Who’s Your Chosen Gratitude Recipient?

October 27, 2011

In my last post, on gratitude, I wrote about a gratitude building exercise called The Three Blessings Exercise  where we learned to identify the part we play in our own blessings.  Today, I want to talk about a gratitude building exercise related to sharing your gratitude directly with a significant person who has made a positive impact on your life.

The second gratitude building exercise is a Gratitude Letter and Visit. One of the reasons why gratitude increases life satisfaction is because it amplifies good memories about the past.  The goal of the Gratitude Letter and Visit is for you to experience the power of expressing your gratitude for someone who has touched your life and to do this in a manner that has forethought and effort.  Perhaps there is someone in your life who has been especially kind to you over the years but you haven’t yet expressed your gratitude.  Or, there might be a teacher, a college professor, a coach or mentor who made a huge difference in you life.  It could be a parent, a friend, or a teammate. Sit down and compose a letter to your chosen recipient, describing in concrete terms why you are grateful.  Be specific.  Give lots of examples letting them know exactly how they affected your life.  Once your letter is complete, go to what ever effort is needed to make your gratitude visit. Find a way to arrange the visit which doesn’t alert your recipient to your purpose but keep in mind that, optimally, you will need some level of privacy. Read your letter in their presence even if you have to fly across the country to do it!

I’m going to share a portion of the letter I wrote when I was given this assignment in my authentic happiness life coaching training. To set this up for you, I had recently given a gratitude party for ten people in my personal life, during which I had expressed my specific gratitude to each person. So, I had to think long and hard about who my letter would go to.  Suddenly, my thoughts turned to Martin Seligman, the pioneer of Positive Psychology, the very person who was training me and giving me this assignment!  I remember thinking how much was changing my life and I wondered if I would ever be able to actually get a visit with such a busy man, especially without a reason for the visit that I could reveal. Here’s a portion of my letter.

Dear Marty,

I extend my gratitude to you, for you. You are like a breath of fresh air in my life.  I wasn’t aware that I even needed fresh air but now that I’m breathing it in, it is quite clear that I needed this particular quality of air.  It translates into greater quality of life.

The immense devotion you have demonstrated to the development of your own authentic happiness and the dissemination of authentic happiness is deserving of nothing less than a Pulitzer Prize.  Your contribution to our world and to mankind is that grand!  Everyone I meet in my work as a therapist and life coach, as well as the majority of those I know personally, state that they want to be happy or happier.  I am so grateful to you for the exhaustive effort you have put forth to create a pathway to happiness that can be articulated, understood and followed; that can be measured and quantified, and can therefore enable people to not only dwell in the possibility of happiness but actually achieve authentic happiness.

Because of you, I have recognized I’ve never had a sufficient toolbox to use toward this end with my clients and now, every week in our master class, you place a new tool in my hands! You do so with contagious enthusiasm, exquisite clarity, brilliant wisdom, elegant choices and genuine humility.  I come away flushed with a heightened positive energetic vibration. My heart is pounding with excitement and the smile I’m wearing is gorgeous.  The clients that walk in my door two minutes after I hang up from the master class, can’t wait to hear what spills out and over into their session.

There’s more, so much more.  Because of your rich history as a mental health professional, you are confirming so much about what I have always believed was missing in our profession’s approach to recovery, to health and well-being. I’ve always come from a strengths perspective and now I feel deeply supported in this belief by the science of positive psychology. It creates a new foundation in my work, which I experience as solid ground. Because of this, I feel even more privileged and equipped to do what is mine to do on this earth.

Finally, I am grateful for the manner in which you call for, acknowledge and distribute the ideas of others in the training course. You not only give but you also receive and I am richer for both.  Thank you for each and every moment you have reached inside yourself for more of yourself, to further build your signature strengths to their unending capacity, resulting in this unequaled opportunity in my life to be a part of the dissemination of positive psychology and authentic happiness. And now I close, hoping that I am standing in front of you, able to read this in your presence as a way of honoring you.

With deep gratitude,

Linda Brackin

It took me 8 months, but when the visit took place in Martin Seligman’s home, it was a peak experience in my life. As I read my letter, I felt so privileged to be having this opportunity. When I finished, Marty stood up, walked across the room and embraced me.  I’ll never forget his words: “No one’s ever done this for me. I am so grateful. I’m going to frame your letter and put it on my desk.” He took me for a tour of his famous rose garden and then we said goodbye, both full of gratitude.

Perhaps it would be good to just imagine being a recipient of such a gratitude letter and visit. Then…go ahead and select the recipient for your letter and as Martin Seligman said, “Make it sing!”

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