Kathryn Kilner had to shift from a seasonal practice of gratitude around the holidays to a daily habit of gratitude in her life, and disciplined herself to follow one simple routine every day to make sure that gratitude has a prominent place in her heart. Read what her routine is and how you can adapt it to your life!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Kathryn: As a Bay Area native, I love being at the intersection of technological innovation, user experiences, and business. Over the past decade, I’ve built a career in marketing technology and am currently leading strategy and operations for the industry marketing team at Salesforce. I’m also an avid dancer and have a side business teaching wedding dance choreography to couples getting married. Outside of the dance studio, I am happiest in an art museum or exploring a new city. I am also active in my church community and lead a small group in addition to being on the leadership team of my 4word: San Francisco Local Group.
What does gratitude mean to you?
Kathryn: Attitude is at the heart of gratitude. And like attitude, gratitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. It’s about choosing to see the positive in a situation and offering thanks for what is good or better than it could be. It is a practice that becomes easier over time, but like a muscle, it needs to be flexed to stay strong. It’s not just about writing thank you notes for gifts or a moment of reflection shared around the table at Thanksgiving, though those are certainly great things to do. Gratitude is a lens through which any circumstance can be viewed. It often involves looking beyond yourself and taking into account a broader perspective.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
Is gratitude something that comes naturally or does it take intentionality?
Kathryn: It is easier to be grateful when good things are happening, but it’s also easy to forget to be grateful. Surrounding yourself with grateful people helps gratitude come more naturally, but in my experience, gratitude also takes a fair amount of intentionality. At the surface level, gratitude is a choice — a way of seeing a situation or a circumstance — and it’s also an action. It requires specifically naming what you are grateful for, whether verbally or written, heard or silent. It can have the biggest impact when shown or shared.
As a child, for example, I showed gratitude to my parents for providing for me by studying hard in school and staying out of trouble. More recently as an adult, I shared my gratitude with my friends through custom-designed cards that named three favorite memories of times we had spent together, three things I was thankful to them for, and three characteristics of theirs that I admire. It was a fun way to say thank you to my inner circle.
How can someone be grateful in a tough situation?
Kathryn: There is always something you can be grateful for, even if it is just that things aren’t worse. The classic movie scene comes to mind where someone says, “Well, at least it isn’t raining.” And on cue, the thunder sounds and the rain starts coming down. But even if it’s raining, you could still be grateful for an umbrella or a doorway to stand in. After seasons of drought in California, I’ve also learned to be grateful for the rain itself. When the rain frizzes my hair and soaks my favorite shoes, I focus on the soothing sound of raindrops and think about how the rain brings snow to the Sierras where I love to go skiing or enables the plants in my backyard to grow which gives me joy when I walk through the garden.
Sometimes life brings us seasons of tough situations that focus our attention more on the negative sides of life than the positive. One period of my life that was particularly trying involved managing my recovery from a car accident while taking on a challenging assignment at work. There were days when walking from my bed to the couch took a lot of effort. I had to adjust my expectations for myself and be patient with my recovery. Each milestone in my recovery was something to be grateful for, as was the support of friends and family during that time. I learned to be grateful for things that I had previously taken for granted. Focusing on the positive helped me shift my attention away from what was hard toward what was manageable.
What are some ways to foster gratitude in your life?
Kathryn: One of the best ways to foster gratitude in your life is to set aside a designated time each day to list what you’re grateful for. This could be in a gratitude journal or a daily planner. After watching Brendon Burchard’s video on structuring your morning for greater productivity, I bought a planner that had six sections for each day and created a modified routine for myself that starts with setting my intention for my day in a quick phrase that I write in the first box along with three things I’m grateful for. In the next box, I write a short prayer, though I also spend time in prayer that I don’t write down. Then the remaining four boxes are for the top three priorities for my working hours, the top three people I need to reach out to at work, and the same for both of those but outside of work. Over the course of the past three years doing this each morning, I’ve found that it has become easier to be grateful. Though something doesn’t always immediately come to mind, I am able to write down more ideas more quickly and it is easier for me to be positive about difficult situations. Flipping back through my planners, I’m also able to see what I’m grateful for most often, which includes unexpected kindness from others, opportunities to rest and relax, quality time with friends and family, and feeling better.
Kathryn Kilner is a technology marketer with a passion for creating innovative experiences and building global brands. She currently leads strategy and operations for the industry marketing team at Salesforce. Previously, she led content marketing programs and marketing strategy initiatives at GE Digital. She launched her marketing career at webinar provider BrightTALK, where she built four marketing teams from scratch. Kathryn is a true California native; she grew up in the Bay Area, got her B.A. in history and human biology from Stanford, and currently lives in San Francisco. A devotee to the arts, Kathryn enjoys choreographing wedding dances, wandering art museums, and plotting her next travel adventures.