25 November 2020
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Are you an ungrateful bastard?

Peter Switzer
31 October 2020

The year 2020 must go down for a majority of people and businesses as their “annus horribilis”, which of course they shared with billions of people around the world. I know I’m not telling anyone in Melbourne anything that would be news to them and I’m sure our southern cousins would have empathy for the millions of Europeans now locked up again because they’ve screwed up their release from lockdown since the start of summer.

Clearly, 2020 will be remembered for the bad experiences of being locked up, queuing and fighting for toilet paper, knowing wonderful people who didn’t make it and the fears that went with potentially or actually losing a job or a business. And there could be the anxiety of not knowing how your job or business will survive in 2021, when normalcy tries to reassert itself.

Against that, the threat of what the Coronavirus could do to your job, your business, your family and friends as well as your life, has also created opportunities that might have never been seen or acted upon, if it wasn’t for this virus from the left field of Wuhan!

Yes, there have been pluses, for example, we learnt this week that after only six months in recession, our economy was in all likelihood out of recession by the September quarter. Few economists expected this in March when COVID-19 led governments worldwide to shut down their economies.

That was a first and explained why the stock market vomited into a 36% collapse. Headline makers not only pulled out the R-word for recession but dug deeper into the economics disaster playbook and gave Great Depression Mk II a run!

The world was scared and fortunately governments and central banks gave up their cautious ways and did what they’d never done before by acting quickly and promising to throw the kitchen sink at the unbelievable economic problems.

At one stage, some economists were talking about a 10% collapse of the economy and a jobless rate of 10%. Those fates that are ‘nearly’ worse than death look like they’ve been avoided.

Only weeks ago, the Treasurer tipped we would contract this year by 3.75% but we’d rebound and grow by 4.25% next year, which is an 8% turnaround in overall growth. AMP Capital’s Diana Mousina says house prices might fall by only 5% to the middle of the year but after that, she expects prices to rise.

Coolabah Capital’s Chris Joye, whose Coronavirus prediction powers have been second to none, says not only will house prices rebound 5-10% next year, the 400,000 plus Aussie expats who have returned home, who will need to either rent or buy a home is a plus that a lot of analysts predicting doom and gloom for the property market have been missing.

With the surprising good news coming out of what looked like the worst year of all of our lives, I joked with a businessowner who told me that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg saved his business, and asked him if he was going to send him a Christmas card this year.

That got me thinking about our capacity for taking good things for granted. It never ceases to amaze me how ungrateful people are. Sometimes I think our greatest failure as parents is that we don’t teach our kids to be appreciative.

But I guess we don’t teach it because maybe we don’t deliver a great example or demonstration effect ourselves.

The University of California, Berkley, actually has a Greater Good Science Centre and do work on issues like the Science of Happiness at Work. They’ve done research on gratitude and their conclusion is that if you’re an ungrateful bastard, it’s not a hard-wired disability. Yep, you can rewire yourself to be an appreciator!

Studies have explored what specific genes may underlie a person’s grateful (or less grateful) disposition. “One promising candidate is a gene, CD38, involved in the secretion of the neuropeptide oxytocin. A study by Sara Algoe and colleagues found that differences in this gene were significantly associated with the quality and frequency of expressions of gratitude toward a romantic partner in both the lab and in regular daily life!”, writes Dr Summer Allen on the greater good.berkley.edu website.

There are numerous theories on how genetics could intermingle with environmental reasons for a person being ungrateful or unappreciative. The good news is that the Berkley academics say you can, wait for it, “build the gratitude muscle.”

Exercises such as gratitude letters and journaling apparently have shown to be good change agents for anyone wanting to lift their appreciation levels.

“A 2017 analysis of 38 gratitude studies concluded that gratitude interventions can have positive benefits for people in terms of their well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, grateful mood, grateful disposition, and positive affect, and they can result in decreases in depressive symptoms,” Allen revealed. “Excitingly, there’s even some evidence from neuroscience that suggests how practicing gratitude can change your brain.”

My reading of the literature on making yourself or someone you care about or you have to work with more signed up to gratitude suggests to me that a business or financial approach to the problem could work.

For a business or financial plan, we start with goals. We then assess how we’re tracking. Then we construct a plan to build a better business or more wealth.

The starting point to build gratitude is to be objective about how good or bad you are at it. If you’re bad, you have to commit to doing something about it and the more practical and the more you start practising new activities to build gratitude muscle (just like you build better business or financial processes), the quicker you’ll enrich your own life and the lives of others.

Anyone wanting to build a better business or better family should think about the work they and their teams can do in becoming first rate exponents of gratitude. Not only will their business benefit from it, I bet their customers and their staff will love the pay-offs of it!

Go gratitude!

Admission: I need work in this space!

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