Focus On This Podcast

64. Why You Need to Count Your Blessings



It’s easy to be discouraged after a year like 2020. But when we see ourselves as the victims in a narrative, we give up the only thing we always have control over—our response. The solution? We need to practice gratitude.

Gratitude changes the way we experience the world. It opens us up to new possibilities. It builds up the relationships that matter most. It helps us persevere, even when faced with uncertainty. Gratitude is encouraging in the truest sense: it gives us courage.

That’s why this Thanksgiving special is all about gratitude. We’ll delve into why gratitude matters and how you can cultivate it. Then, we’ll practice a little gratitude of our own.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • Why gratitude can lead to hope
  • The difference an abundance mindset can make
  • How gratitude drives connection
  • Simple ways you can integrate gratitude into your life
  • Why Courtney and Verbs are grateful for listeners like you

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Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Courtney Baker. Courtney, how are you this morning?

Courtney: I’m doing good. It has been kind of a weird week. Actually, for a hot second, we did not think I was going to be here to record this episode.

Verbs: That’s what the word was on the street, so we were surprised to see you this morning.

Courtney: Yeah, baby girl was trying to decide if she was going to come a little early. Then I’m here, but the person we thought was going to be here, Blake, is not here.

Verbs: What’s going on with Blake?

Courtney: Well, I think he may be a little under the weather. I feel like I need to tell everybody, like, no COVID things, just a little under the weather. So, it has been a topsy-turvy week getting here, but I’m glad to be here, especially for this episode, because I think it’s one we all really need.

Verbs: Absolutely. Before we move on to that, though, overall, how are you feeling? You had a wild and wacky weekend, but how are you feeling today?

Courtney: I’m doing really good. Just very, very pregnant still, which is a very good thing. But I’m doing good. How was your weekend?

Verbs: The weekend was good. We’re in the middle of preparing for a move, so we’re excited about that, but also there are a lot of little things that go along with that. But we’re looking forward to it.

Courtney: That is quite the undertaking, and I’m sure, especially in a year like 2020, not always the easiest.

Verbs: Exactly. That has kind of been the theme of 2020. It has definitely been a challenging year, but have you noticed that the realities of the outside world are taking a toll on our productivity in general or even just your sense of well-being? I think that’s true. This year has kind of been riddled with the expectation that we have to get stuff done, but then along with everything else, just the gas and the fuel to actually be excited about doing those things or just the energy to do those has been impacted greatly.

Courtney: Legitimately, for everybody listening, we really thought baby girl was coming this weekend, but since she’s not, I got home, and I started to look around at all of the things. You kind of feel the pressure of “Everything needs to be done and ready right now.” I was like, “What have I been doing all of 2020? I’ve been living in this house nonstop. Why is this closet not organized? Why is this drawer such a mess?” It was like, “I don’t know what I’ve been doing.” But then I stopped to be like, “Because it has been a really hard year.” Every drawer did not get “Marie Kondoed” during the summer.

Verbs: You didn’t fold the rectangles.

Courtney: Yeah. Obviously, that’s our personal productivity, but I do think that hardness of this year can certainly make you less motivated to want to tackle things, and over time, as we’ve gotten further and further in this, you can kind of sense, “Am I doing good? I don’t know.” I think it does take a toll.

Verbs: I agree. I think that’s what’s exciting about this episode. We get to figure out and talk about what some of the alternatives are so we don’t get buried in just “Man, it has been a hard year. I’m feeling like this,” but what’s actually the opportunity in looking at 2020 in retrospect and saying, “You know what? This actually wasn’t as bad as I may have processed it in that time” or “What can I do to continually figure out and look at things that happened or that are about to happen and say, ‘Hey, I’m actually grateful for this’?”

Courtney: I totally agree. If we let ourselves keep shaming ourselves for our lack of Marie Kondo closets, it’s going to be a bad black hole. But as we’ve said over and over again on this podcast, of all of the years to give ourselves grace on all the productivity, from our personal productivity, things related to our most important relationships, our house, all the way to what our productivity looks like day to day in our careers… We have to have grace for ourselves. So, I am really excited to move from… Maybe you’re listening and you’re in that dark hole or that spiral of “This is not really great.” Moving from that to a different way to frame that.

Verbs: We definitely don’t have to feel like we’re victims of 2020, but it’s definitely all in the way we respond. That’s why today we’re going to dive into three reasons to cultivate gratitude. So, let’s get into it. First reason: gratitude gives us hope, something we all are looking forward to having even as we draw 2020 to a close.

Courtney: This is really huge. It’s really easy for us to not take the time to do this or to think there is some sense of shame in finding gratitude in a year as hard as 2020. Verbs, have you ever thought that? There have been moments in 2020 I’ve been like, “Oh, this is a really good thing that has come out of this,” but sometimes I find myself like, “Oh, should I even feel good about something from this year?” because there has been so much loss and so many hard things. I sometimes feel that tension.

Verbs: Yes. The tension you’re speaking of definitely makes sense. You hear other people’s stories of, again, how challenging and rough this year has been, and you’re finding things that haven’t been as bad, and you don’t want to step on their moment, but I think it’s also important that as things occur in your life you’re grateful for, especially in this year, those things get highlighted, because that also can bring hope to other people in this season.

Courtney: Absolutely. That combination of… It’s great to have empathy, but it is also critical that we don’t let that empathy hinder our own gratitude. Like you said, this whole point that gratitude gives us hope. If we’re not able to look back and think, “Wow! That was a really hard year, but I overcame that,” we’re not able to leverage that for the future. We’re not able to say, “Hey, if I can get through that…” and find some gratitude in that. We’re not able to say, “This thing I see coming, this next challenge…I’ve got that.” You know, I can look in the rearview mirror and be grateful for some of the challenges I overcame this year.

Verbs: Michael says this often. I might be paraphrasing here, but he says, “You’ve survived 100 percent of all of your challenges.” Because we’re here today, and we can look back and say, “Yeah, that was challenging, but here’s where we are today, and here’s what we can recognize and have gratitude for.”

Courtney: I don’t know, Verbs, for you, if you have some specific instances, but for me, as I look back on 2020, one of the things throughout this year I have been so grateful for over and over again is the time I have been able to spend with my 4-year-old daughter. I have spent more time with her than any of the other years of her life.

She’s nearing the school age, so there’s this little gap of time that has been such a treasure. I’ve been so grateful for that. It’s something that never would have happened had 2020 not happened. Now, again, there’s that tension of I don’t know if I would trade 2020 for that, but I am really grateful for that.

Verbs: I agree. As a parent, definitely, when everything else shut down, there was a little bit of panic. All of those energy activities, that they can normally go to a soccer practice or run off some steam… Once those were gone, it was like, “Okay. This can be a challenge.” But even in that, saying, “This is time I’m going to be able to spend with my little ones that I can take advantage of.”

Obviously, they grow up quickly. You don’t want to just blow past opportunities you have to seize those moments with them, even in the middle of a challenge like that, where you have to be creative and figure out, “How can I get this kid’s energy burned out?”

Courtney: Exactly. I will also say something else this year I’ve looked back on more professionally is… Especially when this all started, I was really unsure of how it would play out for Michael Hyatt & Company. One thing I love about Megan and Michael… And if you’re listening and you don’t listen to Megan and Michael’s podcast Lead to Win, you should. Definitely go check it out. They really set us up so well to be on the offense instead of the defense.

The boat we were in could either be paddling forward and really going after it or we could try to keep scooping water out of the boat, feeling like we were sinking. The different mentality in those two boats for us was huge for me. I think if I had been on the defense, feeling like “I’m just trying to survive,” you know, every day thinking, “Do I have a job?” it would have been a very different year for me. I’m just so thankful for that. I know everybody out there, when you feel like you’ve seen great leadership, you’re like, “Wow, that was amazing.” I just over and over again have been really thankful for that this year.

Verbs: All right. That was the first reason: gratitude gives us hope. The second reason is gratitude creates an abundance mindset. Why is this important, Courtney?

Courtney: This is really key, and I think this is where people get hung up a lot of times. When we have a scarcity mindset, which is the opposite of an abundance mindset, it is a zero-sum game. It says, “We’ve already done the best we can, and it’s all downhill from here.” I see this all the time. Once you have this in your frame of reference, you’ll start to see it in every aspect of your life. But when you look at things from abundance that says, “Hey, the best is yet to come,” there are ways to create win-wins.

Going back to that boat illustration, there’s really nothing that changed about how we approached this year other than our mindset, and we approached this year from a mindset of abundance, like, “The best is still to come.” We’re not cupping water out of the sinking ship. The really important thing is when we have an abundance mindset, we’re able to see all of our options. We’re able to pay attention to the resources we have. We’re able to take risk.

This is huge for me. For anybody who’s listening who is in marketing… I say this all the time when it comes to marketing. You cannot be a great marketer and be afraid, because part of what makes great marketing is being able to take risk. It’s so critical. And that’s true for a lot of roles. If you’re listening, you probably are like, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

When you’re too scared, when you’re looking at a zero-sum game that “It’s downhill from here,” you just can’t have your best decision-making. You can’t take risk. You’re not going to be creative. But when you have that abundance mindset, it’s totally the opposite. You’re very generous. You’re in a place of trust. It’s okay to fail.

Verbs: I think also, Courtney, it’s just that mental shift from “I have to survive” to “What can I do to actually thrive in this moment?” You’re going to get burned out just trying to survive without any hope of where you would want to end up or looking toward the future. I think it’s important that we take a moment and do that exercise of looking at what’s coming in the future and then asking ourselves, “What does this make possible?”

Doing that exercise for ourselves, writing those things down, and challenging ourselves to say, “This is where we are currently, but this is what could actually happen. What do I need to do to get there?” Just that exercise is almost like tilling the ground, to be able to get your eyes out of your current situation or where things are at and looking toward something you want to see happen that could actually change how you’re viewing your current situation. That kind of fosters gratitude.

Courtney: I just think that question, “What does this make possible?” is so key. And here’s the trigger word. If you find yourself saying, “We could never [blah, blah, blah]” or “That will never work,” that’s where you need to pause, like, red flag, and ask yourself, “Okay. Well, what would it take to make this possible?” That illustrates these two mindsets. One is like, “Never. It’s not going to happen. There’s no way it could be better than it is now,” and the other one says, “Okay. Actually, there is a future. What would it take to make this possible?”

Verbs: It is important to acknowledge there are going to be some things you don’t have the ability to do that with. There are some things that are just kind of landlocked, but there are also probably more things than you think that are available for you to do this process.

Courtney: Right. Like my professional tennis career.

Verbs: Exactly. It’s landlocked for now…until you have that baby. Then you can start that.

Courtney: For sure. Since I can’t even take a walk down the street…yeah, probably not going to happen right now. But I really believe in that question. It’s such a great one. If you’re one of those people who likes to write quotes and stick them up places, that is such a great one to have visible. Maybe write it in your planner today.

Verbs: That’s great. I love the fact that gratitude can actually help us cultivate an abundance mindset because it helps us switch from focusing on what we don’t have to what we do have. When we’re grateful for what we have, we’re more likely to think in terms of abundance and not scarcity. So, that was the second reason: gratitude creates an abundance mindset. The third reason: gratitude keeps us connected. I love this one, but I’m going to let you start, Courtney.

Courtney: Well, when we are grateful, it becomes really clear that we couldn’t have done it alone. When we look back, we’re like, “Yeah. I’m so grateful for that, but I wasn’t in that boat alone paddling along.” It gives you the sense of knowing, “Challenging? Yes. But I was never left by myself to figure that out.”

Verbs: One thing about this past year is the playing field was leveled in all sorts of ways as far as everybody being in a state of uncertainty, not knowing what the economy or their job or their career was going to look like. Once everything was shut down, everybody was kind of in the same position. That established a moment of what you mentioned earlier, just empathy with each other, knowing, “Hey, everybody has it rough right now, because nobody actually knows what’s about to happen next.”

Just the connections that were made, whether it was over Zoom or FaceTime, or what have you… I think that actually made us want to connect more, knowing we didn’t have the normal access to friends and family and that sort of thing. I love the fact that there was extra effort to either generate or maintain connections between people during this past year.

Courtney: I already mentioned that this year I’ve been really grateful for the time with my daughter, and I am curious to ask you how you have seen gratitude impact your most important relationships this year.

Verbs: For me, just knowing there are relationships I hadn’t really had the time I would want to continue to foster and grow and, really, a time of reconnection. For me, that looked like friends I either grew up with who I’m still connected to, going back and just doing… You know, everybody is kind of doing check-ins now, sending a text to say, “Hey, we haven’t spoken in a while. Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.” You know, friends that because of life beyond 2020, you just hadn’t had the time to do a deep connection time with.

So, I’ve been grateful with reconnecting on those types of relationships, friends I either grew up with… You know, we used to do music, so I had a group of guys. We were always on the road, so there’s a whole segment of life that we get to go back and laugh and joke and run through memories together. So, I’ve been grateful for those reconnections.

Courtney: That’s awesome. I feel like there has been a lot of that this year especially, and just the time to slow down and discover some of those relationships you had kind of…not neglected, but just because things are busy normally. So, that is one of the great things about 2020.

Verbs: Another important thing here, going back to what we mentioned in the first reason, is when we’re able to identify those areas of gratitude in our own lives and not feel shameful about “Well, I had something good happen in 2020; here’s what it was,” again, it helps other people become hopeful as well.

We kind of become agents of hope when we share those areas of gratitude, because it gives somebody else an opportunity to say, “Okay. This is somebody I’m close with. They’ve had a breakthrough or an eye-opening moment or a shift in their perspective of what’s happening right now, and it’s positive. I think I could do that too.”

Courtney: It’s so important, because most of the things we’re consuming right now from the media are really hard and heavy. You can get in that cycle… Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I got off social media this summer. It was not helping me at all. It’s hard to find the light when you’re stuck in… What I was feeding myself was not great. But I do think it’s so important to be grateful for each other, to rejoice in other people’s successes and what has gone really well this year. Being able to acknowledge those and celebrate them together is really key.

Verbs: All right. We’re just going to recap why gratitude matters. First reason: gratitude gives us hope. Second reason: gratitude creates an abundance mindset. Third reason: gratitude keeps us connected. So, we’ve been going over why gratitude matters, but some of our listeners may be wondering how they can practice gratitude more regularly, so we have a list we want to share with you guys.

Courtney: First, before we share this list, there is… I can’t tell y’all yet what it is because this episode is going to come out before Black Friday, but we do have a special thing coming out on Black Friday that will help you with this with your planner. Sorry for the tease there, but I’m really excited for you all to see it. It’s going to be great. You’re going to be so excited.

So, the first practical way you can do this is journaling. We’ve talked a lot about it. If you’ve missed our more recent episodes about journaling, go check those out. The next is writing something you’re grateful for in your planner as part of your workday startup. And hint, hint. The Black Friday thing might have something to do with this.

Verbs: Another thing you can do is create a gratitude ritual with your spouse or your family. Courtney, I don’t know if you do this. During Thanksgiving, everybody goes around the table and shares what they’re grateful for.

Courtney: Yeah. We actually do this every night at bedtime.

Verbs: Ah, you just upped the ante.

Courtney: Well, honestly, if I don’t make it a habit, it’s probably not going to happen.

Verbs: Touché. Next is taking advantage of something psychologist Timothy Wilson calls the George Bailey effect, and that’s imagining your life without something valuable to you and notating why you’re grateful for it.

Courtney: That’s good. Another thing you can try is implementing a gratitude practice at Thanksgiving. Maybe you use the ABCs and come up with something you’re thankful for for every letter of the alphabet. The next is just going around the table and talking about why you’re thankful for each person around the table.

This is actually something that occasionally we do on the marketing team and has just been amazing. Again, I know we’re talking about doing this at Thanksgiving, but this is something you could do even in a professional setting, which, in my experience, have been really beautiful moments in our connection as a team.

Verbs: You can also try just making a grateful list. Just take some time, give yourself some space to where you can think about these things, and jot them down.

Courtney: Another is just making a goal to thank someone for something specific every day or maybe once a week.

Verbs: I think that last one is fantastic. It’s almost like a slow pitch for anybody. Even as you interact with people throughout your day, just think of something. “Hey, thanks for [such-and-such]. I’m grateful for [what they might have done]. I’m grateful for [whatever it might be].” I think the key to gratitude is just being observant, especially as we move throughout our days, whoever we interact with, or just you taking some time to yourself to assess your day. Any practice that causes you to notice more is definitely a step in the right direction.

Courtney: Speaking of being observant and just being grateful for people, we should say how grateful we are for the people behind the show who aren’t always talking, like Nick, our producer, and Hannah, who is one of our writers. Nick, why don’t you say “Hi” to the people, because I think you’re going to join us for a little bit.

Nick: I am. I’m taking advantage of the absence of Blake to commandeer this segment.

Verbs: Wait. Before you say that, Nick, we just want to say that we’re grateful for every single thing you do, but not only that, the guy that you are. You’re great and fantastic.

Nick: Oh, thank you.

Courtney: That is very true.

Nick: I am constantly grateful for my interactions with the hosts of these podcasts and Michael Hyatt & Company in general. I’m not saying that just because they pay me money. Recently, on Lead to Win, I had said that every interaction with somebody at Michael Hyatt is like the best version of that interaction. It really is true. Everyone is so kind and sweet, and you guys are so kind to have me here and to put up with all of the things we do.

But we’re going to do something… You have not seen the questions I’m going to ask you. I’m going to ask you a few questions just to think about as a way to encourage a gratitude practice here on the show. If you’re listening at home, perhaps you can use this as inspiration for yourself as you’re driving or walking, or whatever, just to think about. So, we have three questions. Whenever you hear it and you have an answer, just feel free to start talking, and we’ll go from there. So, what are you grateful for about your cohosts?

Courtney: Oh, this is so funny, because we were giving that tip earlier. I was like, “Do it with your employees.” I had no idea this question was going to be coming. Does that mean I need to go first?

Verbs: I’m grateful that Courtney loves to go first on these sorts of questions. No, I’ll go first actually. I love being able to interact with Courtney and Blake every time we get on a recording and just to hear the wealth of wisdom and knowledge they’re able to bring to the table. Not only do I learn from it, but I know our listeners are able to pull some great insights just from hearing them not just talk through their own experiences but able to bring some important insights that I think people listening benefit from and, ultimately, bring transformation to their lives as well. So, I’m glad I get to be a voice here interacting with you guys and absorbing some of that as well. Thank you, Courtney, and thank you, Blake.

Courtney: Well, thank you, Verbs. We were joking about who’s going first. This is actually really easy for me. Verbs, my husband and I actually were talking about you last night, because you just recently did a video for our last book release No-Fail Habits. Chase was watching it, and he said, “Wow! Verbs is really good at that.” I was like, “Verbs is just the best.” We had a whole conversation about how great you are.

I will say for everybody listening, Verbs is the most consistent person. I love those people who are just great people but consistently great. They’re just all the time. And I love that you have fun. Verbs, do you remember that time we did a… It was like a murder mystery date night thing. You know how to have fun as well, which, obviously, I love as well.

Verbs: Thank you for that, Courtney. I’m blushing now. But thank you for those compliments.

Courtney: Then Blake… I mean, gosh. I can’t imagine doing this podcast without Blake. I remember when we first did a little test run together, and I was really unsure how it was going to go. At the end of it, I was like… Honestly, guys, I’m sorry I laugh so much on these podcasts, but I can’t help it. Blake just makes me laugh all the time.

Verbs: Blake is a funny guy.

Courtney: I am really grateful for that, especially in 2020. I will take all the laughing I can get. So, I’m super thankful for both of your friendships.

Nick: Okay. Here’s number two. What are you grateful for about the Full Focus community?

Courtney: What I love is that so many people are really authentic about what they’re trying to go after but also where they need to improve and are willing to ask for help. I love when we get callers who call in and ask us questions.

I think that’s really true of what’s happening in that community as well, that people are so supportive of each other, cheering each other on. Again, in years like this, you need that. It really is motivating and keeps your spirit up, because, again, we’ve all been in this together. It hasn’t been easy, but there are a lot of things we can look back on and be grateful for.

Verbs: Likewise, just the comradery and the vulnerability in the group, the fact that people are willing to hop in there with some of their challenges and then have a whole thread begin about what other people might be doing that they’ve experienced some success in with their planners, and just that whole volley of back and forth, just, “Hey, let’s get you going to where you’re confident and can get over some of these hurdles you’re experiencing right now.” I love that.

Nick: Lastly, we’ve talked about 2020. We’ve talked about what a difficult year it has been almost top to bottom. It’s almost insane to realize this has been the entire year of just stuff happening. But what are the things you’re grateful for in 2020, specifically?

Verbs: One of the things that has been important even at this stage of the game in 2020 is there’s still time on the clock. Just like we talked about earlier in this episode… “What can we do with the time we have left? What else is possible?” And just taking ourselves through that exercise to identify what those things are.

But saying that, to also say I’m grateful… Again, not because I’m a staff member or a team member here at Michael Hyatt & Company, but I’m grateful for the fact that Michael and Megan both did a phenomenal job of stating that to our team way back in March, not knowing how everything was going to unfold. They did the work of looking at “Hey, what is possible? Where do we want to land at the end of this year?” and did an excellent job of communicating that to us as a team, which added to our confidence, which added security for us.

We didn’t have to worry about the ins and outs of where we were as a company or where we were as far as our place in the company, but they gave us something to look forward to and were able to cultivate hope from the top to the bottom just by being leaders who communicated that, who did the work of seeing what was possible and then walked us through that every step of the way.

Courtney: Well, Verbs, you kind of stole mine. I’ve already talked about time with my daughter and how that has been amazing. I have to also say, even though it was very unexpected, I am very grateful to be having a baby in 2020. I don’t think I ever would have written a story where I was having a baby during a pandemic, but nonetheless, I am really grateful.

Verbs: It’s happening.

Courtney: It is definitely happening, and I’m really grateful for that. I feel like I would be remiss not to say… Again, it has been a year. It has been a hard one, and it would not have been the same without really good friends to walk alongside me during this year. I’m really, really thankful more than ever for those relationships. I’m excited that, in 2021, those will just continue to grow because of a challenging year.

Verbs: So, you don’t have to feel defeated by 2020, but by cultivating gratitude, you can become more hopeful, leverage the power of an abundance mindset, and experience greater connection to the people you love. Courtney, do you have any final thoughts for our Focus on This listeners?

Courtney: Well, I would spur you on to find… The next person you run into, find something to be thankful for and tell them about. This can be like, “Yeah, that’s great,” but I would just encourage you to go ahead and take action on it. Honestly, it will make you feel better immediately. So just go do it.

Verbs: With that being said, I just want to thank Hannah Williamson, our script writer for Focus on This. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Courtney: So true.

Verbs: You are a brilliant individual, and we are grateful for you, so thank you. And thank you for joining us on Focus on This.

Courtney: This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends, and remember #focusonthispodcast.

Verbs: We will be here next week with another great episode. Until then…

Courtney & Verbs: Stay focused!