The three things, and gratitude

blog Mar 31, 2020

We’re just over a quarter through 2020 and the world is gripped with tackling the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Its health and economic impacts are wide-ranging. Many people are out of jobs or living with a high-level of anxiety and uncertainty.

As the leader of a small business and your growing team I would like to share two ideas with you that may help not only with your teams’ happiness and anxiety, but also your wellbeing at home. First, are the three things.


The three things at dinner time

I discovered this gem a few years ago when my seven year old daughter, Maggie, and I literally wandered down the hill to a good mates house for dinner. Maggie’s boyfriend is about a year older and has a brother a little younger than her. That night we learnt, and have practiced pretty much since at every dinner, these three simple but powerful questions when sharing a meal around the table.

  1. What was good about today;
  2. What was tricky about today; and
  3. What are you grateful for.

The first two are great as they give you insight into your little person’s day. If they have had a challenging day at school, have been bullied or struggled with some learning, this is a really easy way to identify it. You can then talk about it or do something else to mitigate it.

The first and third questions feed into something that I think teams need more of – positive reinforcement and a reminder that, generally, life ain’t that bad. As a parent I have relished especially question three, and how it has helped mold my daughter into a better, more thoughtful and caring person.

In this day-and-age of consumerism it is easy to try and keep up with the Joneses, get the latest gadget to make you temporarily feel happy. But it is these few seconds of reflection that can cut through that materialism and remind you what you really value and is important to you.

Make these three questions a dinner time ritual whether you have kids or not, share these simple insights with your partner of friends if you have flatmates.


Ongoing gratitude

This approach can also be used in a work setting. Particularly as the world is extra stressed and anxious due to the virus at the moment it can help to inject a little perspective into people’s thinking.

A few years ago I performed an ‘attitude reboot’. I was tired, grumpy and walked around with shit-coloured glasses on. I recognised this and did something about it. I switched my professional development to podcasts, reading and TED Talks that would help me adopt a better and more positive attitude.

At the heart of that change was gratitude. I read somewhere that if you wrote three things you are grateful for each morning, before you ran into your day, and did a little reflection it would actually rewire your brain to be more positive. I tried it and found, for me, it worked. 

Now I actively listen in meetings with my team and if I hear someone has a negative disposition I inject positive talk, questions and challenge that negativity in the meeting. And, often, I will take it offline into their weekly one-on-one and ask what is going on, is everything OK? You seem to be more negative than usual.

I will also go out of my way to ask a rhetorical question at a poignant moment, something like ‘how lucky are we that we live in this beautiful city?’ Or, ‘how grateful am I that I work mostly from home and save all that travel time? I just spoke with a friend from Sydney who spends three hours a day in the car to get to and from work. What a great reminder’

If the team is down, times are more stressful than usual (like this virus) or one person is a negative nancy I will sometimes start a meeting and ask one or all attendees – ‘tell me three things you are grateful for at the moment?’ It changes the tone and sets the meeting off on a better footing. You don’t need to analyse any or all of the answers, let them hang in the air then move to the next person or item on the agenda. 

If you want to read some more on the impact of gratitude, this article ‘How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain And How To Make It Work For You’ is the best one I could find.