“Develope an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step towards achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – Brain Tracy.
- Remeber to be thankful for others
Image by Aaron Burden – Usplash
When was the last time that you really made an effort to thank someone in your life who has gone out of their way to make things a little or a lot better for you? If it was last week then please ignore my preachy opening however if it was never or over a year ago then shame on you, and me because this was pretty much me for most of my life, until now.
My first ever challenge was writing letters of gratitude, specifically, I’d chosen to send gratitude letters to two people who had greatly helped me out in the past 5 years, I also sent one to my wife and am considering sending one to myself.
Honestly, the main reason that I chose letter writing as my first challenge was the fact that it was relatively easy and I was genuinely interested in the effect that gratitude might have on me after I’d finished the letters, it was also a positive and easily shareable challenge, I guess that you could say that I was looking for a good, clean, easy win to put in the bank of me.
I chose to brainstorm a whole bunch of preparation ideas from writing down my why, highlighting the steps, adding some estimated dates and asking myself all the things that might go wrong so that I could work on countering them. I gave myself a week but it took just a couple of days to plan out exactly what I would be doing and in hindsight it was actually pretty useful, I may shorten the process in the future but for now I’m happy to keep doing as much as I can to give myself the best possible chance for success.
I’ve included a photo of my pinboard that I used for the task which has a few notes for myself, these were taken from a longer 7-page document which had all of my work notes in it for this challenge.
My best friend is one of the two, she has attended every single one of my special occasion over the last 5 years including my wedding and my daughters birthdays, despite flying around the world several times a year to attend work conferences and spending time in her home country of Greece she managed to do what a lot of my older friends were incapable of doing and she has definitely been my rock in the last few years as a friend who has always been there for me when I needed her.
The second is someone who I share a lot in common with the main commonality being that we are both recent fathers, he runs the “first time fathers” group on facebook of which the group and community have been invaluable to me over the last few years as I’ve wrestled with becoming a father whilst being fairly isolated from family due to work, without this person and the group I may have had a breakdown whilst I was struggling to cope with everything.
They both definitely deserved a big thank you and obviously there are still lots of people that I know deserve a thank you but the challenge was for two not for everyone that I know, sorry, you’ll all get letters eventually!
I messaged both of the recipients so that they knew that a letter would be on the way and secondly so that I couldn’t wuss out and decide not to write the letters, this was a tip that I learned from listening to a recent podcast of the Jordan Harbinger Show of which I will add the link in the resources section.
They both reacted favourably to the news as I hoped that they would although I admit to having some strange worries of rejection at this point that proved unfounded, ultimately my challenge is to write the letters and not to guarantee their receipt however I feel that most people would love to receive a thank you letter, there might be a few people who may find it a little uncomfortable but I wasn’t going to let that put me off writing to them and if the letters had to remain in a drawer forever then so be it.
The process for the challenge was as follows:
- I decided on a particular method, in this case, handwritten letters with joined up writing using a fountain pen on quality paper and with quality envelopes.
- I went out and purchased the pen and some replacement cartridges.
- I found some training resources so that I could improve my handwriting and I ended up choosing to go with traditional cursive.
- I began practicing on printed training sheets with the pen that I had purchased.
- I decided that each letter would take around a week to write so that the total challenge would take up to 4 weeks total.
- I typed out draft copies of the letters, before printing and then writing in hand the letters.
- My wife bought me a new, better fountain pen for fathers day so I used this one to write my second letter.
- After each one was complete I scanned them just in case something happened in the post or they chose not to receive the original and then I posted them.
- I reviewed the challenge itself and the effects that it had on me.
- I’m now sharing what I’ve learned via this blog post and a later how-to video.
I purchased a parker pen as I was familiar with them since using them at school, I then posted into the fountain pen and handwriting subreddits and discovered a whole new world of amazing pens and inks that I will be further looking into, especially when I’m looking to treat myself to something new when I’m on holiday.
Here are some great subreddits that deal with letter writing specifically.
After a bit of searching online, I discovered this fantastic writing resource which has page after page of cursive writing practice which was pretty much my only training resource as it seemed so comprehensive with all the various kinds of words and sentence structures.
You can get a nice free sample from a school resource here which has a few basic styles and even a chance to brush up some basic handwriting too. Courtesy of Evan Moor, otherwise you can find many other free practice forms online, just do some digging.
In the end it was a little tricky to find nice watermarked paper at decent prices, I ended up purchasing them from WHSmiths at what I thought was reasonable in the end but I’d spent a couple of afternoons searching in stationary stores which either didn’t have anything worthwhile or had it priced at more than I was willing to spend. I will likely keep an eye out for better sources in the future although I have enough paper right now for many more letters.
Also, I used a little trick from the Jordan Harbinger Show that I learned from this one particular podcast, check it out below if you’re interested to hear the whole podcast. I’m fast becoming a huge fan of the show and download as many episodes as I can when I know that I might be traveling.
This is The Jordan Harbinger Show episode 47: Feedback Friday, how to set boundaries and stop people pleasing, enjoy!
What it cost:
In the end, the whole challenge was quite affordable, it could also be completed for next to nothing if you chose to go super frugal and use basic A4 and ball pens, it really is the thought that counts with thank you letters.
Pen and ink (Parker) – £14
A4 Paper and regular sized envelopes (watermarked Basildon Bond) – £10.18
1 x 1st class stamp – £0.65
1 x airmail to the US – £2.25
Total cost – £27.08
Whilst the total cost might seem a little high for two letters I could easily write another ten letters with the resources that I now have before having to buy anything again except for stamps so I’m guessing that the cost per letter might be around £2-3 including postage, being able to let someone know how much they have meant to you is obviously priceless!
How long it took:
I began planning for the letters on the 4th of June and I finished sending them out by the weekend on the 22nd of June, so it took 18 days or just under 3 weeks to complete which is how long I had estimated at the start of the challenge, it could have taken me far less time if I had chose to not practice cursive or hunt down the premium paper.
My conclusion and what I’ve learned:
I’m still waiting for some of the feedback but obviously, this has been a positive experience for me and for the people who have received my letters, they deserved to be thanked and quite frankly I’m appalled that I had not done something similar, sooner.
From such a small challenge I’ve discovered the power of gratitude, I’ve found a genuine passion for writing which turned out to be therapeutic and relaxing when I practiced and wrote in careful cursive and also I now have an interest in collecting fountain pens and inks for my future letters so all in all it has been a very valuable challenge, far more valuable than I had thought it would be, this is what can happen when you follow a simple interesting idea.
Rather than repeating the challenge or upping the stakes I have decided to incorporate writing gratitude letters into my end of year rituals, of which there is now only one, letter writing.
I figure that by doing it in this way I can thank all of the people who have helped me in the year and each letter won’t take as long to write, my challenge letters were both three pages long and were a little complicated, my yearly letters will be shorter and more to the point but no less grateful or less important.
This is an incredibly easy and rewarding challenge and I urge anyone with even a passing interest to give a try, most of us have at least one person that we should really be formally thanking so that they have proof that we actually care about all the things that they have done for us and hope that they carry on doing nice things in the future! Just remember to return favors as much as possible as well.
Give it a try, pick just a single person or more and either with a trusty biro or with a whole bunch of fancy calligraphy pens write them an old-fashioned thank you letter, I’m sure that for most people they will appreciate it and you’ll feel slightly more like a decent person once it’s done.
If you do write a letter and you enjoy the practice consider making a yearly ritual to thank all the people who have helped you that year as well.
Take the challenge:
If your planning on taking the challenge or if you found the article helpful please let me know similarly if you found it unhelpful for any reason let me know too, I want to make sure that the information that I’m sharing is as valuable as possible otherwise it’s simply not worth doing so let me know what you think, thank you.