Gratitude in times of change

I recently heard a doctor friend of mine comment that when he was younger the sickness of the age was flu or measles. Today his days are filled with patients that come to him because of burnout. Resilience is a key competence today for leaders to be future-fit and to prevent burnout.

“Resilience is the ability of a person to deal with, surprises, changes and unexpected setbacks in a healthy manner.”– Paul Donders

To build a resilient life there are 7 resilience-factors that are needed:

  1. Reconciled Past
  2. Realistic Optimism
  3. Problem Solving Competence
  4. Working with your skills
  5. Discipline
  6. Self-awareness
  7. Healthy Relationships

In this blog series we will specifically focus on 

  1. Realistic Optimism and gratitude
  2. Problem Solving and the effect of digital media on this competency
  3. Working with your skills and building your mastery
  4. Discipline and designing healthy life rhythms

Realistic Optimism and Gratitude:

Gratitude goes further than a mere thank you for a meal well prepared and served or a job well done. Gratefulness helps us to build healthy trust in ourselves, others and in life. This helps us to have a healthy view on life where we can see meaning and purpose even in the most difficult situations. When confronted with change and unexpected setbacks gratefulness helps us to keep seeing the beauty. This builds our resilience to be healthy and productive even in the midst of chaos.

18 months ago we packed up our whole house and moved to a new city. Those first few months of transition were hard, the remembering of why we saw this move as a good idea was even harder. A group of colleagues Wood, Maltby and Gillett did a study on gratitude and life transitions by looking at a group of undergraduate students starting university. This life transitioned has been found as either very positive or very negative. Their study over a course of three months found that students who were seen as grateful were seen as more positive, making good friends and able to navigate the transition much better. Their conclusion being that gratitude may foster resilience in a period of life transition (Wood et al., 2010).

I decided to take on a dare and write down 1000 things that I appreciated about this new season. When we practice gratitude it opens up our eyes to see things in a new perspective.  The practice of gratitude is most effective especially in times when we find ourselves with nothing to be grateful for. In the middle of changing markets in business, what new opportunities can I be thankful for? When there is conflict with employees and co-workers, what is there in the other person that I can be thankful for?

In uncertainty, transition and change what skills and competence in myself and others am I thankful for to lead us through this? Gratitude changed our perception, we started to see new business opportunities, the potential of friendship in people we just met and the beauty in our new city we got to discover. We could clearly see how this act of gratitude built our resilience and how it empowered us to see the season in a new light. This habit of writing down and voicing gratitude helped us to appreciate the beauty in a season passed and to embrace a new season.  

When we build habits of gratitude we get to lean into these healthy perspectives to help us stay productive in times of life and leadership transition.

Questions for growth?

  1. How do you think could gratitude change your view on yourself, others and life?
  2. Look back at past transitions in your life and leadership, what are you grateful for that came out of those transitions?


  1. Write down 10 things that you are grateful for every week. Share this with a friend or partner.
  2. Write down challenges, setbacks or transitions that you have experienced this year. Now write down 5 things that you are grateful for about each these challenges.



Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 890 – 905.

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