I feel so inspired after just having finished the book 365 Thank Yous — The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m interested in the research on the beneficial effects of feelings of gratitude on our minds and bodies. 365 Thank Yous was a suspense story, which started with author John Kralik’s reaching an all-time low in his life at age 53. His law firm’s clients weren’t paying their bills, which put him in serious financial jeopardy, he and his second wife were having a horrible time trying to wrap up their divorce, he was overweight, living in what sounded like a dumpy, cracker-box apartment, and right before Christmas his girlfriend broke up with him. About this time he went on a hike and heard a loud voice (this is the only part of the book that caused me to roll my eyes) telling him, “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want.” The power of the mysterious voice was enough to convince Kralik to make a vow to write — not email, but create with pen in hand — 365 thank you notes, one a day for a year. Did anything come of his efforts to be thankful? That’s where the suspense comes in. You can’t help but keep reading to find the answer to this question.
Here’s a brief and incomplete summary of what happened to Kralik while going through the process of writing this many thank yous. First, he started noticing what other people did for him, whether it was the barista who knew his name and coffee order (he gave this as an example of the “extreme thank yous” he wrote to meet his daily quota, which “no etiquette book in the universe would require or suggest”), or a client who paid his bills on time. He even found something for which he could sincerely thank his soon-to-be ex-wife, which may have helped smooth the way to an eventual settlement. He came to realize how many things and people he took for granted — his sons and siblings, the surgeon who 10 years earlier had completed a successful surgery that had made his life much better, the employees in his law office who stuck by him when clients who, besides not paying their bills also were suing him. His life was enriched by all the people who told him how touched they were to receive a hand-written thank you. When he thanked people, such as his landlord, they went out of their way to help him out of appreciation that he recognized their contributions. Over time he revealed more of his emotions in his notes and his comments deepened. His lesson at the end of 15 months (work and life prevented him from reaching his goal in a 12 months) was that he felt better about himself and had grown closer to many more people; by showing appreciation to clients who paid on time, his client list had grown and his financial troubles receded; and he could weather life’s struggles more easily. This sounds worth emulating. What do you think?