Saturday, January 8, 2011
A YEAR OF GRATITUDE
HOW ONE MAN'S LIFE WAS FOREVER CHANGED BY 365 THANK YOU CARDS
Instead of giving up chocolate or getting to the gym seven days a week, lawyer John Kralik decided for his 2008 New Year's resolution to simply be more thankful for the good people and things in his life.
To stick to his resolution — beyond the 36 hours it usually takes the strongest soul to pop his first Godiva or skip the treadmill — John decided to write a thank you note each day for a year to the people that mattered in his life, from his son to the barista at his local Starbucks.
When he sat down to write his first note, thanking his son for a Christmas gift, John realized he didn't have his son's address.
"I called him to get his address," and his son replied, "Gee, I need to stop by and take you to lunch." Over lunch, John's son repaid a loan of several thousand dollars. "So I wrote him another thank you note," John says, "for repaying the loan and also for taking me out to lunch."
The hand-written letters are the basis for John Kralik's new book, 365 Thank Yous — Here are his 10 Tips For Writing The Perfect Thank You Note:
1. Focus on the other person. First, find their address, and write it out yourself on the envelope. Where are they living? What did they go through to give you this gift? When is the last time you did something like that for them?
2. Think beyond material gifts. What about the person who serves you coffee every day? What about the doctor who saved your life, the Good Samaritan who found your wallet, the teacher who takes an interest in your child, the special friend who listens to you, the person who loves you.
3. Mention the gift itself, hopefully in a positive tone, so they know you got it, and are not confusing them with someone else.
4. Write a sentence or two explaining how the gift is changing or simply improving your life.
5. If the gift isn't right for you, don't ask where the gift was purchased so you can exchange it. You can get value out of any gift, if only by donating to charity.
6. Think of ways you failed to thank the person in the past and remind the recipient how important a friend they are.
7. Don't make jokes unless you know the recipient has a good sense of humor, and you are sure they will get the joke in the way that it was intended.
8. Keep the thank you short and simple on a 3" x 5" note card, minus fancy frills. That way, there's no room for anything except your gratitude. Replace thank-you e-mails with handwritten notes. With a handwritten note, a piece of you will be in the same room with the person to whom you write.
9. Try writing a first draft, perhaps in a spreadsheet. Not only will you benefit from the second draft, but you will always have a list of the most generous people in your life, and the reasons why you should be thankful for them.
10. Write a lot of thank-you notes. You'll get better.
The art of the thank you note is sometimes seen as a dying custom. With e-mail, cell phones, and other means of instant communication at our fingertips, the thought of hand-writing and mailing a card seems outdated and inconvenient. And following two years of economic struggles, environmental disasters, and other worldwide worries, it often seems difficult to find anything to be thankful for.
At the end of 2007, John Kralik would have agreed. His law firm was operating in the red, his divorce still wasn't finalized, his apartment was the size and temperature of a toaster oven, and his girlfriend had just broken up with him.
At the age of 52, it seemed as if he had nothing to be grateful for, and that he was about to start 2008 at an all-time low.
A walk through the hills on January 1, 2008 changed all that. Unhappy with both his lot in life as well as his attitude toward it, he realized that if he could somehow be thankful for the things he already had in life, perhaps the things he wanted would follow.
John Kralik's plan: send 365 thank you notes in a year, one for each day. By the time he was finished he had lost weight, ran a marathon, raised money for charities, turned his law firm around, reconnected with old friends and relatives, and gotten back together with his girlfriend.
365 THANK YOUS: The Story of How a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life (click here) is John's new book telling the incredible story behind this inspiring feat, and proving that the personal touch can sometimes make all the difference.
The project started out a bit slow (and 2 days late), but John saw the benefits almost immediately. Loans were repaid, lunches were covered, and John saw his relationship with his sons start to repair itself. Despite initially realizing that he had been spelling 'grateful' wrong his whole life (sheepishly admitting that he had hardly ever used the word), John soon became a natural at crafting concise yet meaningful notes.
Starting out with thanks for material things, he eventually began to examine his relationships with everyone from old friends to current employees, realizing how important, generous, and wonderful these people were, and how often he'd neglected to let them know.
His life didn't change overnight, and John's journey is not all positive. The summer months brought hard times for John with the collapse of one of his biggest clients, a major bank. His girlfriend broke up with him again, and his law firm was forced to change location early in the year. But through it all, he was able to take note of and appreciate the good things that he had in his life, as well as the things he had to look forward to.
With extreme honesty and a friendly, conversational tone, John tells the story of how his simple act of daily gratitude changed his life, and how losing sight of the good things in our lives can force us to only see the bad. John's story is at times heartwarming, at times heartbreaking, but always inspiring, a great example of how even small acts of appreciation can truly go a long way.
Short and simple, each thank you note reminded both John and each of his recipients about the little things they should be grateful for on a daily basis.
Listen to the full interview with John Kralik at NPR HERE or visit John's website HERE for help in coming up with your own act of thanks for 2011.