“What if all we had tomorrow is what we were grateful for today?” One of our students in the Master of Organizational Leadership program at St. Mary’s University recently posed this powerful question, prompting me to fortify my efforts cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.” There are too few days when I am grateful for what I already have or accomplished instead of focusing on what I hope to have or accomplish. Many of us no doubt expressed gratitude on our recent official day of Thanksgiving; this message comes to you after the big holiday in hopes of encouraging a year-long thankful outlook.
The documented benefits of gratitude are many, including enhanced relationships, better sleep, improved mental and physical health, greater resiliency and higher performance. Researchers at the University of Miami and University of Pennsylvania discovered that acts of gratitude resulted in fewer visits to physicians and higher happiness scores respectively. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania documented higher productivity among workers who were thanked for their efforts compared to those who weren’t. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude)
Even given evidence of gratitude’s benefits, it’s sometimes hard; we under-estimate its impact, we’re too hurried, pressured or focused on what’s next, we’re fearful it might make us appear “soft,” or we’re simply at a loss for how to do it. Here are some suggestions:
- Be mindful. Look around; take stock. What things, capabilities, resources, people and experiences are you thankful for? What has gone right?
- Say “thank you” and write thank you notes. The need to be thanked and how best to express it varies, including across cultures. Take the time to simply thank others in a manner that will be appreciated.
- Reframe. A friend who recovered from cancer helped me here. Before his illness he would grumble as I often do about snow shoveling, yard maintenance and the like; after recovery, when he could perform those tasks again, instead of saying “I have to (shovel, mow or whatever,) he would say “Thank you, now I get to (shovel, mow or whatever.) ‘Easier said than done, but when a job ends unexpectedly, reframing can help us be grateful for more time with family or chances to discover better opportunities.
- Look for a “silver lining.” This is really hard, because it accompanies unfortunate developments when we’re usually not in the mood. I just learned that an associate’s home sustained major water damage from frozen pipes; his reaction: “Oh well, I needed to remodel that area at some point.” I’m sure that my health and resilience would benefit if I could muster more of that spirit when things go south.
- Take time each day to name at least three things that you are grateful for or that went well that day. Some find it useful to incorporate this practice in a prayer, meditation or journaling.
Given inTEgro’s proclaimed purpose of “transforming business as usual into business at its best,” let me name a few things in my work world that I’m grateful for:
- I’m grateful for companies large and small that despite challenges consistently model effective, engaging and ethical cultures. Among those are Allianz Life, General Mills and the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota based companies named by Fortune Magazine as three of the Top 100 Places To Work in America.
- I’m grateful for Minnesota’s rich culture of investing in the development of its workforce, reinforced by the breadth and diversity of its higher learning institutions. I’m grateful for opportunities as a community faculty member to teach for two of those institutions, for St. Mary’s Master of Organizational Leadership program and for Metropolitan State University, both of which have strong diversity and ethical leadership components.
- I’m grateful for the solid graduate training in organization development that I received from Bowling Green State University, and that the University of St. Thomas could attract as renowned a leader for its Learning and Organization Development graduate programs as David Jamieson.
- I’m grateful that Minnesota is home to one of the strongest resources nationally for sustaining ethical cultures, the Center for Ethical Business Cultures, headed by Ron James at the University of Saint Thomas.
- I’m grateful for the business associates, coaches and mentors who played and continue playing a pivotal role in my personal and professional development; if you are reading this you know who you are.
- I’m grateful for many clients over the years who have given me opportunities to help them achieve their goals.
What are you grateful for? Regularly asking and answering that question are sure to pay you, your organization and close ones benefits.
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”