Practicing Gratitude

I’ve been quiet the past couple of weeks. Not because there wasn’t anything on my mind. More like tragic news and information overload to the point that I felt anything I had to say would be trite and unnecessary. If you’re human and you’re awake, this is a difficult time. It feels like it’s one tragedy on top of another amidst unthinkable events. I’ve noticed its effect in my energy and resulting negative thoughts. My daughter has had nightmares and has come to sleep in our room three times this past week — and that never happens. It has been hard to muster a positive attitude and I am more aware than ever that how I show up makes a difference to those around me.

Two weeks ago, my daughter discovered that it is 100 days until our family goes on an end-of-summer vacation. She asked if we could make a countdown calendar. I thought it was a great idea and challenged my family to take it one step further. For the next 100 days, at dinner we would share “three good things about our day and why.” Everyone was on board. For the past 14 days we’ve gone around the dinner table and each shared three good things. It’s uplifting to hear about the good things that have happened and it’s fun to hear what my family focused on each day. For me, this exercise hasn’t been difficult at all. I love my work; I have a broad circle of friends and connections that fill my bucket and I’m wired pretty positively. For my husband, it’s been more of a challenge. He usually starts with something that doesn’t sound good at all, but I’ve noticed how he’s able to turn negative situations into positive ones and how he’s able to find the positive themes in his day. And all this talking about the good results in gratitude.

This isn’t just something to do at dinnertime. Practicing gratitude in the workplace can have profound effects on our energy, motivation and creativity. According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, the research is clear: Gratitude is good for you. It improves wellbeing, reduces stress and builds resilience. It can even make you more patient. There are upsides for those around us too, because we are better colleagues as a result. Studies have shown “that when people feel grateful, they’re willing to devote more effort to help others, to be loyal even at a cost to themselves, and to split profits equally with partners rather than take more money for themselves,” wrote professor David DeSteno, who studies the ways in which emotions guide our decisions and behaviors.

We all want to work in a place where people are polite, considerate, and kind. Intentionally expressing appreciation to your colleagues is an important part of building that sort of culture. But how do we  do it right? A broad brush, “Thank you for the great work you do,” feels generic and often misses the mark. I often sign my emails with “thanks,” and even though I mean it, it’s impact wanes over time. Expressing gratitude in a timely (immediately after the positive event, if possible) and specific way has the most impact. Whether you deliver the gratitude over the phone, in an email or through a video chat, spend a few moments thinking about what you’re grateful for and how that person’s actions affected you. This will allow you to be specific. If you can, do it now!

Here is a brief exercise to help you start each day with a couple minutes of positivity. Complete these three sentences:

  1. Today I will focus on ____________.
  2. Today I am grateful for __________.
  3. Today I will let go of ____________.

If you would like assistance facilitating a gratitude practice in your team meetings or 1:1’s, I’m happy to help. Gratitude = recognition. And recognition and praise is one of the drivers of employee engagement. There is a business case for having an attitude of gratitude. Let’s start now!

Lisa

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