursuit of a goal. Clearly gratitude has an incredible ability to impact both current and future performance and the great thing is it doesn’t take too much of your time to cultivate a sense of gratitude prior to beginning your day or activity. Personally and professionally I try to use gratitude multiple times throughout my day.
I start each morning with a quick reflection on something that I’m grateful for. It could be a person, an event, anything. I really try to immerse myself in the experience visualizing the person or event and allowing myself to really feel grateful. Sometimes, I’ll even visualize experiences that I might have been less than grateful for when I first experienced them. Being removed from the situation months or years later I’m able to see how things worked out in my favor and I’ll allow myself to be grateful for the experience. Not getting the job, the opportunity that fell by the wayside, the person who I felt slighted by, being able to reflect back on the situation I’m able to recognize that the experience was crucial for my growth and development. As a result, I’ll allow myself to visualize and feel grateful for the experience.
After a morning gratitude session I’ll spend a minute or two cultivating gratitude prior to any event or activity I want to perform at a my best. Any time I’m about to enter a situation of performance, be it an athletic event like practice or competition, a presentation I’m about to give, a meeting I’m about to enter, or even a recreational activity I want to really enjoy I’ll spend a moment or two focusing on my breath and then performing a quick visualization or what I’m grateful for about the situation. It could be the physical sensations I’m grateful for while I’m engaging in a certain activity. It could be focusing on what I love about playing my sport. It could be really connecting to how fortunate I am to be getting the opportunity to experience what I’m about to experience. I try to find something to focus on to cultivate that sense of gratitude. This is also how I use gratitude with my clients. I utilize it as a part of their pre-performance breath work and visualization session to really prime their mind for peak performance.
I like to end my day, right before I close my eyes to go to sleep, focusing on the things that transpired that day that I’m grateful for. Some days this is easier than others.If that day didn’t provide obvious reason for why I should be grateful I really try to change my perspective on situation I may have experienced and view it with a sense of gratitude. It might be nothing more than having the understanding that even though I might not be able to see it now, the experience is challenging me to grow into a better version of myself.
So how can you cultivate a sense of gratitude to increase your performance?
- Anchor yourself in the present- Consciously focus on your breath for 10 breaths. Really connect to your breathing and let go of anything that has happened or that you might need to get done. Take this few seconds to focus on nothing but your breath.
- Visualize- Think of a person, situation or event that you’re grateful for. It could be anything. The birth of your children, your wedding day, making the team, getting the job, being promoted, whatever. Really connect to the experience by allowing yourself to see it, feel it, hear it. Immerse yourself in the experience.
- Feel- After the visualization is finished spend a couple of breaths enjoying the feeling that you have cultivated. Don’t rush on to the next thing. Allow yourself the opportunity, even if it’s for a breath or two to really relish the emotion.
Spending time each day cultivating gratitude is a powerful tool to enhance your performance. It doesn’t take much time and can have an incredible impact on your performance. Spend the next 7 days cultivating gratitude and see how it impacts your performance. You might find that you are not only performing at a higher level but also feeling happier and less stressed. Let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear what you experienced.