Getting Grateful to Get Better



On November 7th, 2017, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Angela Duckworth give the opening plenary for this year’s Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association annual conference. To be quite honest, I was slightly disappointed when I realized she wasn’t Senator Duckworth, and I was also a bit skeptical about her topic--”GRIT: The Power of Passion & Perseverance”. I imagined an ultra-“woo” motivational pep talk… not my cup of tea.

But I was pleasantly surprised to hear Dr. Duckworth begin speaking about scientific studies and rigorous data analysis, instead of “misaligned chakras”, etc. For the past several years, she’s observed and dissected the characteristics of success--what it is that sets some people apart from the rest, in terms of achievement.

She found that it isn’t necessarily those who have the highest IQ, or the most naturally athletic physique, who make it to the top of their games; those things help, but that’s not the whole story. She discovered that these four traits seem to be essential qualities of any high achiever:

G: Gratitude

R: Resilience

I: Integrity

T: Tenacity

Sticking things out when times are tough appears to be as important as, if not more important than, natural ability or beauty...that’s “grit”! And gratitude is key to staying motivated over the long haul.

Yesterday, we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope we all thought about the things that we’re thankful or “grateful” for. Gratitude is a trait we often associate with humility, not necessarily with someone who’s aggressively ambitious. But starting from a place of humility allows us to find motivation from the right source.

Too often, we are motivated, instinctively, by fear or ego. Our fear instinct tends to drive us away from things we find unpleasant, and ego may drive us toward things we think we should want (or that we think others want). However, these instincts don’t move us toward a place where we feel “successful” or content.

This is why it’s important to think about how we define “success”.  Being successful isn’t necessarily the achievement of a singular, large goal… It’s really more about hitting a series of small goals consistently over time. And success isn’t a static state--it’s constantly in flux as we go through life and work on new endeavors and face new challenges.

Focusing on the things that we’re grateful for is like having a beacon of light to steer our ship towards through this long journey. And remembering that there are things to be grateful for *right now* reminds us that we can feel content and experience happiness and satisfaction, even if we haven’t yet nailed all of our lofty life goals.

So today, consider the things that you find to be most important and precious, and think about how your health relates to them:

-Who do you want to be able to show up for?

-What activities do you want to be well enough to participate in?

-What causes do you want the strength to work for?

When we start to focus on the big picture--on the fact that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves--it’s truly freeing. It becomes easier not to dwell on momentary discomfort, to push ourselves towards the best version of ourselves, to participate fully in our families and our communities, and to become citizens of humanity.

Health isn’t about living forever… It’s about having a high quality of life and being able to contribute to sustaining the things that matter most.   

Join me in celebrating everything we have to be grateful for today--especially HEALTH!