GRATITUDE as a Performance Metric

June 8, 2017 David Haskell 6 comments

I learned something surprising from keeping a daily gratitude log. It is a wonderful metric! – It is a great way of measuring aggregate personal performance.

Part of a Good Journaling Habit

I’ve long been an advocate of journaling. I’ve kept a journal, in some form or other, since I was a teenager. Journals can serve many different functions:

  • Recording the events of your life and documenting your thoughts and feelings
  • A “commonplace book” for recording favorite quotes and notes from reading or lectures.
  • Budgeting and financial planning
  • Brainstorming and “brain dumps” (get it out of your head and onto paper)
  • Creative writing, poetry, stories, essays
  • Short-term ‘To-Do lists’ and long-term Goal setting
  • Doodling and sketching
  • Tracking workout stats or other good habits
  • Recording gratitude

Several months ago I shared a longer version of this clip, How to Keep a Journal, by Robin Sharma, with coworkers. I was trying to turn people on to the benefits of journaling. For my own part, it was the first time the idea of recording gratitude in my journal – on an ongoing basis – stuck in my head.

I had heard about gratitude logs before. I always understood the exercise to be primarily a means of adjusting your attitude. You know, take a little time to appreciate the blessings in your life. Appreciate what you have. The action counter balances our tendency to dwell on things we either don’t have and want or have lost and regret. That can be depressing.

A sense of gratitude, on the other hand, gives us a feeling of abundance. It’s positive!

The Practice of a Gratitude Log

I’m using the term “Gratitude Log” to indicate something simple, just a short list (bullet points). Add it to whatever form of journal, notebook or daily planner you are already working with.

No doubt there is an app for it as well. Keeping a Gratitude Log on your smart phone is better than not doing it at all; but I recommend taking pen to paper.

I do most of my creative writing and life journaling on my laptop. But my Gratitude Log is in a spiral notebook. With rare exception, updating it is the first thing I do every morning. Right after starting a pot of coffee and responding to Nature’s call, that is.

My practice is to record 2 – 3 different things that I am thankful for every morning. Usually that amounts to a reflection on events and blessings from the previous day. Sometimes what I’m thankful for is more immediate than that, which is a beautiful way to start the day!

Sometimes I have 3-5 things that I write down. I try to never have only one, or none. Keeping it to 2 – 3 things, as a rule, feels right. To be effective here is to be genuine. You want to select only the top few things that your heart and mind connect with in gratitude. And you want to leave it open ended, not attempting to exhaust your ideas.

What I Learned

It turns out that recording 2-3 things you feel grateful for every day isn’t just a feel good exercise. Let me put emphasis on the notion of doing it every single day. – You can benefit from an attitude of gratitude, and jotting down some details, at any frequency. And you can get a nice attitude adjustment by keeping a Gratitude Log even short-term. Dabbling, in this case, is still for the good, however fleeting.

As you record your gratitude every single day, it becomes more than a means of feeling more positive. It actually becomes a kind of metric. It becomes the barometer of your personal performance. It indicates whether your life is progressing – according to your expectations of it.

When you start, it’s easy. You list your pets, your children, other loved ones, and good friends. You name treasured items, your motor cycle, your set of golf clubs, etc. And you should. All that stuff counts. As you go along, you find yourself digging deeper and becoming more specific.

Then it is the conversation you had with a dear friend yesterday. It is the perfect weather and the energy you felt during your last walk or run. It is the fact that you finished that presentation for work a day early and don’t need to stress on it up to the last minute.

Sometimes you are grateful for people, sometimes for things, activities, new ideas or places you’ve seen. Over time, it won’t always be easy to populate 2 – 3 things in your log. The easiness correlates to how engaged you are in progressing toward goals. And, indeed, whether you are making time in your life for things that bring you joy.

Keep It Real

No bluffing. You won’t find value in a Gratitude Log unless you ensure that what you are writing connects with your heart. If you keep it real, it doesn’t matter how big or small the items are that you are thankful for. When it becomes a struggle to come up with 2 – 3 things then you know you need to make some adjustments in your life.

I say it is a metric because you are providing the input data every day and getting the immediate feedback loop. Where am I at? What am I grateful for? Am I keeping it real? Am I grateful and proud of this?

When I come up a bit dry, then I transition from my Gratitude Log to my Objectives and To-Do List. Because it is time for me to make something positive happen.

ACTION:  Isn’t it obvious? Start your own Gratitude Log first thing in the morning!

Your comments and feedback are important! Please see the Table-13 Code of Conduct before leaving a reply. All comments are moderated.

Tags: , , , ,

6 Comments on “GRATITUDE as a Performance Metric

  1. I love that idea! I might start mine with something like a beautiful kayak trip on a river with a dear friend! No doubt, we all have sadness, regrets , and grief in our lives, but as I try to teach my kindergarten students, your life is shaped by how you CHOOSE to react to things. One way I get myself out of stressful times is to look up. The sky is beautiful, interesting, and ever changing no matter where you live or what is going on at the moment. That would be something I would be grateful for each day. Thanks for the idea.

  2. First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you
    do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.

    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying
    to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thank you!

  3. Hi IG,
    I appreciate you taking time to comment and ask a question. Very rarely writing comes easy to me. Most of the time it’s a lot of hard work! And this is a big topic. For now I’ll just share some quick thoughts with you.
    For the essays I write here, I generate ideas all the time and jot down any notes that come to mind. But for the actual composition of any essay, I set aside certain times and days of the week to concentrate. I find it important to be well rested, otherwise it is difficult for me to pull my thoughts together.
    One thing I believe in strongly is doing writing exercises, even writing nonsense if necessary, to get the “juices flowing.” Much like a musician may play some scales on an instrument or start with some simple, easy tunes before tackling a more difficult piece. You mention taking 10 – 15 minutes to get rolling. That is great. Take an hour if need be. When I can’t get moving on my intended topic I journal or write on a different topic. Again, that is just to get my brain into writing mode.
    From there, if I’m still struggling then it is probably because I haven’t thought through exactly how I want to approach a piece. I don’t always write outlines for an essay in advance but if I get stuck I step back and do so. Sometimes you have to be willing to write a few incomplete sentences and bullet points to develop the structure and flow of a piece.
    Hope that helps a little and addresses your question!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *