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gratitude journal

The seventh point in the Seven-Point Creed Coach Wooden’s father gave him said: Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court with Steve Jamison, he summed it up this way:

So often we fail to acknowledge what we have because we’re so concerned about what we want. We fail to give real thanks for the many blessings for which we did nothing: our life itself, the flowers, the trees, our family and friends. This moment.

All of our blessings we take for granted so much of the time.

A wise person once observed, how much more pleasant this world would be if we magnified our blessings the way we magnify our disappointments.

And, of course, with that we must also pray for guidance. One of my players at UCLA once told me he was embarrassed to have anyone know that he prayed. There’s no shame in praying for guidance. It’s a sign of strength.

One way of improving an attitude of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Simply put, it is the process of writing down once a week (or any interval you choose) the things in your life you’re grateful for.

Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and a leading expert on the science of gratitude, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal:

  1. Don’t just go through the motions. Research suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful.
  2. Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  3. Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  4. Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  5. Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  6. Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling.

Related: John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: ‘Be Thankful’

Photo by Deborah Kolb/

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.