Ministry challenges can often rob our joy. Mounting problems, unhappy people, and never-ending ministry demands often leave us with little emotional reserve to appreciate the good. What do we do when that happens? While not sticking our head in the sand about our problems, how can we bring joy back into our leadership? I believe becoming more grateful can help … a lot. Consider these four ways to become a more grateful leader.
1. Realize the practical benefits gratefulness brings.
Recent research has shown multiple benefits of gratefulness (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Benefits include these.
- You will feel better about life in general.
- You will be more optimistic and experience more positive emotions.
- You will be less likely to be depressed.
- You will physical feel better.
- You will be more likely to help others.
2. Practice the discipline of metacognition.
Metacognition is the term for thinking about what you are thinking about. Often we are unaware that incessant chatter and mental rumination about problems replays in our minds, like a scene in a DVD that’s stuck in a loop. When that happens, negative thinking can snowball so that we lose perspective and only see the negative. However, when we consciously make ourselves aware of that video playing on our mind (periodically check in on our thinking), we can stop the problem tape and “reinsert” a gratitude tape. The Apostle Paul wisely points this out to the Philippians.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ‒ if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ‒ think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
3. Re-frame problems as learning opportunities or as ways that God can work.
As the old adage goes, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. We can’t avoid problems in ministry. But we do have the choice on how we choose to perceive them. When we gratefully re-frame a problem as an opportunity for God to work, it can motivate us to focus on solutions. And creating solutions gives the brain something it loves, certainty. Creating action plans and goals to solve a problem gives us a burst of the feel good neurotransmitter, dopamine, which helps motivate us toward further action.
4. Keep a journal of blessings.
In one study (Korb, 2012) researchers asked participants to keep a daily journal of what they were grateful for. They asked another group to write about what annoyed them. The group who recorded what they were grateful for showed greater determination, attention, enthusiasm, and energy compared to the other group. So, journaling what you are grateful for is a proven way to increase gratefulness.
What has helped you become a more grateful leader?