Simple Gratitude Exercises for Coaches

Gratitude is not necessarily the first trait people grab for when describing a great coach. Imagine saying "She's the best coach- she's so incredibly grateful". Sounds weird right? Well, I'm going to make a case for how building gratitude more intentionally into your coaching can really help. Then I'll talk about some really easy ways to start doing that.

Gratitude is (hopefully) something we all practice every day. We say thank you to someone who holds the door. Maybe we tell a loved one how much it means to have them in our life. We are not inherently grateful or ungrateful, we are the sum of the gratitude we put out into the world day to day.

When you practice gratitude, you create virtuous circles, the opposite of a vicious cycle. You send gratitude out into the world and good things come back to you. This exchange of gratitude will put you in a more positive emotional state. Being in a positive emotional state has a host of benefits: it helps your relationships, and you are more ready to learn. Simply put, it can make you a lot better at everything you do. 

So how do you cultivate gratitude beyond your daily routine of thank you and please? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Replacing "I'm sorry" with "thank you for...":

For this one I have to credit my colleague Sherri Fisher, who patiently taught me to do this in the last year. There are so many little situations where we end up apologizing where gratitude can fill the space better.

Imagine you are late to a meeting. You burst in the door.


How do you think other people in the meeting feel in that moment? Some of them are probably annoyed. Even though you apologized unconditionally, the statement is still all about you. Try this instead:

"Thank you for your patience in waiting for me"

Now you've shown gratitude to other people, and acknowledged something positive in them instead of making it about you. There are still situations where an apology works best, but gratitude can fill a lot of gaps.

2. Tell people what you like about them

Here's a simple mission: when you show up to the pool today, give a simple appreciation to each person you interact with.

I know the first thing I learned as a coach was to diagnose problems. I could see what was wrong, and what needed improving. On the flip side, I tended to take for granted what was right and what people were already doing well.

But it's hard to have a self-awareness of what you are doing well. Many people, especially younger people, can easily doubt and find fault in themselves. Telling them something you like about them can help them to learn what they are good at.

3. Insert gratitude into tense situations

Do you ever get stressed it starts snowballing? Use gratitude to reverse course. I've been alone with my three year old daughter for a couple weeks while my wife travels, and it's stressful. I try to be a good parent and not let it get to me, but the stress builds.

Last night, my little girl was testing my limits about going to sleep. I was highly annoyed, which wasn't helping. Instead of yelling, I tried gratitude. I looked her in the eye and told her a simple truth:

"I love every day we get to spend together".

A tear welled up in my eye, and all of a sudden I didn't feel so stressed. Neither did she- she looked at me wordlessly and gave me a hug. Five minutes later her eyes were closed.

Want to learn more about how to put Positive Psychology into practice on your team? Write me.