Friday, June 10, 2005

Gratitude as an Economic Development Strategy
By Don Iannone

Everything around us is transformed when we are grateful. Small things seem large, and large things seem small. I have noticed this in my own life. Perhaps you have found the same to be true in your experience.

I believe there is room for greater gratitude in economic development. Instead of simply wanting more, or wanting something different than what we have, we may discover that by being more grateful we are richer than we ever imagined, and that we are "richer" in ways we never thought possible.

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about how a daily attitude of gratitude could transform what we do in the economic development business. It is quite possible we might discover that our communities and businesses have far greater assets and resources than we ever envisioned. We might learn that our fundamental purpose in economic development is not to simply satisfy community and business desires for more of whatever they want. Rather, we have been put on this Earth as economic developers to appreciate the economic and business mysteries and wonders of life and to allow that sense of appreciation to transform us in a personal and community sense.

Many world religious traditions contend that "wanting" is the source of all suffering in life, especially when we are never satisfied with what we have. In my work with communities across America, I see so many that suffer under the burden of their own excessive wanting because they are never satisfied with what they have and who they are. A wiser approach to economic development is to develop a fuller awareness and understanding of what we already have in terms of human, business, and community assets. I am not convinced that our current "Me, My, Mine" model of strategic planning prepares us to do that.

Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. The desire for positive change and to make improvement are vital in economic development. However, wanting for the sake of wanting, and wanting in the absence of gratitude are not ok in my book. This is meaningless consumerism, the exact thing we rail against when we think of the economy that Wal-Mart is creating for us, whether we want it or not. The alternative is to invest in things that really matter to our genuine happiness and well-being. You decide what those things are.

In conclusion, perhaps we should consider how a healthy dose of gratitude could contribute to a greater sense of appreciation and well-being in our communities, and perhaps that sense of well-being and appreciation could help engender greater real prosperity and abundance in our lives. I think that is what the noted author and physician Christiane Northrup had in mind when she said: "Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life."

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