Thanks Outside the Box

What if we all “thanked outside the box?”


It’s pretty easy to be thankful for grandchildren or nurturing grandparents, lovers, successes, good health, sunsets and the like.  Those things that bring us joy and comfort, convenience and safety are the first things that come to mind when we consider our blessings.


But what about thanking the homeless people who come to the shelter where you volunteer? “Individuals who do volunteer work sometimes speak of the benefits they receive from service,” writes Robert Emmons in his forthcoming book, Thanks! “Since service to others helped them to find their own inner spirituality, they were grateful for the opportunity to serve.”


Taking this idea a bit further, what if you were to become thankful for a business or job failure, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or an illness, etc.?  Each of us has a variety of ways we can look upon, perceive, and react to whatever happens to us.  Our beliefs are formed by this process and they are never really right or wrong, and can be quickly changed.  If we stretch ourselves and “thank outside the box” we might view that the person who does us harm teaches us forgiveness or helps us appreciate our own vulnerability.  That failure in some activity may lead us to something even better or help us get back on track provided we are open to that perspective.  While there is much pain in losing a loved one, their departure can emphasize for us how precious life is, or the gifts they gave us while we enjoyed them.


Use your imagination to thank outside the box and explore and develop this more advanced form of gratitude.  Pretty soon, your gratitude muscles and sensitivity will be stronger and healthier and your focus more effective.  You will attract a higher energy to you and we may actually increase the level of love and goodness in the world by inspiring loving acts in ourselves and others.


Remember that it’s never too late to finish strong!


Bob Fagan is a Management Consultant and Coach and can be reached at

2 Responses to “Thanks Outside the Box”

  1. Carolyn Bivens

    Great column. Gratitude is catching and impacts the giver and the receiver. There is new research supporting the health benefits as well.

  2. Bob Fagan

    Thank you, Carolyn! We agree. University of Cal., Berkeley is one of those schools researching and supporting these benefits.

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