An Attitude of Gratitude — The Law of Reciprocity at Work



By Myles Miller

 “Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the Attitude of Gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.”  — Zig Ziglar

What has become the focus of a self-centered society and might ultimately be its downfall is the belief that one can stand on one’s own and not need or rely on any one else to achieve success in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the quote above reflects, we have an opportunity to engage with our world each and every day. Not only should we, but we must take the initiative to perform a simple act that could have far reaching potential. In fact this act, which should be performed more frequently each day, creates a great potential for the entire human race.

While this thought may sound grandiose or irrelevant depending on your perspective and degree of connection to humanity around you, it can be transformative in nature to what each day of your life and the lives of those around you can and will become.

Do you have goals and ambitions? Do you want more of whatever you desire and seem to struggle to acquire it a level of achievement that would satisfy you?

All this and more creates an environment where people can thrive and grow into all that they wish to become. But this requires a refocused and redefined approach to each and every human interaction we have in our lives — those who are closest to us and those that we may only meet in passing.

In Judy Umlas’ book, “The Power of Acknowledgment,” similar ideas and insights are shared that would help anyone understand how to acknowledge others and show them gratitude for even the smallest acts. Judy’s other books, “Grateful Leadership” and “You’re Totally Awesome” echo the same themes and ideas as well.

These ideas are not difficult to implement but with conscious effort and resolve to make a difference in one’s life and those around them, they can be accomplished in short fashion.

Now while these may all seem like good ideas, they are grounded in actual proven facts of a law, known as the Law of Reciprocity. This law states that when one positive action is done to someone, that person wants to do the same or similar positive action to that person or to others. Some have referred to this law as an idea related to “paying it forward.”

How does each of these elements tie together and how can you implement this practice each day in your interaction with the human race?

Start with your perception of humanity in general. We all have at the heart of who we are the will and capability to see others with caring and a willingness to acknowledge that they exist. What gets in the way is our busy-ness of life, where we seem to ignore or forget that others matter as much or more than we do in many cases. So start with a shift in how you see the world. Change the paradigm in your mind from, “What can they do for me?” to “What can I do for them?” It is a shift from a selfish attitude to one that is selfless.

This concept can be taught to others at a young age and can be adopted to be implemented in one’s adult life as well.

For me, one frequent application of this idea is to take time to acknowledge those who do anything for me, great or small. When they have performed any task or come through in some way. I take the time publicly, in meetings and privately, through notes of thanks sent and given to people often. It takes but a few minutes but has a short and long term effect that motivates and greats even greater results.

So, here are some ideas to try each day: find one person who you can do something for without any expectation of them doing something in return. Buy that person in line behind you a cup of coffee. Send someone on your team a note just to thank them for what they have done recently in their day-to-day efforts related to nothing done for you directly. Don’t wait for a special occasion to send someone a gift; let them know how much you care about them other than on their birthday or anniversary. Every time you see a person with a name tag in any service industry, use their name and thank them for their service. You could do this once, twice, three times a day or more. In fact, if you try this over the next 30 days, each day practicing just once or more, you will find in time that you will begin to want to do it more and more, making the “Power of Acknowledgment” and the Law of Reciprocity almost subconscious acts in every aspect of your life.

So begin today. Be grateful for what you have each day, be grateful for those around you, those you know and those who you have yet to meet. Then take the next step and acknowledge them in some way. Do something unexpected and watch what happens. The Law of Reciprocity will happen over and over again. People will begin to do more and more for others, and one person at a time doing more for others will create a state in which the world can and will change.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi