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Gratitude in the Face of Chaos


In the midst of this crazy, hectic professional world, experts are always telling us how to better balance our lives, how to be more mindful and present, and how to be happier. They tell us to do less, do more, take time to engage, work on organization. The list of suggestions leaves us with whiplash. Everyone seems to have a solution to the anxiety that often permeates our day-to-day activities. One solution that doesn’t seem to be discussed much: focus on being grateful.

It may sound corny, but it’s something that is often lost in our lives. We complain about the stress of our job, but we forget how far we’ve progressed in our career over the last few years. We opt to complain about our long commute instead of being grateful that we can afford a nice car. We complain about coworkers’ quirks instead of focusing on the ways they help the company. The list goes on. When we give into our tendency to complain, our brain automatically starts to pick up on other issues to complain about, creating a snowball of negative thoughts that can quickly ruin a work day.

The idea is simple, but in a world filled with professionals grasping for some semblance of balance in their lives, it certainly can’t hurt. As with everything, there’s research proving the merits of practicing gratitude, but at the end of the day, it’s simply a trait our parents and grandparents tried to instill in us for a very good reason: it makes us happier.

For some, this practice may involve literally writing down a list of things for which you’re thankful every day. However, for most of us, it probably just means being more self-aware and adjusting the lens through which we’re viewing our day. When a certain project is getting under your skin, stop and think about it as an opportunity others in the company didn’t receive.

Gratitude can improve your outlook on a personal level, but think about what your workplace would look like if it was a trait more actively practiced by the leadership in your company. A boss who not only expresses gratitude to her employees but seems to be grateful for her own career and opportunities creates a corporate culture where people enjoy working and feel a greater sense of team. 

The self-help books are not wrong. Mindfulness, organization, engagement, and everything else touted as a way to make you more productive and happier have their own merits. It takes a long list of traits to make a successful professional. However, when your workload seems overwhelming and happiness seems to only be found on the weekends, that may indicate it’s time to reevaluate the things in your life and career for which you are grateful. I guarantee the list is longer that your busy day lets you think.