Standard disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are the rambling thoughts of the author and not necessarily representative of Living Word Lutheran Church.
A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Dave posed the question, "What are we thankful for?" This led me to do some thoughtful searching and publishing an article last week about gratitude for my church family. According to A.J. Jacobs (author of Thanks a Thousand), "I have been an admirer of gratitude for years, gratitude is one of the keys to a life well lived. Perhaps, even, as Cicero says, it is the chief of virtues." Jacob cites research that demonstrates that "gratitude's psychological benefits are legion: It can lift depression, help you sleep, improve your diet, and make you more likely to exercise. A recent study showed gratitude causes people to be more generous and kinder to strangers."
Since today is Labor Day holiday, it seems appropriate that this week's gratitude is for work. We published an article about several things to reflect on for Labor Day in the September newsletter. I hope you have a chance to read it if you haven't already.
Though I am thankful to simply have employment during these tough times when so many are unemployed, having a job just to survive is not really what I want to discuss in depth.
We all like to complain about work. It's easier to whine about annoyances and obstacles than it is to celebrate what is great about work. But, did you realize that it’s all but impossible to feel angry, restless or unappreciated when you’re feeling grateful. Gratitude fills us up in positive, productive ways and makes us much nicer people to be around. In fact, it can brighten those around us, too, making for a more positive working environment. Taking time to think about what you’re grateful for and expressing it changes your outlook and makes you more resilient. So, if you’re juggling oranges and someone throws you a lemon, you can adjust and adapt more quickly.
Everyone has bad days. Gratitude is a tool to help you get past them. It’s a positive way of looking at situations that relies on finding a silver lining. After all, who couldn’t use a little more positivity in their life and work? People who express gratitude are happier. They focus on what they have instead of what they lack.
Think about some things at work to be grateful for. Maybe some of these apply:
- Your boss
- Your colleagues
- Company Culture
- The opportunity to learn and grow
- Work Flexibility (personally, I love working from home)
- Work-Life balance (mine is better know than it used to be)
- The work is fulfilling (everyone wants to feel that the work they do is important)
- Time Off (vacations and holidays are fun because it is time away from work)
- Salary and Benefits (this one is obvious)
I hope that you can be thankful for some, if not all of these things.
And remember... be thankful for the problems that create your job.
The only reason a job—any job—exists is to solve a set of problems... be thankful for the problems at work. One of may favorite sayings with my coworkers when discussing (okay, more likely complaining) about problems is to state that they are simply "job security". No problems, no job.
The problem of getting information to your friends and relatives around the world goes away when you have Facebook, email, and Skype—and so go thousands of postal service jobs, too. The problem of making it easier for customers to withdraw money from their account fades when you introduce the ATM—and reduce teller roles. And when the problems are not clearly defined and measured, such as in the value of leading and managing people, those jobs disappear, too.
So be grateful for the problems that create your job. You can still wish them away, but their presence ensures your presence.
Very few jobs are perfect (only God is perfect!) and there are always things that we would like to change, but if you really want to be happier at work, it's as simple as looking for reasons to be and making sure you're taking the time to really appreciate what you already have. You must actively focus your attention on the good to be happier at work.
This is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude is the act of focusing your attention and your energy on the things that you appreciate about your experience, making those things an active part of your awareness when your brain might have filtered them into the background before. When you make the good things happening a more active part of your experience by appreciating them on a deeper level, your whole experience becomes better and the negative things tend not to bother you so much.
The benefits of gratitude are extensive. Research has found that those who practice gratitude experience the following benefits:
- You'll reduce your stress levels.
- You'll experience greater career success.
- You'll have higher self-esteem.
- You'll have better relationships.
- You'll be more empathetic and less aggressive.
- You'll have better physical health.
- You'll be more optimistic about the future and more positive about your life as a whole.