How Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey use gratitude as a strategy for success

Arianna Huffington recently spoke with CNBC about the importance of self-care.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey agree that success in life starts with acknowledging what you already have. They also share a similar daily ritual that helps them achieve short-term and long-term success: making a list of what they are grateful for.

"What we focus on, what we put our attention on really determines how we feel about that particular day or our life in general," Huffington recently told CNBC Make It.

A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who wrote about their gratitude over a period of time showed greater signs of emotional well-being compared to people who wrote about negative or neutral life events.

Here is how Huffington, Robbins and Winfrey say you can use gratitude lists to boost success in your personal and professional life.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Focusing on the things that you are grateful for on a daily basis can help you in the long run, Huffington said.

"I love the idea of starting the day and ending the day with three things I'm grateful for," Huffington said. "Because the truth is that every day is a mixture of good things and bad things."

Your list of three things doesn't have to consist of big moments, Huffington noted: "It can be the cafe latte you had or a couple of moments with a dear friend or a song."

To make your gratitude list even more effective, Huffington recommended that you share it with two or more friends who send theirs to you.

"I promise you it begins to change the quality of the day," she added.

As part of her 2017 LinkedIn Learning series, the Thrive Global CEO taught a course called "Facing Challenges with Gratitude and Forgiveness." In the course, Huffington taught that "where there is gratitude, there is the realization that we can find happiness and peace even when things are not going our way."

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Having worked around the clock as a teen and young adult, self-made millionaire Tony Robbins often enthusiastically pays his business and life advice forward. When it comes to preparing for his daily success, the entrepreneur told CNBC Make It about the 10-minute routine he follows each morning to be more grateful throughout the day.

Robbins said he takes these three steps:

1. He focuses on something very simple that makes him feel grateful, like the wind in his face or a child's smile.

2. He devotes three minutes to prayer. During this time he "sends energy" to his family, coworkers and others.

3. He completes "three to thrive," taking the final three minutes of his routine to identify three results he's committed to achieving.

Establishing gratefulness first thing in the morning not only helps him have a more successful day ahead, but it also staves off anger or fear that can lead to poor investing or life choices.

"You can't be fearful and grateful simultaneously," Robbins said, "so if you want to conquer those [emotions], maybe it's time to train your nervous system to go into gratitude more naturally."

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
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When speaking to the graduating class of 2017 at Skidmore College last year, media mogul Oprah Winfrey underscored how knowing what you're grateful for can help you make the right decisions and find success in work and life

"I practice being grateful," Winfrey said. "And a lot of people say, 'Oh Oprah, that's easy for you 'cause you got everything!'"

On the contrary, Winfrey argued: "I got everything because I practiced being grateful."

There was a time when Winfrey kept a gratitude journal for a decade. In it, she wrote down five things she was grateful for every day, according to a November 2012 issue of "O, The Oprah Magazine."

On October 12, 1996, this is what Winfrey's gratitude journal looked like:

1. A run around Florida's Fisher Island with a slight breeze that kept me cool.

2. Eating cold melon on a bench in the sun.

3. A long and hilarious chat with Gayle about her blind date with Mr. Potato Head.

4. Sorbet in a cone, so sweet that I literally licked my finger.

5. Maya Angelou calling to read me a new poem.

When "life got busy" and Winfrey stopped journaling for some time, she switched to journaling electronically.

"I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration," Winfrey said. "You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots."

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