Appreciation: Express Your Gratitude (Class 23)

Straight-A Guide Job Training Program

Lesson #23: Appreciation

Express Your Gratitude

Materials Required:

  • Classroom space
  • Sufficient number of chairs with writing surface
  • Blank sheets of paper for each participant 

Introduce Lesson #23 (5 minutes):

  • In this lesson we emphasize the value that comes from expressing gratitude. Sometimes, when we’re in struggle, that doesn’t seem easy. Yet individuals develop bad habits when they hang around feeling sorry for themselves. We conquer such habits by creating opportunities to express our gratitude for the blessings that are all around us. In his book Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term, Michael wrote about learning that lesson from a man who was about to be executed more than 2,500 years ago. By opening our eyes, we can find reasons to be grateful. When we begin to express our gratitude, new opportunities open for us.

First steps (10 minutes):

  • Take roll of participants.
  • Facilitator talks about one of the blessings that opened up for him directly because of his ability to express gratitude. If such a blessing doesn’t come readily to mind, then facilitator can look into any of the books that Michael Santos wrote from prison and see the endless number of blessings that came to him as a direct consequence of his living in a constant state of gratitude. For example, prior to being released from prison Michael wrote about his gratitude through a daily blog. Every day he pledged to prove worthy of the blessings that were all around him. As a consequence of those expressions of gratitude, more people reached out to join Michael’s support network. Upon his release from prison, an editor from a major newspaper contacted Michael and requested to write a story about his journey. That story ran on the front page of The San Francisco Chronicle, a major newspaper. The story led to many, many more blessings opening. People were intrigued by a man who served decades in prison and yet remained in a state of perpetual gratitude. He received offers to speak at Berkeley, Stanford, and San Francisco State University. Then he received an offer to teach at San Francisco State. The books Michael wrote repeatedly express a commitment to prove worthy of the blessings that come his way. Those expressions of gratitude result in more opportunities opening.

Goals and Objectives (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator aspires to teach people who live in struggle how expressions of gratitude can transform that struggle into prosperity. He strives to show people that they can advance their prospects for success if they quit worrying about the challenges the face and start taking action by striving to accomplish something that others will admire. As they progress, they will find that expressing gratitude opens more opportunities.

Expected Learning Outcomes (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator expects participants to see that happiness or a sense of gratitude doesn’t depend on an individual’s status or possessions in life. Happiness and a sense of gratitude stems from the thoughts that an individual has. We will happiness and fulfillment into our life when we are able to see and appreciate the blessings around us.

Preliminary introduction (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator distributes handout that describes story of Siddhartha. Asks for a confident reader from the class to read the story, or reads the story directly. Then he follows with questions about the values that Siddhartha expressed.

Direct Instruction (10 minutes):

  • Facilitator uses blackboard or handout to write some questions that class participants may answer in open discussion:
    • What makes you smile?
    • How can you show gratitude or appreciation for the things or people who make you smile?
    • How might a sense of thinking that others owe you more than you have get in the way of living in a state of appreciation?
    • What does it mean to prove worthy of those who support you?
    • How does expressing your appreciation, or gratitude, to others relate to your own sense of fulfillment?
    • How will your employer respond if you show your gratitude by investing yourself more into the company?

Guided Practice (20 minutes):

  • Facilitator calls for 5 volunteers to participate in role-playing exercise.
  • Each volunteer will stand in front of the group and express gratitude to a fictional boss.
  • Volunteers must speak for a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of three minutes.
  • Class will vote on who made the most impressive expression of gratitude.

Lesson #23: Siddhartha

Some people who live in challenging circumstances, like jails or prisons or halfway houses, find it difficult to even think about appreciating anything. Gratitude can be a foreign concept to those who don’t sense that they have any control over their own life. But there is always something to feel grateful about. While I was in prison I read a book titled Siddhartha. I can still paraphrase a quote from that book:

“Let us rise up and be thankful. If we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little. If we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick. If we got sick, at least we didn’t die. So let us all be thankful.”

That quote shows us the mindset of living in a state of gratitude, or appreciation. We can always find something to appreciate because each day gives us another opportunity to distinguish our life in a positive way. We don’t have to wait for things to be perfect for us to appreciate the blessings of our life. If we were to wait for such a day, we would never be able to appreciate anything. On the other hand, if we train our mind to live in a state of appreciation, we live as if we always have a smile.

Many books show us examples of how our life improves when we live in a state of gratitude. Both Old and New Testaments from the Bible are filled with wisdom about how living in a state of gratitude and appreciation allows our blessings to multiply. I suspect that all faiths share that same message. But the message of appreciation isn’t a religious message, or even a faith-based message. We find the same evidence of the happiness and fulfillment that comes from a state of appreciation in all types of secular books. In fact, one of the best selling books of all times, known as The Secret, told this story that has been around since the beginning of time.

People who live in a state of appreciation and gratitude enjoy more fulfilling lives. I’m convinced that we can learn from others who’ve endured struggle and difficulty, including incarceration. Wherever we look, I’m convinced that we will find consistent patterns.

Those who live with the mentality of anger, bitterness, or sadness rarely go on to lives of fulfillment and happiness. On the other hand, those who train themselves with exercises like those in the Straight-A Guide, or Trauma Informed Recovery, develop the skillset to find appreciation in the many blessings around them. When they show appreciation for the blessings around them, they empower themselves to create better, more fulfilling lives. Which pattern would you want to follow?