HOW GRATITUDE CAN HELP YOU WORK
I've only published two Q&A's in the 'How I Make It Work' series (In case you missed them: TV & screenwriter Camilla Blackett and writer/editorial director Kate Williams) but already a theme has emerged: gratitude. Both women mentioned feeling grateful to making a living doing the work they do, and I can't help but think that this might be linked to their success.
It's so easy to get caught up in the mindset that professional achievement can only ever be achieved by striving ever harder, and always wanting more. What might happen if we flipped perspective, and looked at things the other way around? If, instead of beating ourselves up for not having done enough, earnt enough, made enough, we simply said 'thank you' for the chance to do any of it at all?
The more I think about - and practice - gratitude, the more I realise that it's a tool (much like meditation, or self-care) that's essential to professional and personal wellbeing. Incorporating gratitude into your daily life doesn't need to be any more complicated than writing down three things that you're thankful for each day, but the benefits might just be career-changing. Here's why:
Gratitude Helps You to Keep Perspective
For a hell of a lot of people in this world, going to work means cleaning bathrooms, washing other people's dirty clothes, or slogging it out in factories. Listing the perks of your working day - whether that means an exciting meeting, or a nice lunch break with a colleague - helps you remember that it could all be so very much worse.
Gratitude Encourages You to be Present
How often do you stop to acknowledge your own successes, big or small? If you're anything like me, the answer will be: Rarely. If at all. When you get into the habit of regularly writing down all the little things that have gone right each day, you'll be more grounded in the present moment and less focused on what lies ahead. And if there's one thing the so-called mindfulness revolution has taught us, it's that the more present you are, the happier you'll be - in matters of life and work.
Gratitude Helps You Work With Others
When you regularly list all the positive aspects of your working day, you'll start to notice that a lot of them involve other people: the boss who paid you a compliment, the client who offered you a new gig, the friend who helped you laugh your way out of your latest work-related stress attack. When we acknowledge the kindnesses that others extend to us, we are more likely to reciprocate accordingly. Working together = working better. Or at least, it seems that way to me.
Gratitude Enables You To See Opportunities
This relates back to the point about being present. Practicing gratitude is actually a pretty practical tool, in that it enables you to stay cognisant of your career development on a daily basis. When you start tracking your successes, you'll become more aware of growth patterns and fruitful ways of working. This, in turn, will help you better identify the places you should focus your energy next - whether that means projects, places, or professional relationships.
Gratitude Boosts Your Confidence
My friend Sharmadean Reid says a lot of inspiring and important things, so I'll leave it to her to have the final word. This quote comes from The Handbook For Women Who Do Creative Work, and it's one of my favourite insights in the whole book. Keeping track of your successes boosts your confidence, which in turn helps you to do your best work. Why not start by saying 'thank you' to yourself?
"Two things that are hard to teach are confidence and contacts. Confidence is innate, but there are methods you can use to build it up; like understanding your self worth, and looking back at what you’ve done. At the beginning of every year, I write down all my achievements from the past 12 months. It’s really easy to forget about your accomplishments—listing them helps a lot. It’s also good to include projects you completed, even if not to the absolute best standard you wanted them to be. That’s a positive thing, because you’re already 50 per cent of the way there." - Sharmadean Reid, The Handbook for Women Who Do Creative Work