During back-to-school season, my amazing friend Blair decided that she wanted to help a family in need. Our local school connected her with a homeless family – a mom and her four children aged 2, 5, 9, and 12 – and took them shopping for an outfit. She’s since been drawn to help them find stability, reaching out to her community to fund rental of an apartment for a year and to furnish their new home, even to engage the kids in a variety of community activities.
I had no idea the positive impact this connection would have. In nearly everything I did, I thought of this family – no dependable roof over their heads, no bed to call their own, no food available any time of day, no closet with clothes to keep their bodies warm…My gratitude was awakened at a whole new level – gratitude for every little thing I had and could do, including offering a level of support, to my friend and to the family.
I’ve discovered two key elements about this place of deep appreciation:
- Gratitude creates positive energy.
- Gratitude strengthens personal connections.
As this gratitude spilled from my personal life into my professional life, I discovered that positive energy and personal connection create a workplace that inspires people to be and do their best. Gratitude awakens humanity in the workplace. Gratitude opens the heart. From a place of heart, we open to our passions. From a place of passion, we dream and see new possibilities. Gratitude can be the fuel for making the impossible possible.
The simplest yet most powerful form of gratitude is acknowledging each other. Gratitude exists in looking out and seeing the person across from you. Really looking at them. Gratitude can come alive in a smile, in the speaking of a person’s name, in honest curiosity about another’s experience. How often we get so wrapped up in our own thoughts about what we need to do, how we need to be better, and what we want that we miss the opportunity to really see another person.
A moment of appreciative stillness
Take a moment to sit still and close your eyes. Imagine someone has just told you how much they appreciate you and the work that you do. Let the acknowledgement sink in. Feel their words touch you. Take in this moment of celebration. Notice how you feel.
Now take a moment with your eyes closed and imagine someone has done something that helps you in some way. Let your appreciation surface. Think about this person. Consider what motivates them. Be curious about what’s going on with them. Notice how you feel as you make this personal connection.
The Acts of Gratitude
Here are a few ways I’m being intentional in my gratitude. Maybe you want to experiment with me?
- Acknowledge others.
- When communicating in writing with someone, look at a photo of them, if available, before responding. Imagine sitting with this person sharing the information. Start by writing the person’s name.
- When speaking with someone, smile and say the person’s name within the first few sentences (e.g., Hi, Joel, or That was a wonderful thing to do, Sarah). When speaking the name, focus on appreciating the person as a unique individual; if appropriate, look them in the eye and smile.
- Say thank you.
- Thank team members for the work they do, not just when they do something special or above and beyond. Appreciating the everyday things we all do to make things work is worthy of acknowledgement.
- Change your assumptions.
- Start with the premise that everyone wants to make a difference and be part of something important. Notice any shifts in perspective (e.g., from controlling to coordinating, from managing to facilitating, from changing to enabling, from fixing to supporting, from closed to open, from fear to love).
I’m leading a mindfulness movement at the company where I work and have been introduced to a rich variety of practices. These 3 are spiced with gratitude and delicious to practice. Maybe you want to try them, or already do them, or have others you’d like to share?
- Grateful eating: Pause before you eat and consider all that went into it sitting before you. Thank them all. Sit in gratitude for a moment, perhaps closing your eyes and taking 3 breaths before taking your first bite. If you are feeling really ambitious, give yourself a mindful bonus and savor the first bite, feeling the textures in your mouth, tasting the flavors – or enjoy your entire meal from this place. I find this practice makes me more intentional about my eating and that I make healthier choices. (You can also try this with drinking.)
- Grateful wakeup: When you first awake, pause and be grateful for one thing. Perhaps also take a few cleansing breaths and feel the joy of gratitude wash over you. You can certainly be grateful for more than one thing if that shows up for you. I find this practice connects me with what’s important and motivates me to start my day. (You can also try this at night just before going to sleep with an intention of relaxing in the pleasure that comes with gratitude.)
- Gratitude Journal: Take a moment each day to write about one or more things you are grateful for. Morning is a great time if you want to start your day with a positive frame of mind. You can keep it simple and simple write a single word or you can describe a situation, whatever comes to you is perfect. (You can also try this with a jar, where you write something you are grateful for on a piece of paper and drop it into a jar.)
Other Blogs Inspired by Blair:
* I took the photo at sunrise in San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico