We think that successful people have lots to be happy about, but science has shown us that it is actually the opposite. Happiness helps people be more successful. Similarly, we think that happy people have lots to be grateful for, when it is actually the opposite. Gratitude helps people be more happy. Shawn Achor has a great TED Talk and two excellent books, The Happiness Advantage & Beyond Happiness, on the science of all of this. It actually works like this:
Gratitude -> Happiness -> Success
Whether you are focusing on gratitude to be more successful, as spiritual practice for mindfulness and presence, for brain science, or because it is the season; most of us could all use some help with our gratitude practice. Celebrating means more than just noticing, but taking time (perhaps just a moment) to be genuinely grateful.
I often find myself inviting individuals and groups to become better at gratitude and celebrations, not for “fluff” but because science has shown that by celebrating and being grateful we can prime our brains to be more open to new ideas, creative, efficient, and effective.
So practice your gratitude. Make it a habit. Start each meeting with celebrations to prime your team’s brains to be better. Start each family dinner with specific celebrations to help them cultivate an appreciation for what is good in their lives. Celebrating doesn’t mean that you ignore what isn’t going well, it means cultivating what does go well so you can better manage, keep in perspective, and change what isn’t going well. It’s also a critical part of self-care.
For some of us celebrating can be really hard. Here are 5 levels of celebrations and gratitude to help you become better at celebrating. Who knows, perhaps you could even practice being a Jedi celebrator!
Level 1 – Uncomfortable
Some of us have a hard time appreciating anything in our life. We downplay birthdays, promotions, public accolades, and dismiss attempts at affirmations for major successes. We are more comfortable focusing on what didn’t go right or the downside of these celebrations – “Another year closer to death” or “Sure there will be a bit more pay, but a lot more work!”
Level 2 – Event Focused
Event focused celebrators are able to take time and enjoy the big moments in life. We will have dinner with friends on a birthday or after a major success. We notice and appreciate these major life events.
Level 3 – Detailed
Practiced celebrators appreciate the smallest things to be grateful for in life. We celebrate the meeting that went well, the unexpected phone call from a friend, the compliment on our new haircut, or just a kind word from a stranger at the coffee shop. It means celebrating that I live in Minnesota and can get bananas and pineapple at a local grocery store in winter for $2.
Level 4 – Wonderful
These celebrators appreciate with wonder the everyday things that others take for granted and wouldn’t even notice. We marvel at simply turning a knob and hot water coming out. We appreciate a complicated computerized car that provides air conditioning, heat, radio, and bluetooth and for the most part just requires gas in it once a week. We appreciate the beauty of nature around us everyday as well as the city scape before us – for both are wondrous beauty in their own ways.
Level 5 -Jedi
What is left to celebrate? The Jedi celebrators practice being grateful for the things that are not good. We celebrate our mistakes for the learning we gain from making them. We celebrate our loss for the reminder of the gift that it was. We celebrate our hurts because they attune us to our humanity. We celebrate the transgressions against us because they help us be clear about who we want to be in the world. We celebrate divorce for the experience the relationship has offered us, the lessons we have learned, and for the possibility of a better relationship as a result. We even celebrate death because there is a whole life worth being grateful for and for the reminder that we only have one short life. I recently listened to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who had just lost his mother, explain that he was staying in the experience and feeling of grief until he had found the blessing in it. A Jedi to be sure.