The Power We All Have But Rarely Use

“Hey, you did a really great job in a tough situation. They’re lucky to have you.” I heard the gentleman in front of me say these two simple sentences to the United Airlines flight attendant as we exited the plane. It was a flight that normally takes about one hour, but it turned into more than three hours for all of us aboard the aircraft due to weather considerations. The flight attendant’s reaction to this unsolicited positive feedback, as you can imagine, was one of delight and appreciation.

“I want you each to say something that you appreciate about everyone else on the team. Say it to them directly, not to me.” After a long day of working through a tough problem-solving session, my colleague Mike Richardson (who is also simply a brilliant, wonderful human being) pushed us all into a simple exercise that illuminated our individual strengths and collective appreciation.

“Let’s share our ‘flowers’ and ‘weeds’ for the past year. Let’s be grateful.” A few years ago, my father-in-law, Bill Hawke, started the tradition of sharing our annual highs and lows within the family during New Year’s Eve celebrations. We’ve all found this ritual to be one of our favorites, as it breathes new life into our plans for the future by situating those dreams within the context of where we’ve been.

Regardless of what happens to us—be it a rotten plane ride, a frustrating team session, personal health issues, or anything else—we always have the power to choose how we react. We always have power over our attitudes. And if we react by finding something positive and then sharing that positivity with others, we can exercise a powerful force not only in how we see the world but in how the people around us view themselves, us, and their circumstances.

Try using the power of gratitude and positivity intentionally this week.   Find one thing that someone does that helps you, others, or your organization. Then, make a point to tell them that you noticed and that you’re grateful.

I can guarantee that their reaction—you guessed it—will also be one of gratitude.