In 1986 the carrot industry was in trouble.
Supermarkets would only buy the most beautiful carrots. The ugly ones would get turned into juice or just thrown away. As a result, there wasn’t much money in carrots with over 50% of them going to waste.
But Mike Yurosek, a California carrot-farmer, had an idea.
He would cut and carve the “ugly” carrots and make them into what today we call baby carrots. He sold them to a local supermarket, Vons, where they were an instant hit. Soon other carrot growers and grocery stores followed suit. The new carrot was so influential that it increased carrot consumption in the US from 6.5 pounds a year in 1985 to 14 lbs a year in 1997.
The simple idea of reshaping “ugly” carrots into cute “baby” carrots had the power to grow an entire industry. Similarly, one simple idea can grow our happiness. That idea is gratitude.
What exactly is gratitude anyway?
Gratitude is two things. First, you acknowledge that something “good” happened in your life. And second, that this good thing is outside of yourself. In effect, you’re saying “I could not have had this on my own. I was given something.” For example, we can be grateful for a variety of things that have been “given” to us. I can look outside my window and feel grateful that I live in a safe part of the world. That my streets are paved so I can travel smoothly and safely. That I was lucky to be born in a healthy body.
I did not make my neighborhood safe. I did not pave the streets. I did not write the DNA that made me healthy as a baby. All these things were given to me. And while it’s important to be grateful for the “things” we have, it’s far more important to be grateful to the human beings that made those things possible.
Robert Emmons first conducted scientific research on gratitude in the 1990s. He discovered that being grateful to others improves relationship quality and well being. This is because when people were grateful they naturally became more helpful, kind, and generous. Traits that make for better relationships.
An 80-year long Harvard study of 268 college students showed that healthy relationships are the number one thing that the world’s happiest people have in common. When I am grateful, I know that I smile more. I feel happier. And I can see that strangers are more likely to smile back at me. This creates a kind of positive feedback loop so that gratitude produces even more about which to be grateful.
But aren’t some people more grateful, because they have more to be grateful for?
I’ve heard people say, “If I were rich and famous, then I’d really be grateful.” Well, you can just read the celebrity news to know that they get divorced, drink heavily, and get depressed just like others who are not wealthy and famous.
Money and fame certainly don’t guarantee happiness.
However, you can become happier and more grateful with simple practices. You probably know about a lot of these such as listing three things about which you are grateful. That exercise is great and I like to do some exercises that look at gratitude from a different angle. One such practice is called mental subtraction.
Mental subtraction involves imagining that something good in your life was never a part of your life. For example, you can imagine that you never met your best friend. Or you can imagine that you never met your wife, husband, grandchildren, or anyone or anything else.
To do mental subtraction follow these steps:
- Think of a person you are grateful to have in your life. (it can also be an event or thing but it’s more powerful to focus on people)
- Imagine that the events that allowed you to have this person in your life were changed so that you did not meet them. Maybe you didn’t go to the party where you met your wife or husband. Maybe you somehow never got to meet your parents.
- Imagine how your life would be different without this person in your life. Notice how it feels to imagine how your life would proceed differently. Think of all the happy times that didn’t happen.
You might do this process in writing which helps you go far deeper. Whenever I try this exercise, it brings me to tears.
I’ve imagined that I never met my husband Morty. I would have never experienced loving and being loved as deeply as we were. There was so much we did together. Our two daughters who bring me such joy. I wouldn’t have my wonderful grandson. I would never have learned the Lefkoe Method and seen it change thousands of lives. I can only think of the people whose suffering would have continued without my husband and I working together.
After mentally subtracting Morty, I feel so uplifted.
Try it yourself and you may notice immediate benefits.
Gratitude, like the baby carrot, is a simple idea. And just as the baby carrot transformed an entire industry as well as our eating habits, gratitude can transform your entire life and even enhance what you do.
So my suggestion is to practice gratitude at least twice a week as it will gradually shift your perception, leading to a more enriching life.
So what life-enriching activities do we have going on at the Lefkoe Institute?
Our New Book: Self Made
For the past few years, I’ve been working on a book with my friend Vahan Yapremian on how entrepreneurs can overcome limiting beliefs that hold them back. It’s titled Self Made: The Surprising Solution to Success. It should be out in several months. If you’re interested, you can let us know by adding your email address to the form at this link:
We’ll then give you updates as we make progress on the book and let you know when you can get it.
If you’ve read this far, you are awesome. Why not leave a comment? I’d love to hear your feedback.