“Gratitude is the open door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the Universe. You open the door through gratitude.” ~Deepak Chopra
May McCarthy is grateful. As a sophomore in college in 1982, she started a business with her sister that grew to 250 employees and franchises in four different states. She went on to start six more companies and for the past 30 years has served as an angel investor. She calls herself the ‘mini shark’ or ‘sharkette’ of Shark Tank. She mentors and consults with CEOs, sits on several company boards, and speaks and teaches others to use gratitude to fuel their success.
May attributes her tremendous accomplishments to her daily practice of gratitude. Expressing gratitude is part of my morning routine as well. But here’s what’s different about her practice. May sets goals and then expresses gratitude for attaining those goals before she achieves them. In other words, her practice of gratitude is not for past success but for her future success, as if she already has the results she wanted. Is this the key to success? I certainly wanted to know more!
Bonnie Marcus: When did you first recognize that gratitude contributed to your success?
May McCarthy: Well, I can tell you when I started to recognize gratitude helped was when I started my first of the seven businesses as an adult, just before my sophomore year in college. What I’d be grateful for was achieving sales projections. When you’re doing a startup you are always making sales projections. When you achieve them, you get so excited, and you’re so grateful. Then I found that I started to get more confident in my ability to achieve my goals. And I started being grateful for achieving them in advance. What ended up happening is, I’d get all these intuitive insights, sometimes to do things that didn’t make sense. But when I did them, we would achieve and often exceed our goals. I discovered that when I was continuously using gratitude as part of my goal attainment strategy, I was actually cultivating my intuitive mind.
As I started to be grateful for the things that I wanted in advance, like great employees that worked for us, that were easy to manage and self-starters and things like that, what I ended up finding out was that I could notice more possibilities to take some action that was in alignment with my goals. So gratitude somehow had this ability to illuminate more possibilities. So I started to become grateful for things I wanted, and worded it as though I already had it.
Marcus: This is really interesting. The way most people would practice gratitude would be for things in their present or past, like, ‘I’m grateful for that new client that came along.’ or ‘I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a relationship with somebody.’ We think about it in the present or past, but not the future. What you’re saying is once you identify what you want, express your gratitude as if you already have it.
McCarthy: That’s the important part. Inc. Magazine called my morning goal-planning meeting using gratitude a ‘simple morning routine to prime your brain for success’.
What I ask people to do is be grateful for what they have. And then be grateful for what they want as though they already have it. So instead of someone saying, ‘I want to lose 10 pounds’, they need to describe it with gratitude as though they’ve already achieved what they want. So I ask people, ‘Well if you did lose 10 pounds or if you did become debt-free, or if you did find the love of your life, what would your life be like? Describe that with gratitude. Start being grateful for having already received it.’ Then they might say, ‘I’m so grateful that I’m physically fit, trim, toned, and energetic, in a pain-free body that’s easily able to move through life.’ And what will happen is possibilities to make that true will illuminate themselves.
Marcus: How do you advise people to express that gratitude? Is it in a journal? Is it verbally? Is it a daily practice?
McCarthy: The routine takes 25-30 minutes every morning. The first thing that you should do is spend about 5-10 minutes reading something inspirational. And I usually advise reading short stories about people achieving the kind of success that they want. And then, for 10 minutes, write out a gratitude letter. ‘I’m so grateful for all these things I have. I’m so grateful for all these things I want.’ But describe them as though you already have them. And then the third step, which takes about 5 minutes, is to read what you just wrote out loud, with emotion. ‘I am so grateful that I am physically fit.’