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Cultivating Gratitude—One Book at a Time

Great Reads That Inspire and Encourage

Article by Mark Stephens

Photography by Jessica Patterson

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

November is a great time to reflect and be thankful. What better time of year than the one that has a holiday for giving thanks? Cultivating a heart of gratitude takes work and, as they say, practice makes perfect. Choosing to focus on the positive things in our lives, things that bring us joy, and putting away the negatives, takes conscious effort and determination.

As Andrew Carnegie says, "Anything in life worth having, is worth working for."

Just 28 days is what it takes to create a habit. Making small efforts, such as writing a quick thank-you note and leaving it on the mirror, will lead you to create new habits that can make gratitude a natural part of your life. Whatever situation you may find yourself in today, choose to be thankful. It’s been proven that an attitude of gratitude makes people happier and allows us to live longer and to have a more positive outlook on life. Here are five books that have helped me in my journey as I work on cultivating a heart of gratitude.
The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn, is the best book I have ever read on giving.

“Giving isn’t a luxury of the rich. It’s a privilege of the poor.”

Whether you are rich or poor, (based on the global standard, living in America, you are rich) you can give to others. Giving is a way of being thankful for the many things you have. It can stretch and challenge you, and you might even be surprised at how good it feels.
The Positive Dog, by Jon Gordon, is a wonderful story about the power of being positive. We all have two dogs speaking into our ears. You know you’ve heard them! One dog is positive, and the other one is negative. Which one is stronger in your life? The stronger dog is always the one you feed. Be thankful and feed the positive dog.
The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a book full of great storytelling. The authors share how big and small moments in our lives become memorable. Why? Elevation, insight, pride and connection are all key components to powerful moments. When we begin with an attitude of gratitude, we can focus on or create positive memorable moments that will last a lifetime.
Encouraging the Heart, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, is about showing appreciation to your team by recognizing effort and achievement. It’s about being a true leader and helping to motivate others. Pay attention. Listen. Celebrate together. Those are all key factors in encouraging the heart of your team.
Rooting for Rivals, by Peter Greer and Chris Horst, is a book written to the leaders of nonprofits to reject the focus of ownership and pursue an others-centered agenda. It speaks of being able to accomplish more working together rather than competing. At the heart of this book is not only being thankful for what you have and who you are but also being thankful for what your rival has. This is the key to making a bigger difference.

Mark Stephensis an executive coach and Jon Gordon speaker offering training in topics of leadership, teamwork and culture. The next local training is Friday, Nov. 8 at P.B. Dye Golf Course. For information and to register, visit and search "Power of Positive Leadership Training."