Creating a Culture of Gratitude

Thought Patterns

Man on a rock looking into a clouded abyss, thinking.
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Thought patterns are consistent or “habitual” ways in which people think.

Thought patterns are based on a cognitive structure or schema. Godwin et al. (2016, p. 69) briefly summarized the writing of Manz (1992) on thought patterns as:

“Manz (1992) describes a thought pattern as “certain ways of thinking about our experiences,” and as “habitual ways of thinking.” As Manz (1992, p. 81) states, “these thought patterns involve among other things, our beliefs, our imagined experiences, and our [self-dialog].”

For example, one categorization of thought patterns in the thought self-leadership literature is “opportunity” thinking versus “obstacle thinking” (Manz 1986; Neck 2018; Neck and Manz 1992, 1996a, 1996b).

“Opportunity thinking involves a pattern of thoughts that focuses on opportunities, worthwhile challenges, and constructive ways of dealing with challenging situations” (Neck et al. 1999, p. 479).

By contrast, “Obstacle thinking, . . . involves a focus on the negative aspects (the obstacles) involved in challenging situations . . . ” (Neck et al. 1999, p. 479). The distinction between the two is important.

Individuals employing opportunity thinking will look for ways to succeed even when faced with challenging circumstances, whereas persons engaging in obstacle thinking patterns will see the challenging situation as a reason to give up or quit (Manz 1986; Neck 2018; Neck and Manz 1992).

It is important to note that gratitude is a constructive way to engage in positive thought patterns.

These thought patterns should be viewed from the perspective of cognitive structures or schema, specifically how these relate to the practice of gratitude and the performance of gratitude.


This page is an edited adaptation of an excerpt from the paper Utilizing Self-Leadership to Enhance Gratitude Thought Patterns. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Godwin, Jeffrey L., and Susan M. Hershelman. 2021. Utilizing Self-Leadership to Enhance Gratitude Thought Patterns. Administrative Sciences 11: 40.

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