It’s easy to run across the word “gratitude” during the holidays. It’s even easier to forget about it. Under the deluge of emails, phone calls, and life and work demands we face daily, gratitude often gets relegated to a f-ing hashtag trickling down the overloaded social media feeds of your 2,500-plus contacts.
But gratitude as a concept, when put into daily practice, can lead to a career and a life of abundance. By definition, gratitude is “the state of being grateful.” It’s a way of life or, in the words of the philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel, “Gratitude is shown in acts.” And there are plenty of actions you can take to turn gratitude into way of being that doesn’t involve massive amounts of cash or insincere #grateful hashtags.
The easiest place to start is with your own thought process.
A New Mantra for an Old Mindset
In a survey conducted by job site Monster in 2017, 76 percent of American respondents said they get “really bad” Sunday night anxiety. Most of us know that feeling as the “Sunday scaries” or “Sunday jitters.” Whatever the label, it’s a lousy way to start the week, especially since you’re leaking that anxiety all over the place and affecting the others around you.
That’s not to depreciate work as one of life’s major stressors. But rather than starting Monday (or any day, really), with dread of everything that could go wrong, take a moment to reset your brain with a new mantra. Instead of “I have to go to work,” think “I get to go to work.”
Most of us remember the 2008 recession as a period of either joblessness or scrambling to keep business afloat in the face of dire economic times. So while unemployment may be at an almost 50-year low right now, it’s worth remembering that work isn’t always plentiful and circumstances outside our control can change our employment status overnight. And even in good times, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs don’t get to coast: 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year; that number jumps to 50 in year five. That you’re even in business can be enough to quell the Sunday blues if you’re willing to let it.
Speaking of the recession: When I started my business in late 2005/early 2006, I was billing bodacious invoices and growing my team. When the recession hit in 2008, though, I suddenly found myself with a bunch of sub-contractors who had no other billable work besides what I gave them. Knowing I was the sole source of income for these people felt like a huge responsibility on top of struggling to keep my own business afloat.
I could have easily started panicking, saying things like “I’m scared as hell too” and talking about clients that had stopped paying their bills (thank goodness I had a line of credit to manage payroll with slow pays). But that would have done nothing to ease the sub-contractors’ worries and would have just made the work environment more tense than it already was. Without being overzealous and insincere, when asked how things were going, I would instead say something like, “I’m so thankful to be doing the work I love.” I may not have felt that every single day. But showing a little gratitude for what I had at that moment helped put a little more confidence into the universe, something the world and my sub-contractors, were badly in need of at the time.
Gratitude as a Practice
It’s our job as business leaders to make employees and clients feel confident, and to foster that kind of mindset within the team. And you don’t need an economic recession to do that. You just have to focus first on what makes you grateful, then communicate that to the folks around you.
Pinpoint a few things in your own life you feel truly grateful for and share those. Write down five things that are awesome about your everyday professional life, whether that’s coworkers, a project you find interesting, or, hell, even the new coffee machine. Consider the intangibles as well, like a meaningful conversation you had during your commute or a joke that made everyone laugh and lightened the mood on a project, even if temporarily.
And with Giving Tuesday here, it’s also a great of the year to offer up volunteer work or, yes, that check (however much you can give). Charities and non-profits alike benefit from donations of all sorts. Giving back should be a part of your business in some way, even if it’s not in monetary form.
I don’t expect y’all to leap out of bed on a natural high every single morning; even the most selfless have bad days. But putting a solid gratitude practice with meaningful actions in place can give you the kind of perspective you need to keep going and encourage those around you to do the same. That will speak volumes more than any hashtag ever could.