Operation Gratitude, and Finding Courage

Tiny house on a sunny day
It’s easy to be grateful for days like this, but what about the other days?

By Dee Williams

On January 1st this year, I decided to embark on a year of gratitude. I want to spend more time honoring my relationships and expressing my thanks. I also want to put in the effort to find moments of gratitude in unexpected places. It’s easy to feel grateful for kindness, or sunny days during the rainy winter, but can I find it also during moments of stress, challenge, and discomfort? Maybe the only way to do that is to do it one moment at a time.

My hope is that making it a central theme for the year will push me to experience gratitude when I can, and keep trying when I don’t feel it the first (or even the second) time. Did you know that researchers say that if you express gratitude at least five times a week you are likely to be 25% happier than if you didn’t? So I thought I would start off the thanking and share some of the things I am grateful for with you. I’ll also share one of the tools I use to press on when gratitude feels elusive – my imaginary superhero cape. No, really! I’ll explain, just stay with me.

Sharing Gratitude

Last year was a monumental year for me, the launch of my memoir, The Big Tiny, gave me a chance to meet some of my favorite tiny house advocates as I toured the country doing book readings in small independent bookstores. It gave me the opportunity to meet so many people who inspired me with their stories, for which I am grateful. In the coming weeks and months, I want to give a shout-out to some of these amazing people for how they’ve supported me and the whole tiny house movement.

Kent Griswold from Tiny House Blog and Dee Williams from PAD Tiny Houses
Kent and Dee meeting in person, at last!

I want to start with a huge thank you to Kent Griswold, who brought us the Tiny House Magazine and his Tiny House Blog, the first ever blog or website dedicated to tiny homes. His impact is huge, and I personally owe him a great debt of gratitude. Five or six years ago, when PAD was first launching its website, Kent patiently walked me through a thousand computer moves, and helped me figure out how to share Go House Go with the world so I could help people build safe little houses. His advice and insight were invaluable; his integrity and kindness continue to inspire me. I’m so happy that I had a chance to finally meet Kent in person last year. So cheers to Kent for being a darn nice guy, and for his continued efforts to grow the tiny house movement!

There’ll be many more cheers to share with you in the coming year, and not just for things that made me happy, or for people who inspire me. “Operation Gratitude” is also about giving thanks for the things that make me uncomfortable. It’s about leaning into challenges in a new way, which just now makes me feel a bit nervous and my palms sweat. I recently gave a talk for a live radio show in Portland, Oregon called SuperThank and talked about aging – not the easiest thing to feel grateful for. But in the midst of the challenges and surprises of growing older, there is genuine joy in making it this far in life. When you look for it, gratitude grows finer with age. You can listen to the show at this link, my bit is about seven minutes in.

The Superhero In All of Us

Dee at the World Domination Summit, with her cape made visible.
Dee at the World Domination Summit, with her cape made visible.

Another event I really enjoyed speaking at this year was Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, which pulls together creative, feisty people from all over the world. When speaking to about three thousand unconventional entrepreneurs, what I most wanted to share was…my invisible superhero cape. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve found that wearing my imaginary superhero cape has helped me find courage and resilience in myself at times when I really needed it. The theory is that an imaginary cape can go a long way when you can’t imagine lifting a heavy sheet of plywood. It can help you muddle through a conversation with a carpenter, as you ask about how to best hold a chop saw. A good superhero cape can help you walk into the room with the Mayor, so you can discuss how tiny houses might help address the problem of affordable housing (true story!). Here’s the video of the talk, to help you find the superhero inside yourself:


No matter what kind of hand 2015 deals you, I invite you to try on your own superhero cape, and see how it feels. See if it makes you feel like you can do things that you didn’t think were possible. I invite you to join me in Operation Gratitude, to look for and recognize the good that’s coming your way, even when you’re not sure what that might be. It’s there somewhere, and the more you look, the more you’ll find.

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