The Art of Gratitude: A Simple Trick for Life and Work
We “like” posts on Facebook and “favorite” tweets on Twitter without a second thought. But when it comes to expressing that appreciation in our offline lives, many of us born in the age of instant gratification can’t find the right button.
As a millennial recently given a management position, I had to learn the art of gratitude the hard way.
I thought I knew how to do it. For the past seven years I’ve recorded my favorite part of the day into a small wall calendar above my bed. A growing body of research has reinforced my belief in this habit, showing that by focusing your attention on the positive parts of your life you’re statistically more likely to live a happier and healthier life.
It isn’t always easy. On days of intense sadness or struggles I have to force myself to find something positive, even if its as simple as the way the sunlight looks in the window. Giving gratitude for what the day has brought has helped me turn into a more positive person, and the habit has caught on with many of my friends.
But then I had my first major conflict at work.
As someone accustomed to getting along with almost everyone, I found myself shocked when a young woman who I was managing told my boss that I was mean and difficult to work with. Even more surprising was that the woman was someone with whom I had hoped to play a mentorship role.
Then, as the allegations came in, I realized what had been happening. I’d forgotten to show gratitude.
As the Communications Director at Mosaic, an online marketplace for investing in high-quality solar projects, I am always moving quickly. A startup with ambitions to change the two biggest industries in the world, energy and finance, Mosaic has an action-oriented culture that often leaves little time for anything other than work.
Though a focus on productivity is important, when we forget to express appreciation for the people around us, relationships deteriorate and productivity suffers as a result.
Now I have a new trick: along with recording the best moments of my day, I’ve made a point of also noting when one of my colleagues has done something worth appreciation. Instead of just keeping that information to myself, I set a goal of expressing my gratitude to at least two people every week.
At the same time that I started making an effort to express gratitude at work the task management system that we use, Asana, released a new feature called “asana hearts” that allows co-workers to express appreciation for each other’s work.
Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt liked I needed a “like” button for my colleagues. While having a button certainly helps, I’ve also found that appreciative emails, handwritten notes or just a thoughtful comment can go a long way.
Many of colleagues at Mosaic have also begun making a concerted effort to express more gratitude. While behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight, we’re becoming happier, more united and even more productive as a result.
This article was posted on Forbes, 2/27/13