Most of us wake up thinking about how we are going to meet obligations or fulfill our promises to other people. We begin our day in response mode and remain that way until it’s time to go to bed.

For twelve years I have begun my day with the same positive ritual. No matter where I am, I start my day with a moment of awe. I wake up and head for the nearest window. I open the curtain and look outside. When I’m at home, I look at the ocean. When I’m at a hotel, I look at tall buildings. When I’m in Maine, I look at trees. Wherever I am there is always something interesting to draw my attention. Each time I look out my window I appreciate the fact that the universe does not revolve around me; it includes me…

Immersed in wonder and awe, and connected to the outdoors by a feeling I can’t explain, this first step in my morning ritual reminds me that the world is much bigger than my life and my concerns.

My Mom grew up in Maine and often reflects on the beauty of nature. She once said to me, “Think of the beauty of maple trees. The same force that makes sap run up a tree from its roots to its trunk, against gravity, is the same force that resides inside of you.” She made her point by gently poking me in the gut and saying, “It’s right there; connect to it.”

Profound Outcomes

University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the The Happiness Hypothesis, and Dacher Keltner, University of California-Berkeley Psychology professor, wrote about awe in Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtue:

People consistently report that experiences of awe and elevation have profound outcomes, motivating self-improvement, personal change, altruistic intentions and actions, and the devotion to others and the larger community. 

The Second Step: Verbalizing

The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude. I say everything for which I am grateful.

Philosophers, religious leaders, and teachers have taught us for thousands of years to begin our day by expressing and feeling gratitude for everything and everyone we have in our lives.

My list includes being grateful for a new day, the sleep I had the night before, my health, my family (by name), my close friends (by name), my key supporters in business (by name), and important opportunities professionally and personally. I make it a habit of visualizing the people and things as I say them; I want to keep these images fresh in my mind.

“Grateful individuals have a sense of abundance,” according to research by psychology professor Phillip Watkins and his colleagues at Eastern Washington University. “Grateful individuals appreciate the common everyday pleasures of life… appreciate the contribution of others to their well-being.”

A Ritual of Rewards

“A ritual can smooth life’s transition as can perhaps nothing else,” wrote Huston Smith, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse University, in his book The Religions of Man.

Gratitude and awe in my morning ritual helps me transition from a night of sleep to a new day of possibility.

Rituals also serve another function, says Smith, “namely to intensify appreciation and crown man’s joy with celebration.”

Every day is a new opportunity. What would happen if you started each day with a little awe and gratitude? This positive ritual could change your life.

David J. Pollay, MAPP, is the founder and president of The Momentum Project, an organization dedicated to increasing the positive momentum of their business clients. Email [email protected], or call 561.265.1165.

Original article first published in Positive Psychology News, the news source for positive psychology.


  1. David,

    What a fantastic idea to start each day with a positive ritual! It reminds me of watching successful athletes and performers. Each of them has a “pre-game” ritual they go through to help them perform their best. Reading your article makes me want to develop a morning ritual that will help me perform my best every day! Thanks.

  2. David,

    This is wonderful advice for everyone looking to start their day on the right track – thank you for sharing this with everyone. When I think of what you wrote, the following question comes to mind “Is it any wonder that the people who seem the most grateful for what they have also appear to harvest abundance in the greatest quality and quantity”? I think that living in this state of gratitude opens your awareness to all that is around you and that increased awareness creates greater opportunity in your life. The power of living such a life is increased when you share these things with others, as you have shared with your article. I have been blessed to live a life built around gratitude and I know I am planting the right seeds with my children when I hear my middle child (he is 2) say spontaneously when we are out and about “I am so blessed”. 🙂

    Thank you so much.

    Take care,


  3. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your post! I appreciate hearing from you. Your example of what athletes do to ensure that they are at their best before they begin each performance is a good one. Itâ??s a reminder to us that we can do the same thing with our performance each day. We have the opportunity to make each day a good one. Enjoy your own morning routine and let me know how it goes!

    Warm Regards,


  4. Hi Harry,

    Thanks for your inspiring post! How wonderful it is to hear how you are planting the seeds of gratitude with your children. They are clearly blessed to have you as a father.

    And Harry, research supports your observation about grateful people; people who are more grateful enjoy a happier life and better relationships. This is true at home and in business. Grateful people tend to draw more out of themselves and the people around them.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post!


  5. I would just like to say that this works. Boy does it work. I have finally got it. At last I understand, after all those years of listening to messages about how “you are what you think” and all that. In the last six months my income has tripled and I am much happier with my relationships because I decided to change my attitude. I am now grateful for what I do have (which is a lot) instead of focusing on what I don’t have. I also decided to take my finances in hand and have a plan I can stick to that also gives me room to enjoy the things I like.
    I started keeping a gratitude dairy a week ago and that has just made things go from great to fantastic ! And guess what? The greatest reward of all is being truly truly happy. Am I living in Utopia? No. Nothing is perfect and I don’t know that any of us can attain perfection here but we can be grateful, healthy, rich, loved and joyful. Honest.

  6. Hi Fuadat,

    Congratulations to you! It’s great to see how well things are going for you. You are more successful professionally, and you’re happier – that’s quite a combination!

    Keep up the great work and stay the course!


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