What Brings You Joy?


FirstSpark blog by Ashley Ward


Gratitude practice…it’s all the rage these days. You can hardly open your email, social media or news sources without seeing a reference to the science-based evidence on the power of having a daily gratitude practice. Confession time… I can’t say it’s a habit for me. I start and stop with recording a list of things for which I’m grateful. I have never been one to journal, despite the benefits. I envy people who have written records containing their precious memories and reflections. Often, I encourage my coaching clients to journal or develop a positivity practice. It’s time for me to do as I say so I’m declaring that I will make gratitude a daily practice starting today.


Thankfully, I have a firm foundation on which to build this habit. My self-talk is embedded with gratitude and it’s one of my top values. I remind myself of my blessings and look for the positives in the midst of the chaos and challenges that come my way. Am I a Polly Anna? Heck no. Do I have my days and seasons of negativity and pessimism? Absolutely! I also have a well-tuned reset barometer and key people in my life who slap me awake when needed - another reason to be thankful.


The world is filled with sadness, sickness, anger, selfishness and craziness. It’s also filled with love, kindness, compassion, understanding and joy. It surrounds you if you seek it. It’s returned when you give it. It embraces you when you need it.


I had the good fortune to be surrounded by several community leaders this past week and spent time in the evenings with dear friends. I heard heartbreaking stories. People talked of everyday struggles and frustrations. Some I know are walking through incredible challenges. Others have amazing opportunities ahead and are living their dreams. We start every leadership group meeting with a “check in.” It’s a way to start the discussion and share what’s on one’s mind, as well as build relationships and get to know one another better. The question was simple – what are you grateful for, specifically? The one caveat is that people could not give a generic answer like “family” or “health.” The research is clear that it’s most effective in developing a grateful mindset and habitualizing positive thinking, to be specific and clear on what exactly you appreciate and recognize as a gift in your life. The responses I heard all week filled my bucket and made my heart sing. People are acutely aware of all the good in their lives. They are grateful.


On 12/14/19, my journal entries were:

  1. The woman who drove the bus from the rental car lot was filled with holiday joy and sang us Christmas carols all the way to the terminal. Despite how you feel about holiday music, it was lovely. The driver talked to a passenger before we left and found out that she had lost her mother recently. She said a prayer for her as we departed. The world is filled with kindness…

  2. I got an aisle seat on my Southwest flight!

  3. Christmas came early for my family. We got a 6-week-old beagle puppy (yes, this is him in the photo). Pure JOY!

I look forward to journaling like this daily and welcome you to hold me accountable and ask me how it’s going.


As the year comes to an end, I invite you to reflect on the following...

  1. What are you grateful for specifically? Consider what this is for you professionally and personally…

  2. Who in your life helps hold you accountable for staying focused on the positives?

  3. Who in your life has (had) an attitude of gratitude and how have they influenced you?

  4. What is your gratitude practice? What do you want it to be?

  5. What are you looking forward to in 2020?

  6. What do you most appreciate about this past year?

  7. What dose of positivity can you spread today?

I am truly grateful to know and work with many community partners who are involved with Charmm’d. Your leadership makes the world a better and brighter place.


I cannot imagine working with a more supportive team. I’m excited for all that is on our horizon as an organization. Together we are making a difference!


If you are not involved in our network, we want to get to know you! Will you add us to your wish list for 2020? Contact our Program Director, Susan Gibson, to explore how we can be a part of your leadership development in the coming decade.


Best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday season. May all your dreams come true in 2020!








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485 East Half Day Road, Suite 350

Buffalo Grove, IL 60089

847.883.9953 I charmmd@charmmdfoundation.org

© The Charmm'd Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3, non-political, non-sectarian organization.

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