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Finding Gratitude in This Crazy, Upside-Down Year

A lot of unexpected things happened this year. And while we all could have done without a global pandemic that forced a lot of unexpected changes, not all of them have been bad.

For example, I’ve selfishly enjoyed the additional time spent with my family. My oldest son just turned 13 and I know he won’t always like hanging out with his parents, so we’ve been very intentional about spending a lot of time together over the last several months. We’ve been able to eat every meal together as a family, and we’ve created a routine of playing board games together at night.

(Our current favorites are Castles of Mad King Ludwig, King of Tokyo, and Sushi Go.)

We’ve also rethought our commitments and made some changes in how we do things. For example, we have 4 boys in piano lessons. In the past, that meant that we were at the music store 20 minutes from our house from about 4pm to 7pm every single Monday night. But when that wasn’t an option anymore, we started looking for new options. We found a missionary couple that we support in Costa Rica that were looking to raise money by giving virtual music lessons, and it’s not only saved us the regular commute but it’s been a great fit and our sons are flourishing. I even just started guitar lessons myself!

So in the midst of the craziness that is 2020, here are a few things I’m personally grateful for:

  • Health. I know several people who have suffered from COVID-19, but my family has avoided it so far. Even some of my extended family have tested positive, but I’m thankful they are on the mend and those I’m closest too have been able to remain healthy through all of this.
  • My family. My kids obviously wish they could go back to their regular routine, but they’ve handled the necessary changes like champs. I’m proud of how steady they’ve been, and I’m thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend to draw closer together.
  • My work. Through all of the economic ups and downs, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to continue to do work that I love here at The Sweet Setup. Since I work from home anyway, my day-to-day has remained fairly normal.
  • Close friends. It’s easy to isolate, especially when things get shut down or you have to quarantine. But I’m thankful for technology that allows us to stay connected even when we’re apart. For example, I got to play FaceTime Yahtzee with a friend in another state!
  • Margin. When everything was locked down in March, we took the time to reevaluate the things we were committed to. We cut some things out, changed a few around, and cut some others. I’m thankful for the additional margin we’ve had lately and want to do my best to keep it going forward.

The great thing about expressing gratitude like this is that it instantly changes your perspective. You could be having an awful day, and the moment you choose to focus on what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong, all those feelings of anger and overwhelm disappear. In fact, my wife and I have built gratitude into our weekly family meeting. We always end by expressing gratitude to each other for something specific, and I’ve noticed how verbally expressing gratitude instantly breaks any bad mood.

We do this with our kids too when they’re really upset. If they’re mad and emotional about something their siblings did, we make everyone stop and express gratitude to each other. They never want to do it, but it always defuses the situation and changes the atmosphere.

Company Gratitude

We’ve even incorporated a gratitude habit into our weekly team meetings here at Blanc Media.

At the end of the meeting, we always go around the table and express something we’re grateful for. The key: it has to be to someone else on the team for something specific they’ve done in the past week. This does a couple of things:

  1. It helps you notice the things others are doing instead of being stuck in your own world.
  2. It shows the other person that you appreciate them and builds the relationships between team members.
  3. It helps end the meeting on a positive note.

We can sometimes have a spirited debate about the right decisions to make as a team, and not every decision goes the way we as individuals want it to. But that’s okay, because we know that 1) we’ve been heard and our input has been recognized, and 2) we honestly care about each other as people. Just like any relationship, when you know that the other person has your best in mind, it’s easy to trust them and give them the benefit of the doubt. The result is a stronger, more cohesive team that is able to be unified and produce higher quality work.

This may seem like a small thing (after all, not many companies have a public gratitude ritual), but I wholeheartedly believe it has brought us closer together as a team. I for one am very grateful for a company culture where we look at things honestly and don’t have have “artificial harmony” that can sometimes result from people not wanting to examine uncomfortable truths about what’s working and what isn’t. The glue that holds it all together is the care and compassion that we have for one another, and our gratitude ritual is a significant contributing factor.

A Few Things We’re Grateful for

Here’s a couple of things the TSS team is thankful for this year…

Shawn Blanc, our fearless leader and Editor-In Chief:

“I’m grateful for the opportunities that 2020 has created for my family to spend a LOT of “quality time” together. Haha. Even though it has been a challenge and we have had our good and bad days, I know that one thing I will look back on are the endless nights of board games that my wife and I got to play with our younger boys, and our daily routines of having breakfast together, etc.”

Joanna Eitel, one of the happiest people I know and our customer support ninja:

“I am grateful I get a front row seat to working with some of our amazing readers. I love that I am the first one who gets to hear amazing new ideas, quotes that have really impacted them or unique questions on how to gain clarity.”

Josh Ginter, our Managing Editor and the man responsible for most of the awesome photography here on The Sweet Setup:

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to flex the creative muscle in my brain here on The Sweet Setup. This site and its readers are an amazing outlet for showcasing creativity. I’m thankful for how this nicely contrasts with my analytical j-o-b job.””

Marius Masalar, one of our contributing authors who is a phenomenal photographer himself and one heck of a screencaster:

“I’m grateful to the team and audience at TSS for the ongoing opportunity to discover and explore so many thoughtful approaches to productivity, mindfulness, and success. I’m also thankful for 2020’s reminder that all of these tools and workflows exist to help us stay focused and optimistic, even in challenging times, so we can make a positive impact for our loved ones, in our community, and beyond.”

Isaac Smith, our Production Manager and video editor extraordinaire:

“In the year that has been 2020, I’m grateful for a healthy family. Thankful for a job that allows me to do work I believe in with awesome people that feel like family. And I’m grateful for the sport of running; a space to recharge, reflect, and sort things out. Oh, and coffee. So much coffee this year.”

And lastly, all of us here at The Sweet Setup are grateful for the opportunity to serve you, our readers. This past year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but we’ve been able to continue help folks like you be more productive and more creative on your Apple devices because of your support! Whether you’ve attended a webinar, bought a course, or simply enjoy reading articles like this one, we want to say “THANK YOU!” for continuing to support us and the work that we do here. It means the world to us. ❤️

What are YOU Grateful For?

As we approach the US holiday of Thanksgiving, we encourage you to think about and express gratitude for some of the positive things in your own life.

And if you use Day One, we’ve got an article that shows you how to set up your own gratitude journal in the app using the Templates feature.

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