6 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude Through Hard Times

Hard times are part and parcel of entrepreneurship, but they don't have to be miserable, lonely interludes between better days.

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By Chris Schembra Originally published

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No matter what's going on at your business, practicing gratitude is a great way to make it more pleasant. When you remind yourself that, yes, you are lucky, hardships have a way of not seeming quite so hard.

Maybe your star employee left, but what about all the other talented team members surrounding you? How have they grown since that person's departure?

In business, it's all about your perspective. Here are six ways you can cultivate gratitude in the hard times so that you come out of them better than ever:

1. Embrace the suck

Hard times suck. There's no way around it. But to get through and over hard times, you need to think about what positives have come out of them.

You may need to dig deep here, especially if the hard time you are going through is emotionally powerful. By writing down the positive outcomes that come from hard times and gratefully reflecting on those outcomes, you can bring yourself emotional closure.

Gratefully processing negative experiences can shift our memories to be more positive and to better fit our life story. Then, sharing our story with others can help us find connection and help others.

Know that we're all going through these challenging times together. We will get through this, but we have to appreciate and share with each other our vulnerabilities.

Related: Entrepreneur Stories of Struggle and Success: 7 Founders Tell All

2. Give gratitude to clients who cancel

During Covid-19, we've seen a record number of businesses shut their doors for good due to a decrease in revenue. If a client is unable to pay, be empathetic to their situation. Thank them for their interest and loyalty through the years.

In the long run, so what if they can't afford to pay you now? If you can keep your doors open long enough to withstand this downturn, that client might re-sign and even pay a premium for your services.

Why? Because you brought emotion, empathy and honesty into that relationship.

Gratitude cultivates trust and maintains connections. When you give gratitude to a client who cannot afford to pay you, you are strengthening that relationship, which will always be beneficial to you in the long run. Remember: People buy from people, not from companies.

Related: How to Calculate the Lifetime Value of a Customer

3. Give grace on missed deadlines

Remember Stacy and Bob, those colleagues of yours who sat down the hall? They never missed a deadline, hardly took a bathroom break and somehow always managed to bring the team donuts in the morning.

Well, now Stacy and Bob are like 42 percent of the American workforce: working from home, homeschooling 1.93 kids and still trying to keep your team afloat. They have a lot more on their plate than they did 8 months ago, so is it any surprise they failed to meet a deadline?

Just like you, your workers are experiencing all sorts of new challenges. Regardless of what struggles they're facing outside of the workplace, thank them for continuing to work. Realize that, despite the fact that it seems like the world is ending, they're continuing to wake up every single day and make an effort. That alone is worth your compassion.

Be empathetic. When someone fails to meet a deadline, step into their shoes and try to understand what they're going through. Use that understanding to guide your reaction. Maybe it's not as simple as giving them a lesser workload. But if you can give them tasks suited to their strengths, and give gratitude in the same serving, you'll increase their productivity.

The best way to help struggling teammates achieve big goals is to encourage them to accomplish their small goals and celebrate those wins thoroughly.

Related: Forget Big Goals: Take Baby Steps for Small, Daily Wins.

4. Give gratitude to yourself

Maybe you are the kind of person who is always thanking others and feeling gratitude for the wonderful people you're surrounded by. But are you feeling gratitude for who you are?

We all want to feel capable and competent. But in times like these, it can be tough to let ourselves off the hook.

By expressing gratitude to yourself, you can help build your confidence and self-esteem. In doing so, you'll also decrease feelings of uncertainty, which will help not just you, but also those around you. Remember, how you treat yourself dictates how you treat others.

Related: 12 Ways to Stop Undermining Your Self Esteem

5. Switch up and systematize your outreach

Hard times have all sorts of silver linings. One of them is that they encourage you to talk to people you might not have spoken to in a long time.

Chaos is an opportunity to make changes. Start by changing up who you connect with and reach out to. Resist the temptation to turn inward.

Think to yourself: Who would you never think to give credit or thanks to? Now, go out and thank the people who come to mind.

My favorite app to remind me who I haven't thanked in a while is the newly launched LoveBomb App. It literally sends me daily reminders of who is long overdue.

We physically and psychologically need social gratification to help us get through the hard times. The hard times become significantly easier when we reconnect with loved ones. When we reach out and express gratitude to people in our past, we not only help ourselves but also help others.

This applies to both your personal and professional lives. Take these hard times as opportunities to reach out to coworkers, clients and customers. If you build a relationship during a difficult time, it will be more likely to last in the long run.

Now is the time to forge foundational relationships in your work life. Connect authentically over the difficulties you're facing. And be sure to thank the people you reach out to.

6. Don't say "at least"

If you're struggling to find something positive to say to someone, what do you do? You couch your compliment in a phrase like "at least."

Gratitude is not a comparison. You shouldn't be grateful because "at least" it's not the alternative. You should have gratitude in order to celebrate the positive consequences that have occurred from a life event, whether positive or negative.

Even when it's hard, try to genuinely appreciate any small amount of good that has come out of the bad. By doing so, you will build a mindset rooted in positivity, not comparison.

Related: 4 Communication Habits That Will Make You and Others Feel Good

As entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity and resources to use hard times to better ourselves. We can shrug our shoulders and say "This sucks," or we can turn the hard times around through gratitude.

Stop simply waiting out the bad times. Be proactive and see just how much your business and your life improve.

Chris Schembra

Founder of 7:47

He is the founder and Chief Question Asker of 7:47, an advisory firm that helps companies create meaningful connections through its 7:47 Gratitude Experience, an evidence-based framework that helps leaders build a community and strengthen relationships.

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