Momentum Podcast: 82
The Science Of Gratitude
by Alex Charfen
Last week, I had massive, overwhelming anxiety. Here's why, I was sick. I was actually sick from before the 1st of July, until about Saturday or Sunday, so over seven days.
There was a point in time in my life where I would not have listened to a podcast with this title, much less recorded one. If someone told me that gratitude was a gateway to success I would've laughed at them.
I was all about results and didn't have time for fluff or woo-woo strategies. If it didn't move me forward towards my goals I wasn't interested in talking about it, and if it didn't do it fast I wasn't going to give you my time. I had to learn the hard way that some strategies are more indirect than others.
Over time I started realizing that some of the most powerful keystone habits only work indirectly. At first, it was difficult to see but then it became clear that there are some things we do that improve everything in our lives. The practice of gratitude is a game changer for any of us, if you want more success this is a keystone habit you shouldn't ignore like I did for far too long.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum Podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trail blazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.
Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority. The few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we enter the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly, the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive, human evolution and we always will be.
Welcome to this podcast episode, The Science of Gratitude. I had to learn this the hard way, this entire topic of gratitude, the hard way. There was a point and time in my life where if you had said, "Hey, there's this podcast on gratitude or a book on gratitude," I would have laughed you out of the room. I was a Fortune 500 consultant. I was running a very large company with a huge team. For me, everything was about results. Everything was about what do I do next? How do I do it? How do I do it better? How do I get it bigger? How do I get a bigger bottom line? How do I make more and how do I build the business bigger?
I thought everything that you did in life had a direct result, cause and effect. You do these things to make these things happen and what it took me forever to realize was that some of the most important things we do have an indirect result. In fact, most of the keystone habits that we have in life have an indirect result. Most of the important keystone habits have an indirect result. Let me give you an example of a direct result. You build the habit of working out because you have gained some weight and you want to get your BMI back in the right place and your body fat levels right in the back place and get more confident and so you work out. You watch what you eat and there's a direct result of losing weight, but, there's keystone habits that have indirect results like, for example, hydration.
If you hydrate more, you'll stay healthier, you'll feel better, but what are some of the indirect results? People tell me they start choosing better foods when they hydrate more. They feel more mind/body connected. They see opportunity easier. It makes it easier for them to understand what to do next. Those are indirect results and many keystone habits have indirect results. You have to enter the practice for the purpose of improving, but without knowing the exact direct result you're going to get and one of those is the practice of gratitude, of expressing what you're grateful for, of sharing what you're grateful for.
I had to learn this the hard way, but doesn't it make sense that people who express gratitude for what they care about, for what they have in their lives that they respect that they want more of have more success, feel better, move in the right direction. Wayne Dyer said, "What you focus on expands." The challenge for most entrepreneurs is that we focus on what's broken. We focus on what's not working. We focus on what's not happening, what we don't have, where we aren't yet, which is and by the way is a lot of the reason for our success, but we don't circle back and apply focus on what we really want. On what we already have in our lives that we want, on what matters to us because if we apply some focus, if we apply some attention to those places, they will expand.
I had to learn this one of the hardest ways possible. In 2007, Cadey and I went bankrupt. We owned a ton of property in south Florida and the financial crisis completely wiped us out, millions of dollars in cash and equity, not just equity, cash and equity. I watched our entire fortune unravel. We went from making over six figures a month to literally having to walk into an attorney's office and have them tell us we were eligible to very publicly and embarrassingly and in a very dramatic way, tell the whole world we were abject failures. We were eligible for bankruptcy. There's this thing that happens when you go bankrupt where your property is no longer yours. You still have possession of it, but when you enter bankruptcy, you give everything up and then the court tells you what you can keep. They tell you what the disposition is of all your stuff. You make an inventory and you hand it over.
Cadey and I had gotten rid of almost everything. We knew what was going on. We got to the point where we turned in our inventory and the thing that mattered most to the trustee was my wife's wedding ring. I remember the day where I had to take Cadey's ring and drive it all over south Florida to different pawn shops so that they could give me a fire sale value. As I say it, I feel the acid rising in my chest. For those of you who watch those pawn shows on TV, those places are incredibly nice compared to real life. It's completely different. I remember standing there as each person in the shop gave me some low ball number for my wife's ring and wondering, how did I get here? I remember the morning that I asked her to give it to me and it was the first time she'd taken it off since we got married and there was a tear in her eye. I didn't even know what to say. I just left.
That was one of the hardest periods of my life I've ever been through, and Cadey, who is often much wiser that I am, made us start sharing gratitude every night with each other. We had to say three things that we were grateful every night. I'll be honest with you, there were nights where she would say, "Okay, here's what I'm grateful for." I would think, I don't want to hear it. I don't want to say it. I don't want to do this. We were bankrupt. Things were terrible. There were so many things to be frustrated and angry about, but because I love my wife, I listened to her and I leaned in for this practice of sharing gratitudes. Here's what I realized after a week of doing it. I remember laying in bed and doing it one night with her, just sharing three things I was grateful for, and I could almost feel the chemical shift in my body.
I remember thinking things are gonna get better. This is gonna get better and each time we did that, I remember thinking, we are going to get better. This is going to get better and as a result, I don't know that it was the practice of gratitude that did it, but I know that it helped. Cadey and I were liquid millionaires within 12 months of declaring bankruptcy. We opened another business. We went out to help people. We pushed like crazy. We signed some of the right deals. We got some incredible partnerships and support along the way and we were liquid millionaires within a year and we had the 21st fastest growing company in the United States four years later. It was the first time that Inc. Magazine had ever had anybody in the top 25 fastest growing companies in the U.S. that they knew had had a bankruptcy in their first year of eligibility, and we had. We went directly from bankruptcy to being 500 list and every night we shared gratitudes.
It became such a big part of what we were doing, I started doing research on it. It's insane, if you look at the science of gratitude, there are now countless studies and papers and research that has been done around gratitude. You have to loop these all together because some of the studies were on gratitude journals. Some of the studies were on the expression of gratitude. Some of the studies were on people who were put in systems where they had to express gratitude, but all of the studies had one common element. It's the expression of gratitude. There's different vehicles, but it was the expression of gratitude.
This is what gratitude improves. Your physical health. Your psychological health. It increases our tendency to be empathetic. It lowers our tendency to be aggressive. Every entrepreneur listening should hear what I just said. I'm gonna say it again. When I read this study, I was okay, that's it, I'm doing gratitude every day. It increases our ability to be empathetic and reduces our tendency towards aggression. One of the most important things as a marketer, as an entrepreneur, as someone who creates value in the is empathy. Is understanding where the other person's coming from. You want to be the best negotiator, be empathetic. Put yourself in person's shoes and see what they want. You want to be the best deal maker, be empathetic. Be able to see the deal from the other person's side.
When I read that expressing gratitude increases empathy, I'm like wait, that's a shortcut for success. It also helps you sleep better. It gives you better self-esteem and higher levels of mental strength. I didn't have to do more than a few months of research before I was building gratitude and the expression of gratitude into our business systems. We start meetings sometimes with an expression of gratitude. In every single one of our momentum planners, I built in that at the end of each day, every one who uses our planner writes two things. What am I grateful for and where did I win today. It's really two sides of the same question, but I figure if it can give us all of this, we should express as much gratitude as we can.
Most of these surveys, most of the research was done around the expression of three items of gratitude a day, so I've upped it to six. My clients do what am I grateful for and where did I win today and I do it every single night. You know what, the more I do it, the more things show up where I can't just write six, I have to keep writing more because what you focus on truly does expand. In fact, I built this into our lives. Every night at dinner, we do grateful fors. Just like you do in some houses at Thanksgiving, we do it every night. We have the kids say three things they're grateful for and a lot of the times, it's the same thing a few nights in a row, but we let 'em get away with it and then we express gratitude as well. Cadey and I share what we're grateful for and it changes how you look at things. It changes the conversation you have at dinner. It changes how you approach the dinner table.
Each night when we tuck our daughters in, we have 'em do it one more time. We ask them for their besties. What were the three best things that happen that day and they share 'em with us and it just keeps them pointed in the right direction and positive about life. If expressing gratitude increases physical health, psychological health, increases empathy, reduces aggression. It improves sleep, improves self-esteem and improves mental strength, then I want my kids to do it more than they need to. If you haven't built this practice into your life in some way, I highly recommend you do because while I understand if you are highly goal-oriented and driven like crazy like I am, and always have been, it's difficult to see the direct effect, but you can't argue with the science behind the research that's been done around gratitude.
It's proven that this is one of the keystone habits that creates success, but the challenge is as evolutionary hunters, we have such a hard time slowing down enough to be grateful that we miss the connection that it's how we get more of what we want. As evolutionary hunters, we are so focused on deficit, on weakness, on what's wrong, on what's not happening, on what can we correct and what can we make better that we don't take the time to express what we want more of, which is the real game changer. Work this into your practice somewhere. Put it into your morning routine. In your evening routine. Write down what you're grateful for. Write down where you won. Write down the best things that happened to you that day. Recognize what you want and let it expand. It is a complete game changer that will change your life.
I just want to take a moment to express what I'm so grateful for, my wife, Cadey. There's so many things in my life that I could bring up, my daughters, my family, my three sisters, the incredible clients we have. The amazing team we have. The coaches and the consultants and people around us who help us do what we do, but for me, if it all comes down to one thing, it's about Cadey. We met 14 years ago in a chance encounter in Tampa. She was in a restaurant on a flight layover. She was actually a flight attendant for Southwest. I usually say stewardess, but I know that's not the right thing to say, so it's flight attendant. I was in a restaurant with a friend of mine who worked with me and I had just gotten off Home Shopping Network. I had had a huge, huge record day at Home Shopping Network and I met Cadey.
We talked for a few hours that night. I had actually been on a sabbatical from women. I had had some really challenging experiences and decided I wasn't gonna date until I found the right person. I remember that night thinking how incredible she was and how amazing she was. When she left, I got her phone number and I called her back. I remember, I even told my mom how extraordinary she was and how she might be the one and then it took her two weeks to call me back. I actually called twice. I don't think I've ever called twice before that, but she finally called back and we ended up talking on the phone for about six weeks. Then she came out and visited me where I lived in Florida and then she moved out two weeks later. That was 14 years ago, and if there's ever been anything that has elevated everything in my life for the better and really in so many ways made my life possible, it's my wife, Cadey.
I just want to let you know, Cadey, how grateful for I am for you and how much I love you and the company we run together and the family and the life that we've built together. For all of you who are listening, Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the day. Let those around you know what you're grateful for. Recognize it with sincerity and watch it change your life forever.