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Gratitude

I just read a book called 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik.

I heard an interview with the author on NPR, and it caught my attention.

Kralik had been down on his luck in 2007: divorced twice, overweight, with a struggling law firm that he’d started, he was also failing in a new romantic relationship. He was worried about losing his seven year-old daughter, too, in a custody dispute.

He made a momentous decision: Instead of feeling sorry for himself (easy to do given his predicaments), he decided to be grateful for what he had. To show it, he vowed to write a thank you note every day for the next year.

What do you think happened?

His life changed. For the better. His relationship improved. His clients started paying their bills and his firm’s financial footing solidified. His health improved. He eventually achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a judge. To top it off, he turned his personal quest into a writing project. Within minutes of writing a book proposal, he received responses from agents who hoped to shepherd his project.

Every writer’s dream……

I’ll grant you that it sounds hokey. But there are a couple of things the book demonstrated to me:

Making a commitment to change is never easy. Kralik decided to change his perspective, and his results are indeed stunning. But he’s quite open about the fact that it was a process, and a lengthy one at that. He had times when he felt like giving up. Crises arose in which he didn’t write a note for several weeks. Sometimes he just flat out felt that he had nothing to be grateful for. But he always came back to his task.

And people really responded to him: from government officials, to clients, to his Starbuck’s barista. Everyone likes gratitude. We are human. It helps to know that our work and our humanity are appreciated.

There are other personal resonances: Kralik hails from Cleveland. Even as a lawyer, he shunned corporate law for his own values-driven law firm. He wrote a mission statement, and was rankled with inner turmoil when he strayed too far from it.

I guess to sum it up I’d write Judge Kralik a thank you letter of my own:

Dear Judge Kralik:

Thank you for sharing your story with me.

I am truly inspired by how you were able to turn your life around. As a doctor, I am touched by the mission-driven aspect of your legal work. In addition, I find that your quest to allow gratitude to suffuse every aspect of your life really provided a beautiful level of harmony to your story. I plan to share your story with patients and colleagues; I am always moved by ideas and examples that take something simple (e.g. the thank you note) and make it a habit that can lead to a virtuous cycle.

Congratulations on your professional and personal successes. I hope that they continue.

Genuinely,

John Henning Schumann, M.D.

5 Comments

  1. Percival A. Patient

    February 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

    “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melodie Beattie

    Thank you for this post, John.

  2. Hello Dr. John – absolutely love this essay on gratitude! Thanks for the tip on this intriguing book.

    As a heart attack survivor, I have discovered that keeping a “Gratitude Journal” can really jump-start a transformative perspective (and you don’t have to go through the heart attack to try this!)

    Every night at bedtime, I write down five things that have happened that day for which I am grateful. Some days are easier than others. After a bad day, I may have absolutely nothing to write except: “I’m grateful that this day is over!”

    But on other days, I fill in the five things – and then just keep on writing all over the margins of the page!

    Another interesting byproduct of keeping track like this is that during the day, I actually began LOOKING for things to be grateful for that might qualify for that evening’s journal. Some small but lovely thing will catch my attention, and I think: “Oh good! This will be perfect for my journal tonight!”

    I’ve also observed that many of my fellow heart attack survivors tend to feel resigned that, given their traumatic diagnosis of such a chronic and progressive disease, NO WONDER they feal bleak and pessimistic about the future. But one of the biggest surprises in current research, according to UC Riverside’s Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, is that what happens to us in life actually doesn’t matter as much as we might expect. She writes: ”Life events don’t have much of an impact on optimism or happiness. When you have a positive mood, lots of positive things happen to you!”

    And just as Judge Kralik found, she believes that rather than life events shaping outlook, it seems outlook may shape life events.

    I wrote about this a while ago in “Get Over Yourself!” And How To Stop Boring Others With Your Heart Attack Story” at HEART SISTERS: http://myheartsisters.org/2009/07/20/get-over-it/

    Regards,
    Carolyn

  3. Thank you for a wonderful reminder of the powers of noticing and expressing gratitude for the gifts in life others give to us. Thank you for a positive perspective today.

  4. Thank you. I really needed this today. I am on my way to see my sister who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and I need to keep digging to stay hopeful.

  5. Gratitude is partly what healed me after my third cancer diagnosis. The generative power of it shifted my world view from the glass half emtpy to the glass running over!

    What we focus on grows, and that means in our bodies as well. If we keep one eye fixed on the blessings and beauty that surround us, our understanding of those things grow and we are soon overwhelmed by how it multiples.

    Thanks for this book. We all need it!

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