Shawn Quinn is a consultant and teacher. He focuses on building positive organizations. He tells a story about the power of gratitude at work. He then makes an observation that helps to explain how the bilingual mind works.
An executive attended one of Shawn’s classes and afterwards decided to begin meditating. In a follow-up session the man made an important report. He found himself thinking about a problem person. He decided to make an honest exploration of the things he was grateful for in the problem person, and doing so changed how he saw the problem person. But it also had some other impacts. He became more desirous to practice gratitude and that changed how he saw many people in the organization. His new view caused him to treat the people more positively. He began to focus less on the problems in the organization and more on what was right. The organization then changed. He saw an increase in commitment, effort and quality.
In reflecting on the story, Shawn notes that researchers find that people who have a discipline of regularly practicing gratitude also: exercised more regularly; report fewer physical symptoms; feel better about their lives as a whole; are more optimistic about the upcoming week; made more progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period; are more likely to help someone with a personal problem or offer emotional support; have more positive attitudes toward school and their families; have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress; place less importance on material goods; are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; are less envious of others; are more likely to share their possessions with others.
Shawn concludes with a paradoxical observation: “And, when people are grateful, they do all of these things without denying or ignoring the negative aspects of life.” This sentence suggests that people of gratitude are fully engaged in practical problems, but they are engaged differently, in a more generative way.