Both Dawn and I have definitely enjoyed our time together as “empty nesters,” but when the kids come home, it is like a tornado has hit! Not just all the stuff you find lying around that does not belong to you, but the reacquaintance of high school friends who stop by you haven’t seen for awhile, the comings and goings to visit friends or to go out to a gathering. And, there are still those wonderful family nights of playing games, singing carols, and having wonderful adult conversations. Our game nights have certainly morphed from the days of Candyland and Sorry to Settlers of Catan and major Euchre tournaments. So have the beverages as we have replaced the juice boxes with more adult drinks. Let’s put it this way, everyone is legal around the table now.
This vacation my daughter Carly, suggested that we do a special craft together as a family. We made “Remembrance Jars!” You start with a basic Mason jar and then decorate it with meaningful words, stickers, etc. that suit your personality. A quick trip to Hobby Lobby and Michaels ensures that you have all the crafty supplies that you need. The idea is to write down on a slip of paper special “remembrances or memories” each day or every other day and put them in the jar. Then, at the end of the year, you have a collection of wonderful memories to read over and reminisce about.
Instead of a “Remembrance Jar”, I call mine the “Gratitude Jar!” I am attempting to reflect each day on a special moment that I am most grateful for and write it down on the paper and put it in the jar. Something to provide focus that will allow me to ponder the simple and great things that occur each day in my life. So far, we were able to visit relatives in Gaylord and we zipped up to the Mackinac bridge and watched the ice flow through the straits, my neighbor wrote his daughter’s name in the snow for her to read from her second story bedroom, causing me to think about what I did many years ago for my own daughter, and the sudden beauty of spotting a bald eagle perched high on a tree traveling up north on I-75 caused me to celebrate and become filled with gratitude.
Kim Cameron in his book, Positive Leadership Strategies for Extraordinary Performance espouses the necessity of creating a culture of gratitude in the workplace. Gratitude has been found to have a huge effect on individual and group performance. Emmons(2003) led a study that had some students keep “gratitude journals,” writing down on a daily or weekly basis positive occurrences in their lives, another group of students wrote down frustrating or negative occurrences in their lives, while the other group wrote neutral occurrences in their journals.
The students who kept gratitude journals as compared to the other groups, experienced less headaches and colds, felt better about themselves and their lives, participated in more helping behaviors, were more alert, positive and upbeat about the week ahead, and these students were tardy less often and performed better on class work. Gratitude had an impact on classroom performance as well as on their personal lives. Further, Emmons(2003) found that expressions of gratitude by one person to another tended to motivate the receiver to pass it on and express gratitude themselves!
Engaging in gratitude walks(visiting a classroom to express gratitude to a teacher or student), writing gratitude letters or notes(sharing feelings of thanks with another person), keeping gratitude journals(writing down three things daily for which you are grateful), and distributing daily gratitude cards(handing out five written cards of appreciation to coworkers each day) have been shown to produce important impact on an organization and individuals.(Seligman,Steen, Park, and Peterson, 2005)
Here is a basic assessment on positive leadership activities that Cameron provides in his book. Take it and see where you rank in your gratitude capacity, not only giving it, but cultivating it, and creating a positive culture and climate with the adults in your building. What do YOU need to do more of? Less of? Better? Differently?
Assessing Positive Leadership Activities
As a quick assessment of practical leadership activities that enable a positive climate, the following diagnostic questions may be helpful. Use the following scale to respond: 1-Never, 2-Seldom, 3-Sometimes, 4-Frequently, 5-Always
As a leader, to what extent do you:
Foster information sharing so that people become aware of colleagues’ difficulties and, therefore, can express compassion?
Encourage the public expression of compassion by sponsoring formal events to communicate emotional support?
Demonstrate forgiveness for mistakes and errors rather than punish perpetrators or hold grudges?
Provide support and development as an indicator of forgiveness for individuals who have blundered?
Express gratitude to multiple employees each day?
Make gratitude visits and the distribution of gratitude notes a daily practice?
I love to find self-assessments because they give me an opportunity to assess how I am doing according to my best estimate, they are private and personal, and provide revealing information if I am honest about what I need to keep doing and what I need to do more of. They are prescriptive and are clear on what I would need to change and do more of and better! I share with principals that I mentor, the need to think about gratitude each day, who needs it, take a gratitude walk and express gratitude to at least five people at school, write a message of gratitude and give it to them or put it in their mailbox. Remember, passing on gratitude means that others will pass it on as well! That means that your students will benefit from your expression of gratitude as the leader of the building!
Tomorrow, my son Stuart goes back to finish his senior year at the University of Michigan. Again, Dawn and I will gather for our hug together and drying of eyes as we watch him roll down the street. I will miss him and his sister until we meet up again, but I feel gratitude for raising two outstanding young people and secretly grateful for getting my house back to myself!
“THIS IS A HAPPY LIFE!” My “Gratitude Jar” on the left and Dawn’s “Remembrance Jar” on the right!