Thursday night I got the game ball. It felt so great! In my dubious athletic career, I never got the game ball. I have thrown a game ball. I have caught a game ball- once, in the back of the head. I have dribbled a game ball, shot a game ball, even caught a game ball (once, right in the nose). As a coach, I have even given the game ball. I have never been given the game ball, until last Thursday night. I was given it in appreciation of my work which is about as far from athletic as you can get: data analysis, assessment and research. I felt truly honored to be recognized for my work. Of course, the first thing I did was send a picture of the ball to my husband and daughter who are my biggest cheerleaders.
My sly cell phone pic of the game ball for my family.
They were so excited for me. Then I remembered the 14 letters my daughter gave me for my birthday! I remembered that one was entitled “Open when you are a data badass”. If there was ever a good reason to open that letter, this was it. I could not wait to get home to read it. Well, I can tell you that I was definitely feeling that letter. Here is what it said (used with permission of the author):
“So, I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, but I can almost guarantee that I’ve already called you and asked you how to use Excel or had some number-y struggle at school. Not only are you a data badass at work but it turns out you’re a data badass at my university too:). It has always made me laugh and smile the way you get so excited about data at your work. I hope whatever you did today to be a data badass made you excited, and even made the Superintendent tell you that you’re a Rockstar! Give me a call and tell me about your data badass-ness today!”
My first thought was “I think my kid might be psychic.” Then, I just took a moment to soaked that letter up. It made me feel very special. She knows I love my work. Clearly, she shares my joy when I come bouncing home with some great story about analyzing data. I have about the nerdiest job that there is, and she gets just as excited as I do, not because she cares about data, because she knows and cares about me. She appreciates me- especially when I help with her “number-y struggles”.
Train your people so well that they could work anywhere.
Treat your people so well that they won’t want to.
I started to wonder why appreciation or gratitude can evoke such powerful emotions. Of course, that led to research. This will not be a surprise to anyone who knows me. I came upon The Science of Gratitude by Summer Allen (University of California Berkley, May 2018). I learned that I am not the only person wondering how gratitude benefits people, and why both giving and receiving it feels so great. There is now a field of gratitude research which, though in its infancy, gave Dr. Allen fodder for 72 compelling pages on the subject. (I should note that there is some debate on the relationship between appreciation and gratitude in the research. I am lumping them together as more research is needed.) In addition to citing studies of improved health outcomes for people who practice gratitude, I was struck by research that suggested “practicing gratitude changes the brain in a way that orients people to feel more rewarded when other people benefit (Summers, p. 17).” Gratitude begets altruism. Think about that. Expressing gratitude makes you feel better in and of itself, and it makes you feel even better when you do something that benefits someone else. It is like an avalanche of gratitude. It’s an exponential equation. I express gratitude. I feel great. I do something nice for someone else as a result. I feel even better, and the person I help feels appreciated. So, they feel gratitude. If they do something nice for someone else, they will feel great! It will be completely out of control. People will be grateful for other people with no expectation of reward, and yet, they will feel rewarded.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
What if we intentionally practiced gratitude? What if we intentionally taught our children to practice gratitude? Practicing the skill of identifying the people and things we are grateful for, and then acting on that gratitude, has lasting positive physical and emotional effects individually and collectively. I am sure of it. The research backs it up.
I propose an experiment that I am going to call Passing the Game Ball. I would like you to join me in it and then share your experience by leaving a comment.
- For one week, make a list every day of at least 5 things you are grateful for.
- Each day, express your gratitude directly to one person you come in contact with. Look them in the eye, give them a smile, and say it loud and proud: “You deserve the game ball! Thanks for…..” (Or write a personal note if that is more your style.)
- See if expressing gratitude for someone else feels just as great as receiving gratitude.
- See if expressing gratitude makes you want to do it more.
I bet we could start an avalanche! I’ll start. I am so grateful for all of the people who read my blog and take the time to share their experiences and perspectives. You have enriched my life.