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The No-Excuses Guide to Gratitude

7 roadblocks to saying thank you—and how to get around them

En español | Appreciation, like wisdom, often takes years to acquire. That's why as we age, we are uniquely situated for giving our friends and family a true gift: a clear and genuine expression of our gratitude for things they've done for us and the role they've played in our life.

But sadly, many of us save our expressions of gratitude for eulogies. Mostly because of inexperience, we're not exactly comfortable revealing our true feelings in a one-one-one situation. And so we avoid it — to the detriment of ourselves and others.

Hands Clasping

I believe that it's essential to thank people for the things they have done for us, and the time to do it is now, before it's too late. Here are some other perceived roadblocks on the journey to expressing gratitude — and some suggestions on how to overcome them:

It Doesn't Really Matter: Most people don't give themselves enough credit for who they are and what they mean to others. Your words and your actions do mean a lot to many. See what happens when you take the time to express how much someone means to you. After doing so, it's unlikely you'll still feel it wasn't important.

Everyone Already Knows How I Feel: For the most part, our words and actions over the years probably do convey how we feel about other people. That's a great first step, but it still leaves a lot unsaid, and we all know the unfortunate consequences of leaving things unsaid. Many people aren't aware of the depth and full dimension of your gratitude toward them. In fact, before taking the time to reflect on these contributions, you may not be fully aware yourself.

I'd Be Uncomfortable: Nervousness is an understandable — maybe even inevitable — feeling. But it is a manageable one. Take the time to specifically think about what you'd like to say to each person and jot down notes. Bring the notes with you, and refer to them periodically during the conversation. That way, you can take comfort in knowing you won't leave out any important points. It will help you relax.

They'd Be Uncomfortable: Different people prefer to engage in emotions in different ways. It's likely that you know the people you wish to thank fairly well. Think about the way they'd most like to hear your message of gratitude. Some might prefer an in-person visit. Others might like a letter or a recording of your voice sent as an mp3 over e-mail. The thought you put into how to tell them is part of the gift.

I'm Too Busy: Expressing profound gratitude in an uncommon way can be life-changing, but it doesn't require you to make significant changes in your life. Writing a heartfelt letter can feel immeasurably fulfilling and can take as few as 15 minutes.

I'm Too Old: Many people feel their early influencers are already gone. While it's true that some of the most influential people — or the easiest to identify as such — often show up in our lives when we're younger, there are life-changers at all stages of life. Rarely are any of us so old that there isn't a single person in our lives who would be deeply touched to be recognized in a special way.

I Don't Know Where They Are: With so many options available on "friend finding" and social networking sites, it's easier than ever to track down even long-lost pals and colleagues. The process of looking for them can be a lot of fun, and reconnecting is usually very satisfying. 

This article is adapted from the book, This Is the Moment! by Walter Green (Hay House, 2010).

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