Note to our long time readers: This post is a repeat – but bears repeating! We got so much positive feedback on this last Thanksgiving, we’ve dusted it off and reposted it.
My favorite holiday has arrived. Thanksgiving is not only less frantic but is focused on what really matters. Although it can be overshadowed by football and Black Friday– it is a simpler, richer, more soulful and satisfying holiday than others. And what’s not to like about pumpkin pie?
This holiday is an antidote to a more general mindset that is prevalent in our culture. One of complaining, grumbling, judging, finger pointing, and never finding happiness in spite of the abundance around us. One of being quick to pinpoint the problem and never seeing what is right with the world.
And so on one day for a few short hours (or minutes) we collectively pause and ask the question of what we are grateful for. Conscious gratitude helps us to attend to what “really matters” and also how much we have. Gratitude is an opening – a view to the abundance of the good things in our life. And it is a basic truth that what we focus on, we tend to get more of.
Long ago I began a gratitude journal – each night jotting down 10 things I was grateful for. It was a bit alarming early in the process at just how hard this was. It was much easier to name 10 things that went wrong – a litany of small hurts, injustices and petty grievances. This practice, over time, reshaped the way I navigated the day. At first, I had to pay attention in a different way so that I would have things to list in the journal. Over time, I began to see the patterns in what I was grateful for and what brought me joy. And it was a revelation – as 99% of the things that made my list were pretty simple – a chat with a co-worker, a good meal with family, a project well done, an insight, flowers blooming, sunshine, pets, being in nature, quiet times, being outside, a rich conversation, a kind word. And then the magic happened – the more I looked for things to be grateful for, there was more I had to be grateful about. The things that brought me joy were noticed, amplified, and more abundant.
This graphic with the words of David Steindl-Rast explains the spiral quite well: “In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
(Thanks to the folks at Gratefulness.org, where you can learn more about gratefulness or can order merchandise with this wisdom on it)
The Business Connection to Gratitude
It’s taken me a lot longer to begin to grasp the connection between gratitude and business. As a facilitator of a 3-day change workshop in my days at RR Donnelley, we taught that gratitude was the highest state of mind and that in these higher states we are more effective as individuals, as teams and ultimately as organizations. Other higher states included curiosity, flexibility, a sense of humor, kindness, patience, and creativity. Honestly, I never quite “got it”.
It was not until I became a business owner that I really began to “get it”. When I’m grateful for my clients, I show up in a different way that facilitates the work we do together. When I am consciously grateful for the opportunity to do the work I love, for the good work of associates, for progress made – I value, nurture and care for those things. And again the magic – more of what I am grateful for – comes my way.
The converse is also true. Ingratitude diminishes and constricts. How often do I feel valued as a customer? Too often I must say I feel that I am an annoyance, an inconvenience. To get service, I must call an 800 number and endure a 45 minute queue followed by a multitude of transfers and very little chance of resolution. When was the last time I was told, sincerely, in words and meaningful actions, that I was valued as a customer?
The same goes for employees. We act as if valuing, noticing and being grateful for the efforts of employees is (you can fill in the blank):
- too hard
- doesn’t matter
- too time consuming
- irrelevant because after all, it’s their job
- not needed; they get a paycheck don’t they?
- an invitation to ask for a raise…..
I’ll always remember thanking a production worker for showing up on time every single day – a simple, but important thing. This big, burly man got a bit choked up and then said, “I’ve worked here for 20 years, never missed a day and have never been late for my shift, and you are the first person to notice.” How many folks like this exist in your organization?
So on this special American Holiday, let us be grateful in our hearts and minds. More importantly, let us show that gratitude in our actions. Notice what you are grateful for and then express it. Say it out loud. Write a note. Provide a small token that shows how you feel. Look customers and employees in the eye and say thanks. Simple is better – sincerity is required. Think about how to give thanks daily rather than only one day a year.
Remember that gratitude is a bridge – between what is valued and what is given (by a person, place, event or object). Connecting intentionally with what we appreciate sharpens our focus and brings more of what is valued into our lives, our relationships, and our organizations.
And so, I am truly grateful for this work I do, for the good people that do this work for me, for the clients who bring me into their organizations and for the folks that connect me with future opportunities.
Happy Turkey Day!