Steve Foran: One Encounter Away From Finding Gratitude
Steve Foran has a dream – 1 billion happier people.
Steve is the founder of Gratitude At Work, a happiness company he created in 2006. He works with human resource professionals, directors, managers, and CEOs across Canada and the United States – shifting corporate cultures by helping teams bring more gratitude to work each day. Steve recognizes that people who are happier at work are more engaged, achievement-oriented, and resilient. Their happiness improves output while contributing to a self-sustaining grateful culture in your organization that produces ripple effects in the community and home. All of the research points to one simple fact – YOUR PEOPLE NEED MORE.
Steve delivers this result through A Grateful Introduction – a fundamental look at the science behind the emerging field of Gratitude and how it impacts an organization’s culture. Most importantly, Steve provides clients and their teams with post-event tools that begin working on each individual’s gratitude practice. Steve is also the author of the award-winning 2019 book, Surviving to Thriving – The 10 Laws of Grateful Leadership. He is also the inaugral winner of Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Awards Program, as well as the 2017 winner of the CSPTM, the highest earned designation in professional speaking.
Bryan Wish: Steve, welcome to the One Away show.
Steve Foran: Bryan, I am delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. You have such a calming, soothing presence, so I feel like this is going to go really, really nicely or swimmingly, one would say. So kick us off, Steve. What’s the One Away moment that you want to share with us today?
Steve Foran: 1995 on a street corner, Halifax, Nova Scotia. That’s my hometown, Bryan.
Bryan Wish: Oh, all right.
Steve Foran: And I’m just waiting at a traffic light to cross the street, and this guy approaches me. “You got any money?” “Money, you want my money? You know what I did to get this money? I went to school, I studied, I sacrificed. I had to take a student loan out to go to college and sacrificed my time. I didn’t earn an income when that was going on, and then I went out and I found a job and I got rejected over and over and over again. And then I get the job. I’ve taken time away from my wife and my kids so that I can earn income, so that I can decide what I want to do with it. So how about this, if you want some money, why don’t you do something like that?”
And Bryan, and for you watching, listening, I didn’t say that out loud, but that’s what was going on in my head. And at the time, I didn’t know that was my seminal moment, Bryan. It was about six years later when I came to the realization that my life was handed to me on a silver platter. That’s when I realized that was my seminal moment.
Bryan Wish: Wow. So when you were in that, when that person came up to you and said, “Hey, can I have some money?” your first reaction was, let me think about my own experience and what I had to go through to accumulate the ability to pay for the things in my life, without the taking maybe a walk in his shoes or their shoes. Just on a personal level, what did that trigger? I mean, it triggered obviously a sharp reaction in you, but when you look back prior to that or growing up or high school and college, was money something that was abundant to you, or was it something that you had to see your parents maybe scrape by to help you with your upbringing? I’m just curious kind of what your [crosstalk] as a kid.
Steve Foran: Yeah, in that moment in 1995, I would describe myself as I went into survival mode. It’s as if the saber-tooth tigers were out there because right back into the ancient brain is the reptilian brain takes over in response to him. We were middle class family. It didn’t feel like we did without. It wasn’t like we were abundant, but I think we had privilege. What I think for me is I’m the oldest of five, and I had a very and still do to a certain degree, I don’t know if locus of control or internal, an internal locus control. If you want something to bring about in your life, it’s up to you.
I believed in the idea of the self-made man/woman, person, and responsibility was, it still is, one of my core values. I call it responsibility as a value that we have to be responsible for our actions and the outcomes and the things in our life. And on that day, responsibility trumped compassion, and I didn’t give him any money that day either. It trumped compassion. And so, I think it was driven out of this importance and this belief that I held about you are completely independent, and your success, my success was independent of any other human being on the planet.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, for sure. And I can see why you reacted just the way you did because you did work for every penny, back to what you said, and maybe not growing up in a upper-middle class or a wealthy background where maybe the reaction wouldn’t have been as emotionally charged. And the fact that you did react the way you did shows there was something more because of everything you worked for. So, what I think is so interesting about this is you said that was your One Away moment, but you never realize it until after the fact.
Steve Foran: Yes.
Bryan Wish: So what made you wake up? You say seven years later, is that right, you were?
Steve Foran: Probably seven years later. It was this gradual. Everything in life, I believe, happens for a reason, and sometimes when it’s in the midst of happening, you’re not quite sure what that reason is. And sometimes we resist things that are coming to us, but when you look back, it makes a lot of sense. And so, I’ve been asking myself questions and the narratives that go on in our brain, the stories that we tell ourselves, all that are going all the time is that story of, “Steve, you’re this self-made person, you got to do this.” And I’m looking at my kids who at that time, they were, I don’t know, 13, 14, 15. Their first jobs were in a neighborhood coffee shop, and after four months working minimum wage, working five, six, seven hours a week, our son Nick at the age of 15, his bank account was greater than half the world’s population. And I’m looking at this boy saying in my head, again, not out loud, “You didn’t do this on your own.” And when I’m saying that to someone else, do you know who I’m really talking to?
Bryan Wish: Yourself.
Steve Foran: Yeah, and that finger went pointing back at me. And that’s when I had this realization that my life was handed to me on a silver platter, and you still have to work. This doesn’t mean you sit back, Bryan, because you acknowledge that, that Steve, you worked hard. Yes, you do that, and I’ve always been really positive and grateful, acknowledge these things, but it was always trumped by this responsibility card.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. Well, I appreciate the vulnerability, and I find this conversation so interesting. Again, this is to white men who have grown up in probably circumstances who are better than most. We’ll call it for what it is. At the same time, I find so many people who grow up privileged in our shoes who walk through the world with this level of guilt. They were handed this deck of cards and they don’t know what to do. I actually find that a bit off putting because what’s I think interesting for people who maybe were dealt a deck of cards that is more favorable is that they have the opportunity to actually go out and use that deck of cards in a way where they can maybe go more outsize impact faster to go help the people around them. And I’m not saying I think of your view as off putting. I think of people who maybe sit and kind of wallow in that feeling because if we are given that deck of cards that might be more advantageous, it’s our, in my opinion, our responsibility to go out and help the collective good.
And so my question to you is when you realized this, when you said my son’s bank account is more than half the population of the world and you realize that this is a lesson for myself, how did that start to maybe change your behaviors, change the impact that you thought about having on the world? I mean, you’re in a very meaningful space. The energy of what you do spans beyond what you do and goes into other people’s lives. I mean, it’s meaningful work. But I’m just curious because I’ve always had a hard time with this question, acknowledging privilege, but also understanding it’s my responsibility to go help others with that privilege. So how is this formative One Away moment, seminal moment, start to shape you once you had this eye opening awakening?
Steve Foran: You think we would’ve scripted this conversation, it feels like, because it’s not scripted. It’s just not. But this is just so natural, Bryan. Today I have a policy that I established back then in, I don’t know, 2000. I don’t know when it was, 2005, 2004, and my policy… How many people have policies in their life? I don’t know. Well, here’s mine. If someone on the street asks me for money and it’s not even just on the street, you ask me for money, you’re going to get some or all of what I’ve got in my pocket. I used to say things like… I want to come around in a couple areas, Bryan, because I want to make sure we talk about privilege here because that’s really important. Oh geez, I just lost my train of thought. I shouldn’t have went off it there. Where was I going? [crosstalk]
Yeah, privilege. Oh yeah, you’re going to get all or some of what I got in my pocket. I don’t know, I lost my train of thought. I will come back to that. So let’s talk about privilege. You’re right, I have privilege. You have privilege. I believe everyone has privilege. It’s not the same though. It’s like a deck of cards. Like everyone’s life, we all have different. And I wanted to test this, and I was working with a homeless shelter in our city. Gratitude is one of their virtues that they have, one of their values, and we’ve been doing a bunch of training around gratitude for their staff and how they use it and how to incorporate it, how to bring it to life in their organization. And I asked, I said, “Am I so bold to say I believe everyone has privilege? If you were to ask the residents, the guests, the homeless people that use your shelters, if you were to ask them if they have privilege, what would they say?”
And without a blink, without hesitation, absolutely, they would say they had privilege. They don’t have the same privilege as you or I, and as humans, it’s very natural for us to want to compare our privilege like we compare and we assess. And we can feel, I think my train of thought is coming back, Bryan.
Bryan Wish: Yay. All right, let’s do it.
Steve Foran: We can feel with privilege this sense of guilt. Why do I have this and someone else does not have it? Or we can use it for power and control and feel that somehow it’s a right or/and we could receive it with gratitude. And that’s what I chose to do when I had this realization that my life was handed to me and seeing all the privilege, all the things, the family I grew up in, the time in history, the supports, the coaches, the teachers, all these things. I see it, received it with gratitude because I see it as a gift, and I believe that when we see things as gifts, we treasure them, we want to care for them, and we want to pass them on to somebody else.
Guilt does induce pro-social behaviors. When we feel guilty, it causes us to act more pro socially. It tends to come with a negative emotion though. You tend to not feel good. With gratitude, it tends to feel better, and it does stimulate pro-social behavior, pro-social action. Is that helpful, Bryan? How do you make sense of that?
Bryan Wish: It’s so helpful because, let’s just say for people who never maybe, let’s just say, been in a homeless shelter or be on the side of the street, you walking by them, you might not think of them that they have a level of privilege. So the comparison of, you said people are always comparing, it’s like power. Everyone has power. They may not be self aware of it, but it’s something you have. And for people to recognize that privilege in varying degrees is an interesting way of putting it. And so yeah, I think it’s colored in really nicely and vividly for our listeners here. So yeah, well said.
When you were talking, you said with gratitude, right, wherever you are on the privileged ladder, being grateful for what you do have encourages pro-social behaviors. So what does that look like? What pro-social behaviors are a response to gratitude around privilege?
Steve Foran: For me, gratitude comes to it because the privilege that I have, whatever it is that I have, is undeserved. I didn’t do anything to earn it. You know what I mean?
Bryan Wish: Right.
Steve Foran: And so, it is distributed unfairly in our world, privilege. And socially, our society’s developed in ways that systemically ensures the unfair distribution of privilege. And so, I take my piece of the world, the talents and the gifts that I have, and I want to use them in service to humanity, and that sounds very lofty, whatever that is. But to me, I have a dream and a belief that gratitude and the more deeper understanding and embracing of gratitude in one’s life is going to lead to greater solidarity in our world. What this motivates me to do is to teach this, and the way I’m doing this is working with companies and organizations because they have a selfish interest to want to have this in their companies, to have happy people. And that’s really just the Trojan horse into the world.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. Last seven or eight months I’ve been on quite a journey. I think gratitude, the first time that word has meant much of anything to me, and it’s meant a lot to me actually, but I can see why. When you can make it contextualized in people’s lives and in the work you do, how can it have such an enormous impact? So I want to go back to that moment again, your son’s bank account, time on the street. It all clicked for you. What were you, maybe not vocationally, but how would you describe the person you were prior to maybe having that big realization and maybe the actions and behaviors after you maybe had this awakening that followed, and what did that maybe lead to that you would’ve never expected?
Steve Foran: Yeah, if I could describe me in one word, it would be, maybe two words, the lost searching, searching for purpose. What is it that, as a father, as a husband, I felt fulfilled somehow in what I was doing for a vocation, my work? I enjoyed it, but I felt I was lost. I felt like I was in the middle of the ocean. I described it to my coach. I said, “Keith, I feel…” I’m sitting in his studio in his office. We’re having a one on one. I’m bawling my eyes out crying. “I feel like I’m in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in a boat, little rowboat with no oars, no way to steer, and just going wherever I’m blown. But I know I have a purpose. I just don’t know what it is.” And he said to me, “Steve, at least you know.” And I just (exhales heavily). It was just like he took the weight of the world, he took the pressure off me having to find it out.
Bryan Wish: Like at least you know that you don’t have a purpose yet?
Steve Foran: At least you know you have a purpose. You might not know what it is.
Bryan Wish: Oh!
Steve Foran: He says, “Steve, do you know how many people don’t realize that they’re here for a reason, whatever that reason is? And we can always judge and say, ‘Oh, well, I’m not as good as Martin Luther King, or I’m not going to have the impact that Albert…’ Stop comparing. Steve, stop comparing. What is it that you’re here for?”
Bryan Wish: Yeah. Sorry, how old were you at this time?
Steve Foran: I’m about 40, 41. Oh, that? Probably 38.
Bryan Wish: Wow. Hope these questions are fine. You lived up until 38 maybe without that clear anchor for why you were here. Is that fair to say?
Steve Foran: I thought I knew what I was here for, Bryan.
Bryan Wish: Which is what?
Steve Foran: I’m an electrical engineer and I was working at the power company. So I had… I don’t know. If I could have gone back then, I knew what I wanted to do. When I started my first job, I knew I would retire at that company. One day I was thinking I would probably be president. And so, does that mean I was wrong back then? I don’t know. But I went through a period of probably 10 years or seven years of that I don’t know, so that I wasn’t in the boat in the Atlantic ocean for 38 years. Five or six years for sure, and it took a while for me to find it after that conversation with Keith too. It still took two or three years. I remember talking to people who would say, “Steve, I’m doing exactly what I was put on this earth for.” My mouth would water the way you would before you ate something when you’re really hungry, Bryan.
Bryan Wish: Wow. And I mean, I know we’re getting on a nice tangent too, which is kind of fun here. Would you describe maybe how you were operating in the world? You’re just mapping through it in a very unconscious way. I mean, to go until you were 38, you’re going to be the engineer and then maybe the president, when you reflect on… And I can see why you have so much maybe gratitude towards this experience. I don’t want to skip to where we’re going, but would you define yourself maybe being just very unconscious to maybe how you were operating and moving through the world until that moment?
Steve Foran: I don’t know. I don’t know. If I answered that question, it would either sound like I’m being very highly aware of how I was at the time, which I’m not sure because I did do a lot with intent and purpose, and I don’t want to come across as if I’m perfect, because I’m not, and that I got it all figured out because I’m a work in progress. I’m on this journey of mastery and trying to understand my place in this world. I’ve always been involved in my community. The motivation for it, why did I do it, why was I coaching and doing all, some of those things, maybe it is yes. When someone brings a bouquet of flowers into the room, how do you know if it’s beautiful? You just know. So maybe there’s some things that we do as humans that we just do when we hear a baby coo or cough, we kind of grin or smile. I don’t know.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think there’s a perfect answer, but you were doing different things, sounds like, even outside of work that some things were calling you, coaching or community organizing. And the way you were showing up is probably consistent with how you show up with clients today, but maybe-
Steve Foran: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: … giving it that central message or fuse in which that you can wrap it all together around gratitude, that central message. Was that based on that experience and that someone that asked you for your money and your son and that wake up? Was it gratitude that really just it spoke to you because it was all encompassing? How did gratitude really take center stage for you from that moment? Does that make sense?
Steve Foran: Yeah, it does. I think so. So once I realized or had this super hyper-focused awareness that I felt like my privilege, my life, everything was a gift, I felt grateful in a way that I really never had understood gratitude. And maybe it was gratitude went from being in my head to moving to my heart. And so, it really does, and gratitude does, it helps us take better perspectives. And in some ways I think about this. I’m just still noodling on your earlier question. I probably was following pre-programmed pathways just that telegraphed to me by my parents, the oldest of… On my father’s side of the family, all those, “No one’s gone to university, Steven. You’re bright. You’ll be the one that goes to university.” How am I going to tell mom and dad I’m not going to college, right?
And so, some of these things that I do are education. You’re good at math and these things, and I really enjoyed the engineering. I use it in how I do my work today, and I wonder, our educational system, it even, “Oh, you’re good in this?” And it channels you to an area. And I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. You know what I mean? So maybe these things that happen without our awareness, they push you in big directions in your life.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, well, it sounds like you’ve cultivated a much deeper sense of aliveness and flourishing compared to just liking and enjoying versus loving and really being with who you are. So I’d be curious though, when you talked about the pre-program patterns, another fascinating topic here, you alluded to some of those about comments your parents made and strengths you had and how that maybe pushed you one way or the other. But as you reflect back on some of those patterns, and if you haven’t processed some of this stuff, hope it’s all good, but as you look at where you are today and then some of the changes you’ve made since this awakening moment for you to shift a lot of things, what do you think patterns you’re bringing with you that you have now let go of?
Steve Foran: One of the big things to me, when I started working as an engineer, when I got hired for the first time, I mean, the only thing I knew was my dad went to work the same place every single day for my entire life. And so, that was what I knew in terms of work. And through my discovery process, it’s just like, well, that’s just for me. And I left that place of employment, and then I started my work that I do today. And I said earlier that I just want to put it in service to humanity. Those were not my original words. Keith, the guy whose office I was in crying, telling him I was in the boat, early while I was coaching with him, he said, “Steve, you might want to read The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.” And in it somewhere, I’ll paraphrase, he says, “Take your gifts, your talents, the things that you love doing and put them in service to humanity.”
And for an engineer, where’s the… Right? Same thing with the flowers coming in. You just know. I trusted that. And so my kids, as they got age for going to college, I didn’t encourage go pursue the thing that’s going to get you the highest dollars. I did not do any of that. Still in talking to my grown children, because they’re 30 and 31, “Take what you love doing and put it in service to the world. The money, these other things, don’t make that your prime motive. Put it in service to the world and you’ll be taken care of.”
Bryan Wish: Chills. I mean, what a great gift as a father to give your kids and not push them in. It’s like parenting with letting the kids become who they’re meant to be versus steering them for them to resent you later. How is your relationship with your kids? I mean, sounds-
Steve Foran: It’s good. And I’m not the perfect father because I still get to the place [crosstalk].
Bryan Wish: You’re not perfect, Steve? Come on.
Steve Foran: … where I’m judging, I’m telling them what to do. And it doesn’t mean as a parent that I would never say, “Have you thought about where you might work and do something with this?” Yes. I’m very practical too, but let’s hold this principle.
Bryan Wish: Right.
Steve Foran: Right? When my daughter wanted to get into be a coach in a gym and get her certification to do that, and I could tell whenever she talked about, it lit her up. It can scare, especially over these last two years with gyms here, gyms being closed, all these other things, it has had an impact on her ability to work.
Bryan Wish: But it’s like going to those signals that light you up versus just doing because of what is. Anyways, I just want to say as a parent, I think that’s really hard to… I don’t have kids, but I’ve done a lot of thinking or reflecting on things. I think that’s really special. So thanks for getting into the details of it all with me.
So, The Seven Spiritual Walls, go and use your gifts in the service of others. You have, seems like, done a total 180 in the last, say, three to five years and a lot of shifts. How would you say you’re using your gifts right now in the service of others and all aspects of your life? And yes, it’s definitely share what you’re up to, but what does that look like for you today, day in and day out?
Steve Foran: Is just really participating and hosting conversations that stimulate teaching and learning and growth around this idea of gratitude. I found in my engineering career, when I would come in and do safety training and do these things, I’d walk over these sessions. I had so much energy at the end of the day. It was the best part of my job. And as you look back, you realize that’s one of your gifts, Steve.
I’ll use the word teaching, although it’s not. It’s teaching, but right? That is one of my gifts, and when I get to spend days using that gift and days… We were talking before our conversation about creativity and building and doing those things. When I get to spend days like that, I feel like I’m living more on purpose, and I’m more going directly where I want to go versus… And because every day isn’t a direct like this, some days we’re going like this and some days it feels like we’re moving sideways completely. So the days that I get to use my gifts, I call them game days. They’re more like this, right?
Bryan Wish: Yeah, yeah. I hope this hour is part of a game day feeling for you.
Steve Foran: It is.
Bryan Wish: Well, one, it’s neat to me that you have wrapped, not wrapped, that gratitude has become the thread line maybe through a lot of the areas of your life and work, that you’ve been able to use that to help others make an impact. Before we maybe dive into that a little bit, you said something earlier that really struck a nerve about gratitude from your head to gratitude in your heart. I’m going to share a little story, not to take the stage, but to like turn the table.
I’ve been working with this guy at nights, and then we send each other back a journal. He’s like 54, and part of the exercise is he’s writing the gratitudes. And then there’s a bunch of other stuff on top of it, but I’ll spare you some details. And I will never forget. I think it was like September, and we’ve been doing it now almost seven months. And he said, “You’re just writing gratitudes from your head. You’re not feeling the gratitude from your heart.” And it finally started to click, but it took a while for it to click. And now it was like, okay, I can feel it.
So my question to you is in your perspective, in your views, what does it take from someone to say, “Yeah, I’m grateful” to, “Oh no, I’m grateful,” and really feel that? How does that transition happen?
Steve Foran: I think for some things, it can happen just like that. If you’re saying, “I’m feeling grateful,” and you’re really not feeling it, I encourage people to ask a couple questions to be able to unearth it, just the same way you are asking questions and digging and trying to get a little deeper with things. And the questions you can ask yourself are, who sacrificed here in this situation, whatever it is? Who sacrificed? And I use the term sacrifice. Who was the benefactor here? If you can name them or whatever. And then ask yourself, what might have been their motivations for doing this?
And you can do this with yourself. For those that have children, it’s a great question to ask children because as a child and even as a grown up, we can think we’re the center of the universe and everything happens for us. “I don’t like this sweater Grandma gave me.” That’s too bad. Stevie. Why do you think grandma gave you that sweater? I asked my grandson these similar questions. He says, “Because they love me.” Yeah. So how do you get deeper to take it from your head to your heart? That happens, I think, when we make connections with other human beings? Who are the people that were involved in this? What was their motivation for this? And it might have been totally undeserved, some of the things, and then you can start beginning taking a different perspective. And it does require thinking. Sometimes it just automatically goes right to the heart.
Bryan Wish: I like that. It’s different for everyone, you know?
Steve Foran: Yeah, it is.
Bryan Wish: And what I loved about what you said was if you can appreciate the variables or forces at play around that experience, moment, interaction, you can maybe have the awareness and maybe to develop a deeper sense of gratitude in looking at the different variables and perspectives that made that moment possible, where we might look at something as singular versus saying, “No, it took XYZ, ABC for this to happen the way it did so that I should be more grateful.”
Steve Foran: You know, Bryan, to use some of your language, it can take processing. I have had people who have been on the street addicted to hard drugs. I’ve had people who’ve lost their companies in bankruptcies, have had spouses die, have got cancer, have had all these tragic moments. The reason I know that is because as part of the exercise, they give me a laundry list of what they’re grateful for in that situation, and sometimes it takes time for them to be able to find that gratitude and process it. And for many of them, the things that come up are the people around them and how that experience has helped them become the human being that they are today and help them understand more about themselves, about the human being that they are and were to be able to move themselves through that. And I am humbled by some of the stories that I’ve heard. It’s powerful.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, yeah. I’d love to share a few things offline with you I think you’d find fascinating, but when you’re talking, you’re making me reflect on a few things and I’m like, yeah, this makes so much sense and a very powerful way to go through the world. But I think you have to be ready for it or in a place to process with a gratitude perspective or mindset. So yeah, I’m feeling everything you’re saying.
So Steve, let’s dig into a little of your work with organizations as we have a bit of time left. You get to go into organizations and help individuals with this. What does that look like? You have a progress in product and creativity and things of that sorts. I mean, how does this go from one person to a hundred? How do you bring this to organizations?
Steve Foran: A couple things that you said just, I think you moved me to want to say a couple other things, and I’m going to get to your question because I think it’ll bridge to it. But I hope for you listening, you’re not hearing me say you should be grateful. I hope you’re not hearing me say that because I don’t want to say, “Bryan, you should be…” I’m not saying that. I am saying, “Steve, I am grateful.” And I encourage people, “If you can see your life as a gift, gratitude is going to come easier to you. If you can’t see your life as a gift, that’s okay. What part of your life do you see as a gift? Maybe it’s your dog, maybe it’s the kid down the street or a neighbor or your son or your spouse or whatever, or a hobby. Whatever it is, start there.”
And that’s what I do in organizations, Bryan. I just offer them a space where they can cultivate a conversation, a culture, and you could say training around gratitude. And it’s really just stepping back to be able to take a new perspective on a situation you’re living with day in, day out. So give them a common language and exposure to it and do it in a safe space, and then support them to develop some simple things that they can work into their organization the same way that they do safety or quality, to make it a way of how they operate.
You might have hit the mute button on your microphone.
Bryan Wish: Oh, I’m back. Here I am. Hello. You were talking about maybe giving people a new way to look at things. Maybe it’s a company has to let someone go or there was a major division that was lost because of X reasons, I’m sure personal. So I think to what you’re saying, yes, it makes sense where like gratitude can… Man, we’re having some issues here. We’re good.
Steve Foran: This is live, buddy.
Bryan Wish: You know what? That’s what I love about this. It’s just a natural podcast, and there’s a car on the background. I’m not going to edit it and make it-
Steve Foran: I lose my train of thought.
Bryan Wish: I know where we are. So I get how gratitude can come into the workplace and everything you just said. From a tangible level, you go into maybe a leadership team or you go into work with a division on X, what are you doing to have them really, not only learn it or develop an understanding, but then to go apply it and then see the transferability? How does that work?
Steve Foran: How does he do it? You’re right. Really good question because that’s a good observation. You can’t just tell people, “Okay, gratitude does this and this, and people are 50% more productive and da, da, da, da.” We need everyone to get it for themselves where they are. I tell stories. I tell my own story of my own discovery, the street corner and the coffee shop where my son worked. Those are two stories that I want to share as part of that to help people find it for themselves. And when you watch a movie or everything, we see ourselves in these movies and try to own them for ourselves. And then the engineer comes out in me.
So we do two things. So we’ve got to address both parts of our brain and our heart and engage that to get people to understand it, experience it. And then it’s like, “Okay, now what I want to share with you are two simple things that you can do every single day to help keep your brain in this place. I want you to make a list, record what you’re grateful for. And second thing I want you to do, consume other people’s gratitudes. Read or listen to what other people are grateful for. It’s powerful, these two. Make that your habitual ritual, and then I’m going to help work with the leadership to help them integrate those habits into how they operate. And it doesn’t feel like, ‘Okay, now we’re doing this habit number one and habit number two.’ No, we’re just going to start meeting [inaudible] by going around the room and just saying one thing we’re grateful for or one thing we’re grateful for about someone on the team, and then like handing a baton around, right?”
Bryan Wish: Yeah, yeah. It’s that shared experience, and I think you’re right. It’s not a individual act. It’s something that it’s cultivated through the human experience of two coming together. I think it’s beautiful, and validating, I think you need the validation and validating the power behind it. So cool. So my here’s my last question for you, and then we want to tell people where to find you, work with you, all the things. For you, beyond writing your gratitudes, beyond sharing them with your gratitude partner or your wife or whoever that might be, how would you say you move through the world day in and day out with a gratitude mindset? What does that look like for you?
Steve Foran: Most days I’m going to say 95% of the time or more in a positive emotional state, even when crap’s happening. And last October I probably would’ve been 80%, maybe 60 to 70 to 80%. People would describe me as very positive. Last October, I ran a little challenge to help our community spend less time in negative thinking, and what I started doing whenever I catch myself with negative thoughts about anything, I just, I tap myself in the chest. I don’t know if you do anything like that. I think they call it an anchor. Physical motion with some sound. It’s like doing control/alt/delete or whatever. You reset your computer. It’s like you’re shaking your brain, and the negative thinking stops just like that because I say, when I do this, stop the negative thinking, ask yourself, “Steve, what are you grateful for?”
And what I notice, Bryan, I don’t have as much negative thinking, and this is, I think, more important. I catch myself more quickly because that’s the hardest thing when you go into negative thinking is to be aware of it, to catch yourself. Back to some me your earlier question, Steve, well, how would you describe your awareness and all those things? Man, I have a friend of mine who says, “Ignorance, low self-awareness, it was awesome! High self-awareness brings with it, oh my goodness, I’m aware how I’m showing up in the world. I’ve got to take some accountability for it.”
So I don’t know if that answers your question, but gratitude helps me show up more often. I’m not perfect. You know that. More often as the person I want to become, that I’m becoming.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. So good. So the key is in a negative state, we’re just going to tap the heck out of ourselves. And I’m having fun here, but you’re right, give yourself that positive reset. I think there’s different behaviors that’ll work for different people, and to have that self awareness, you are in a negative mindset. Hey, and there is something I can actually do about that so I don’t go further in a hole. I mean, easier said than done, but you need to figure out what works for you. And you have found gratitude in different behaviors to help you and others, I think in a really beautiful way.
Last thing I’ll say, and then we’ll close out, is you said something where you went from ignorant, or your friend, ignorant and not aware to just self-aware. And you’re right, I think it’s painful on either side. And then someone who said to me in this series, “Choose your pain. There’s pain either way.” And I think that’s so brilliant in the sense that yeah, it’s painful now because you have aware of the discomforts, but the other way, it was painful because you’re clueless and yeah, that’s another way to go through the world. But wouldn’t you rather… Anyways, very stimulating chat. This was wonderful. Steve, where can people find you, get to know you, reach out?
Steve Foran: Well gratitudeatwork.ca, that’s the easiest place. Go to my website, and you’ll see a picture of me, my wife, my grandson if you go digging. And if you talk to my wife and ask her about the tap in the chest, as I was early on doing this, she knows what I’m doing with it. And one day we’re driving in the car, and she starts tapping my chest. And what I realized, my negative thinking was coming out my mouth.
Bryan Wish: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. That’s great. Well, she seems-
Steve Foran: Bryan, thanks so much. You ask awesome questions, and you and what you’re doing… You are an amazing human being. So thank you very much.
Bryan Wish: Oh, well it takes a good person on the other end to respond well and make a great show. So thanks for being amazing yourself, and we’ll see you in Nova Scotia sometime.
Steve Foran: Yeah, look forward to it.
This post was previously published on Arcbound.
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The post Steve Foran: One Encounter Away From Finding Gratitude appeared first on The Good Men Project.