A Thanksgiving Reminder

I recently read a blog about the recent, unexpected passing of the author’s father. Patrick Evers, a former colleague of my adult son wrote the article.  I thought it was a thoughtful, touching and inspiring piece that beautifully illustrates both the peace of mind as well as the absence of regrets that are possible even when one’s loved one dies unexpectedly.   I am pleased to share it with you below.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I would suggest reflecting on the question, “Is there someone you would want to be expressing gratitude toward for their impact on my life?”  Whether or not they will be celebrating Thanksgiving with you, would this not be an opportune time?    If they are sharing the holiday with you, all the better.

Have You Said What You Need to Say?

Wishing you a Happy and Gratitude Filled Thanksgiving.

Walter Green

And the Ripples of Gratitude Keep Flowing

Since the publication of my book, This Is The Moment, it has been more than exciting to hear and see the multitude of ways people have chosen to express explicit gratitude to those who have been important in their lives.

Before I share two stories, I want to emphasize that it matters not how you choose to express your gratitude. What does matter is that you do it … whether as a personal meeting, a letter, a poem, or even a phone call.  Clearly the recipient will appreciate it.   What is not as obvious is that you will not only feel better for having done so but will never have any regrets in the future for not having done it.

With that preamble, here are a couple of “gratitude ripples” that were recently brought to my attention.   First,  three years ago I was the keynote speaker at the Council on Alcoholism  and Drug Abuse (CADA)’s luncheon celebrating their highly successful Fighting Back Mentor Program in Santa Barbara, CA.   Since I was speaking on the message of gratitude, it was decided by the organizers that the participating supporters would be asked to fill their tables with people who have provided guidance, friendship, support and advice along their life’s journey.  During the luncheon they had the opportunity to give an explicit thank you to all those at their table who had made a real difference in their lives.  I just received a note from the person who organized the original luncheon saying that it was so successful that they have repeated the theme every year since and just held their 4th Annual Gratitude Luncheon.  This one idea has already influenced a multitude of people.

The second example of how the message is being expressed was offered by American Greetings, the largest greeting card company in the world.  After engaging two research companies who confirmed the value and the hesitancy of expressing gratitude, they developed what they are calling the ThankList, differentiating it from a Bucket List.  They not only developed an offering of cards to facilitate the expressions of gratitude, they produced five short films created by two-time Oscar winner, Barbara Kopple, each of them approximately five minutes long, which were amazing and I encourage you to watch them.  Here is the link to view these well-done videos………American Greetings ThankList videos. (Click on Watch button on the left, after the Intro.)

Hopefully these ideas will stimulate not only your thinking about who might be on your list of people to express gratitude for their influence on your life, but more importantly, it will motivate you to take action.  I am confident after you do one, you will do more.

With gratitude,
Walter Green

Are you ready for a new normal?

Recently my wife accidentally banged her toe against the leg of a chair.  Believing it was just bruised she carried on in the hopes that the sting and subsequent pain would just go away.  Not so fast.  Weeks went by and it continued to be bothersome only to learn that it was broken. Throughout this extended healing process both consciously and unconsciously thoughts of discomfort were ever present.    It curtailed her activity, limited the shoes she could wear and created anxiety in thinking it might never heal.  Yes, it thankfully got better and life returned to normal.

So what is the point, you may be asking?   When is the last time we were grateful that our toes, or any other part of our body for that matter, were fine?   This irony transcends more than just our body.  Do you remember the last time you did not have hot water for your shower or the electricity in your home wasn’t working?  Or your sent emails were hopelessly stalled in your Outbox?  Inconvenient for sure.  Yes, the gratitude comes when these issues are resolved and our lives return to normal.

The good news about these situations is they were able to return to normal.  There are other areas of our lives that do not. Think of a dear friend or family member who was an important part of your life but is no longer here—the  pain of this loss and the grieving that followed were likely profound.

What is the common element that weaves through these stories?  It is often not until something is either temporarily, or worse yet, permanently lost that we remember how important it has been in our lives.

What a perfect time of year to be more conscious of this tendency and better yet, create a new normal.   Consciously value and be grateful for all you have.  Cherish it.  Everything.  This can happen in very simple, new habits. Consider those who say grace before each meal have three times a day to express explicit gratitude for all one’s blessings.   A friend of mine recently shared with me that he has converted his feelings of impatience while waiting at a stoplight to moments of expressing gratitude.

At this time of Thanksgiving, it is a perfect time to give some thought to a new practice that can lead you to a new behavior of gratitude.  It is often said that a new behavior can be created with just 21 repetitions.  However many it takes, imagine the elevation of the joyfulness in your life when you are able to manifest this “new normal”.

With gratitude,
Walter Green

When One’s Imagination and Perception Becomes One’s Reality

Even though most of us believe that our imagination and perceptions are accurate, when they are confirmed it is very reaffirming.

During my yearlong journey of gratitude, some five years ago, I traveled around the United States and abroad to meet with 44 people who have been very important in my life.  During these visits I was very explicit in my expressions of deep appreciation for all that they had done for me. It was not only a gratifying experience but I also imagined that I would never have any regrets in the future for things I wish I had said when any of these 44 individuals pass on.

One of the 44 on my journey was Dr. Fred Jervis.   He was an extraordinary human being and no one taught me more about a way of thinking than Fred.   He was a real life changer for me and for many of the people I have coached over the years and for thousands of others.

As a student at the University of New Hampshire, he played varsity baseball and basketball. His education was interrupted by war. As a lieutenant in the 11th Armored Division, he lost his sight in a mine explosion in Germany.  Notwithstanding, Fred completed his education at UNH and earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. He served as Director of the Counseling Center at UNH and then as Professor of Psychology. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in organizational theory at Harvard Business School. Fred left academia after 20 years to found the Center for Constructive Change in Durham, along with his wife, Janis. The Center provided educational and consulting services to a wide array of individuals and entities and I was blessed to be one of them.

It is not possible for me in a short piece to adequately express how much this man meant in my life.  When I visited with him in his home in New Hampshire in 2009, I was able to more fully express the specific ways that he impacted my life.  It was so gratifying to have made this opportunity.

At the time, I both perceived and imagined that when Fred passed away that I would not have any regrets for things I wish I had expressed to him.

Sadly, Fred passed away last week.  I indeed felt no regrets for anything I might have said.  It reconfirmed what I had previously imagined and perceived and it was very reaffirming indeed.   Losing someone who has been very special in your life is always difficult and sad but to not have any regrets for things you might have said makes this passing less painful.

It is with this new “reality” that I encourage each of you to express your gratitude while everyone is alive and well.

Think Out of the Box on this Father’s Day

For years, most sons and daughters are challenged by what they should “buy” for their dad on Father’s Day. Often it is a nice shirt or some other functional gift. That would earn a “medal” for sure but maybe only a bronze because it’s a thing. A silver medal would go to those who verbally expressed gratitude and gave something. But for me, the gold medal goes to the son/daughter who thinks outside of the (gift) box and writes something in addition to giving an object. The written gift never stops giving.

I remember two years ago, on Father’s Day, when I received heartwarming, handwritten cards from our grown twin sons. They were so special I framed them. I read them often and every time it warms my heart and I count my blessings. They also gave me a “thing” with the card but I have long forgotten what that was.

Another out-of-the-box way to celebrate Father’s Day is to think of someone, other than your Father, who may have given you some very valuable advice or supported you in a meaningful way. The person could have been your uncle, grandfather, mentor or just a mature male friend. In any case, it may have even been a road-changer in your life. What about reaching out and communicating your gratitude to this person on Father’s Day?

I read an article in the USA Today this week about Mike Emrick, an extraordinary sportscaster in the hockey world. The piece describes his current mission to write a letter every day to each person who made a difference in his life. He thinks it could take him a year or two to finish. I am certain that many of these people had given him “fatherly” advice and he was most grateful.

So on this Father’s Day, give the gift of gratitude in written form to your Father and anyone else who has made a significant contribution to your life. It will always be the perfect size and color! I promise you it will not only make their day but also enrich their life.

To read the full article about Mike Emrick’s thank-you-card campaign, click here.

With gratitude,
Walter Green

Gratitude Reflects Itself in Many Gifts – Extraordinary Time-Lapse Photography

For those of you who have read my previous postings as well as my book, This Is The Moment, you know my doorway into gratitude has been from the expression of profound gratitude to those who have made important contributions in our lives.   I have been deeply touched by hearing so many stories from those who have acted on this awareness by expressing gratitude while the expresser and recipient is still alive and well.

Over the last few years, I have also relished expanding my awareness and appreciation of gratitude in so many other dimensions of my life.   One of my first encounters of gratitude begins each day when my eyes open after a night’s sleep and I realize I have another day to do the things that give my life meaning.   I then take my morning shower by just turning a handle.  Out flows wonderfully clean hot and cold water easily adjusted by just a little twist.   I often think “how does this work” along with the realization that I could never build this mechanical wonder.  Gratitude flows over me like the flowing water.  My appreciation is further magnified when using a small block of soap to create a cleansing action that is truly remarkable.  Although this idea dates back 5,000 years, could any of us make it from scratch?  In any case, we do not have to and for that my morning gratitude is accentuated.

These moments of gratitude then make me think about so many of the other life-enriching experiences throughout the day—truly all special gifts.  I think one of the most poignant pieces on this subject was produced by Louis Schwartzberg, the Founder of Blacklight Films and shown at a Tedx Conference in San Francisco.

Louie Schwartzberg’s  amazing time-lapsed photography coupled with the words of a Benedictine monk will not disappoint.  Trust me, in less than 10 minutes, it is likely you will appreciate the “gift of another day” and it will not be “just another day.”


With Gratitude,
Walter Green

How to Put More Resolve in Your New Year’s Resolutions

It is surprising that so many continue to make resolutions year after year even though they are infrequently achieved. It is often said (and true) that if we continue to do things the same way, we will get the same results. So too with New Year’s Resolutions.

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.

Explaining why may be of some value but focusing on what one might do differently to change the outcome and achieve many of this year’s resolutions is likely a better use of this New Year’s message.

For most people a New Year’s resolution is a promise to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year. That isn’t enough.

Here is the question I would ask of myself. If I am ideally successful with improving my health, living more in the present, etc. how would it manifest itself by the end of the year? Or asked another way, what would have happened by the end of the year if I were successful in keeping my resolution?

Once you know what success looks like, now develop indicators. For instance, if the resolution is better health, the indicators might be weight loss, smaller waistline, better sleeping habits, lower cholesterol, just to name a few.

The next step is to establish specific measurements. How many pounds, or what smaller clothes would you now fit in? How many inches would your waistline be, or when would you go to sleep and wake up each day, etc. You get the idea. Then set quarterly benchmarks so you can see your progress. There’s no benefit in waiting until the end of the year to realize you didn’t stay on track.

And here is a step that cannot be overlooked. If you do not achieve your quarterly benchmark ask yourself what you could do differently to attain an improved outcome. Then make adjustments to set yourself up for achieving your year-end outcomes.

It also helps to communicate your resolution goals to people who could also support you. Quoting author Frank Ra, “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year’s resolutions.”

So there you have it. A road map that will definitely increase the probability that you will achieve this year’s resolutions.

This just may be your healthiest and happiest year yet. I wish nothing less for you.

In gratitude,
Walter Green

The Science of Happiness

Some of you may have already seen this video, and it is well worth viewing again.  For those of you who haven’t, take a couple of minutes and take it all in.

How surprising that the person who experienced the biggest jump in happiness was the person who was the least happy at the beginning of the experiment!

Lessons from Surgery and the Role of Gratitude

I just recovered from the removal of my gall bladder and this healing time has given me an opportunity to reflect on my experience.

Here were some of my key reflections that may have some relevance the next time you have to encounter surgery.  It is clearly not to be an all-inconclusive list.

Lesson 1.  Routine and common does not mean easy or without significant stress or the potential of complications. Should you do it and how you do it are key questions to consider.

Lesson 2. Focus on the “what” before the “how”. Invest as much time on getting clarity and being explicit about the key considerations that will be the basis for you to decide what you will do.

Lesson 3. Inquire as to what could happen during and after the surgery.  Don’t focus on the possibilities, instead what to expect so you can minimize any highly stressful post-surgery surprises

Lesson 4. Find a surgeon who has done lots of the intended procedure and whose track record is exemplary. Peace of mind is essential before, during and after the procedure.

Lessson 5.  Caregiver and/or advocates are invaluable. I was blessed to have my wife, Lola as my caregiver and my gatekeeper. She sent thoughtful group update emails when she knew I needed to rest and recover rather than have me speak to so many wonderful well-wishers when I was not up to it.

Lesson 6.   Eliminate future questions as to “what did my doctor say?” Get the consent of your doctor and record your conversations (I would be concerned if they did not agree).  I was amazed that even when I thought I was listening carefully during my appointments, I forgot some salient points I heard when I replayed the recording.

Lesson 7.  The Role of Gratitude.  Opportunities for gratitude abound. Appreciation for the great surgeon, the medical team, the hospital and staff, the technology, the caregiver, friends and family to name a few.

I found gratitude in other places as well.  First, the loving thoughts, best wishes, blessings and prayers both before, during and after are very reassuring.  It reinforces our life purpose knowing that we make a difference in peoples’ lives.

It has been reported that prayers matter, even when the person being prayed for is unaware of it.

Finally, the personal gratification I had when I took my year-long journey to express my profound appreciation to those who had made a big difference in my life paid huge dividends once again.

When I was about to be given general anesthesia, I was optimistic that everything would be fine.  When the thought that there were no guarantees crossed my mind,  I was at such peace knowing that I had already expressed my gratitude to all who had been important to me.

This powerful concept will not only serve you when you are alive and well but also when your health and life is in some jeopardy.  Yet another reason to not defer the opportunity to express deep gratitude to those who have been important influencers in your life.

In Gratitude,
Walter Green

Father’s Day—A Perfect Time for Reflection and Gratitude

Right about now, many of you may be thinking about this upcoming Father’s Day and what you might do to make it extra special.  If you are blessed and your father is still alive, consider the expression of appreciation for all that he has done for you over your lifetime.

I am reminded of the story of what one graduate student did after hearing me speak on the subject of my book, This is the Moment…How One Man’s Yearlong Journey Captured the Power of Extraordinary Gratitude. She was a night student and still living at home.  When she returned home the night of the lecture she made a list of all the contributions her father made to her life.  When her father arrived home later than evening, she asked him to join her in the living room indicating she had things that she would like to share with him.   He inquired, “About what?”  She responded, “About what you have meant to me.”  The father responded, “I know you love me.”   The daughter added “Dad, it is more than that.  I would love you to just sit with me for a few minutes so I can share my feelings with you.”   The father acquiesced and the daughter proceeded to express the specific contributions he had made to her life and what it has meant to her.  They both were in tears before the conversation was finished.   The father said at the end that it was one of the most heartwarming moments of his life.

It is not important whether you communicate these expressions of gratitude in person.  If you will not be with your father on Father’s Day, a letter would do just fine.  The important issue is that you do not miss the opportunity.

Whether your father is or is not alive, I would reflect on one additional question.  Who else is alive that has given you very helpful fatherly advice over the years?

We all know we are not self -made.  Was there a mentor, a teacher, someone in the older generation that made a difference in your life?

If you watched the recent running of the Preakness, the winning jockey was a Hall of  Fame rider by the name of Gary Stevens.  What makes this story even more remarkable is that Gary is 50 years old and has not raced in the last seven years and his horse, Oxbow was a 15 to 1 shot.  When the commentator asked how he was able to do it, Gary responded that his father has been very important to him but he is also so indebted to others who have given him advice and support over the years.  He then added, “If it weren’t for the encouragement and opportunity of Wayne Lucas, the world class horse trainer, I may have never raced again.  For sure, not be in the winner’s circle of The Preakness, one of horseracing Triple Crown.”

The odds of achieving lifelong dreams are a long shot in most of our lives.  Think about who has helped you get into your “winner’s circle” and let them know what they mean to you on this Father’s Day.

With gratitude,

Walter Green