Gratitude is an Attitude

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(This article originally appeared in the Florida Times-Union in 2014.)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because of the food. I love the fact that we dedicate a national day to being grateful for our blessings. If you’re working, here is a list of things you can be grateful for.

First, be grateful that you have a job. Even if you’re feeling overworked, underappreciated, or just plain bored, be grateful that you are working and earning. This last recession taught us how quickly the economy and your employment status could change. Thousands of people are still looking for their next career move and many thousands more are working for less pay and fewer hours than they were before the recession. Many of them would gladly trade places with you.  It’s just not cool any more to whine about your job; find a better one if you’re really miserable, but in the meantime, be grateful for the opportunity you have.

Be grateful when things change. Change, for the most part, means that your company is working on improving operations and responding to market conditions. Yes, learning new software, procedures or products is time-consuming and slows you down temporarily. But the tradeoff is in your favor. You learn more than new skills; you learn how to adapt and how to be more resilient. Having to master a new way of doing something takes you off automatic pilot and puts you into a mindful mindset. That will improve your performance in more ways than one.

Be grateful for your customers, even when they’re cranky, unhappy, or make your job more difficult. They are the reason you have a job, and their feedback, both positive and negative, is the way you learn to deliver better results.

Be grateful for the people who drive you crazy. You learn a lot from people when they are at their worst. You learn how not to handle situations, and you learn how to master your emotions and temper your reactions, or how to put disagreements behind you once they’re over. The key to gratitude for difficult people is trying to understand; asking yourself why she is acting this way, instead of simply condemning the behavior. Consultant Celeste Blackman calls this technique “becoming curious, instead of furious.”   Put yourself in your opponent’s place; what would you be feeling? How can you help him get to a better place?

Be grateful when your plan doesn’t go smoothly. Problems show us the flaws in our thinking or execution, and they offer us the opportunity to improve both. It’s true that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes.  Instead of asking “why me?” ask “what is the lesson in this?”  Focusing on what you can learn will take some of the focus off your frustration and disappointment. Failure also builds character and humility, both of which are essential for your success as a worker – and as a human being.

Thursday, as I share a meal with my family, I’ll be giving special thanks for my job, which allows me to share my thoughts here with you every week. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

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