Gratitude as a Tool for Success

Gratitude as a Tool for Success

As we all know, this is the season of gratitude and spreading positivity and cheer.  But did you know that you can use gratitude as a mental tool for achieving your best?  In terms of creating successful outcomes for yourself, focusing on optimizing the moment with what you are grateful for can be a game-changer.  

I had so much fun the other night presenting a mental skills clinic to the Arrowhead High School Alpine Ski Team and this use of gratitude was highlighted to help them take command of their thoughts to positively enhance their results.

Olympic Gold medalist and star U.S. Women’s Alpine Ski racer, Mikaela Shiffrin, has suffered from significant anxiety with the pressure of her status.  To overcome her negative emotions, she uses gratitude as a tool to shift her perspective and enjoy the process of being one of the best in the world in her sport.  

Mikaela Shiffrin on how she turned around her pre-race anxiety with Gratitude:  “I got back to my roots in skiing ’’ she said. “Just reminded myself that I’m not here just for wins but that I’m here because I love the sport. I love to improve. … And the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is the skiing part of it, feeling those really good turns. So those kinds of things, that’s what I focus on when I get in the start gate.”

Studies have shown that we tend to think negatively approximately 47% of the day! Our brains carry with them a primitive reaction to situations and things that threaten our survival and so, therefore, we are scanning our environment for problems and danger. In the current day, we are reacting to things that may hurt our self-esteem, disappointments, unfamiliar and stressful events, when pushing our comfort zones; giving a speech or standing at the starting gate of a ski race, are examples. This stress and threat can ignite our Fight-or-Flight-or-Freeze response and we are then in a mental and physical reaction where we have lost control.

Gratitude is a tool and skill to anchor you to the present moment.  It encourages a realistic perspective and very possibly releases that Fight or Flight system.  Rather than allowing our old system to run away and scan for negatives, we look for what we can be grateful for and how to use that power to our advantage. 

  • “How can I optimize this moment?”
  • “What can I be grateful for at this moment?”
  • “What is right about the situation I am in?”
  • “Can I see, hear, or feel something that is positive right now?”

For me, I experienced a sudden shift in gratitude just before I did the Door County Half Ironman several years ago. I was very nervous before the race and standing at the edge of Lake Michigan viewing the waves and the distance I had to swim (over a mile), not to mention the 70.3-mile bike and 13-mile run ahead of me. As we sang the national anthem, I noticed the American Flag and all of the athletes standing to honor our country. I had this immediate sense that we were all in this together. I felt overcome with appreciation that I was one of those athletes who would be participating in this big and challenging event. I had trained hard for months and I told myself that I deserved to be there and that this was going to be an amazing day. Everything changed right then and there!

This photo was from the beginning of the run in the Door County 1/2 Ironman in 2011.

One of my favorite days ever!

There will always be challenges and tough moments, it is up to us to generate a perspective that allows us to own the experience and how we want to show up for it. The more we practice gratitude, we begin to rewire our brain and strengthen our mental insight to be flexible so we can optimize the sh*t out of the present moment.

If you have read my blogs before, you know that I am a fan of Brendon Burchard, one of the world’s leading High-Performance Coaches. This video is about bringing joy and gratitude to our lives. Do you have a sabotaging mindset so that you have forgotten the goodness and magic in life to be excited about? This video is worth the watch:

Brendon Burchard: How to Be Happy – Secrets to Happiness

Ultimately, it is up to us to be responsible for how we show up and bring our energy and focus at the moment. The very best of our abilities, power, and connection with others flows from us when we can see and be grateful for what IS right in front of us!