MJ Ryan

Bestselling Author M.J. Ryan: On Coaching, Writing, and Gratitude

Meet M.J. Ryan, a coach and author specializing in many facets of positive psychology.

Before we get started, let’s learn more about her:

“MJ Ryan is one of the creators of the New York Times bestselling Random Acts of Kindness series and the author of The Happiness Makeover (nominated for the 2005 Books for Better Living award in the Motivational category), Attitudes of GratitudeThe Power of PatienceTrusting YourselfThe Giving Heart, and 365 Health and Happiness Boosters, among other titles. Altogether, there are 1.75 million copies of her titles in print.” – MJ_Ryan.com

With her decades-long experience coaching clients, Ryan has a highly relatable approach to her work. She implements new ideas, witnesses results, and then generously shares her findings in her books.

So, as you can imagine, I’m a massive fan of her work!

When I started this blog, Attitudes of Gratitude was one of the first books I profiled.

If you haven’t read it, you must! (Here are my favorite quotes from the book.)

You can imagine how excited I was when she agreed to talk with me, share a bit of backstory on what inspires her, and learn more about her unique views on gratitude.

So let’s get started:

RCG: Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me!

M.J. Ryan: Sure! Thank you for reaching out.

RCG: Wow, you’ve written so many books! What inspired you to write Attitudes of Gratitude?

M.J. Ryan: It goes back to Random Acts of Kindness. When writing on that topic and encouraging people to do random acts of kindness, I thought I’d better practice too. (Instead of just telling people that they should do it!)

So I started to practice, and I got happier.

Then I realized, ‘This is such a simple thing to do, and it makes us happy. So, what is another simple thing we can do?’

At the time, I also noticed that happy people were more grateful.

I kept thinking gratitude was a consequence. Like something wonderful happens, and then you feel grateful.

As opposed to, ‘I practice gratitude for what is already there, and maybe even invisible to myself, and I feel happier.’

RCG: So, gratitude comes first!

M.J. Ryan: Yes, it comes first, and it’s the practice that works. 

So I did that, and it worked!  I started studying other people and myself in relation to gratitude and decided to write about everything I discovered.

On her writing process:

RCG: Did it take you a long time to write the book?

M.J. Ryan: You don’t want to know! The answer is no. I wrote that book in two weeks!

RCG: Wow, you’re so fast!

M.J. Ryan: Well, it’s a form I’ve used for all the inspirational self-help books I’ve written. Each concept is a stand-alone idea. And it makes it easier to write because you don’t have to hook them all together in theory.

So I wrote it all based on what I’d learned and studied. I saw that the stories fell into a few categories, and that’s how I structured the book.

RCG: And that’s led to several other books! I’m excited to give out more of your books this year over the holidays.

M.J. Ryan on studying change and new beginnings:

I’m also interested in the book you wrote about New Year’s resolutions.

M.J. Ryan: Yes, This Year I Will.

This book is all about how you change. It all started became I became interested in a question.

With Attitudes of Gratitude, the question was, ‘What else can we do to make ourselves happy?’

For this, I noticed some of my clients were changing as a result of working with me, and others were stuck. And I became interested in the science of change.

I wondered, ‘What makes people change? What are the practices and attitudes that create lasting transformation?’

So I studied all of that, including my own experience with clients and sharing what science says.

And This Year I Will is a compilation of all that I learned.

RCG: That’s very interesting! 

How coaching and writing work together.

RCG: Can you tell me what made you shift more into coaching?

M.J. Ryan: I’ve always been doing both coaching and writing. One supports the other.

I’ve found that there are interesting books on gratitude written from a scientific perspective.

So the fact that I’ve helped people change and implement new things gives me the ability to suggest practical ideas of what to do.

My books offer a practical, relatable approach.

RCG: I appreciate what you’re saying. I felt my energy shift after reading your book. It’s almost as if I could learn along with your clients. I could relate personally to all of the stories in your book.

M.J. Ryan’s source of gratitude:

RCG: So, I have to ask, what are you most grateful for right now?

M.J. Ryan: Usually, my gratitude is very focused on the immediate moment in my day. I think, ‘What am I grateful for right now?’

But if I step back and answer your question from a bigger picture, it’s the amazing teachers I’ve had in my life that have allowed me to learn what I’ve learned, share with other people, and have an impact.

RCG: Thank you so much for sharing your time with me! I’m deeply inspired by your work, and Attitudes of Gratitude continues to be one of my favorite books of all time.

M. J. Ryan: Thank you for much for having me!

More about M.J. Ryan:

M. J. Ryan “is a certified executive coach with Professional Thinking Partners, a member of the International Coaching Federation and the International Positive Psychology Association, and one of the founding members of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School.”

She is available for executive coaching and speaking engagements.

Learn more about M.J. Ryan here.

You can also order her book, Attitudes of Gratitude, here.


I hope you enjoyed this story! Didn’t she inspire you?

Please share with someone who might benefit from her words of wisdom today!


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