Thanksgiving is a beloved American holiday abounding with tradition. As you’re enveloped with feelings of warmth and community, however, one unfamiliar with the holiday might ask, “Is thanksgiving (with a lower case ‘t’) reserved for one special holiday alone? Should there be just one day to celebrate an act needed 365 days of the year?”
Reflecting on the spirit of the season, as New York Times contributing writer Arthur C. Brooks recently did in this op-ed, always makes me thoughtful about what it means to be thankful. The first thing to run through my mind is this:
“Am I being authentic with my gratitude? Is it right to celebrate thanksgiving if I don’t feel thankful?”
Brooks flipped the script by saying, “Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.”
And that’s certainly true – both on Thanksgiving and on a scorching summer day. If practicing gratitude makes the holiday only more festive and the sentiments more real, a certain mindset is needed to let thankful actions translate into sincere gratefulness, felt deeply and shared abundantly.
But what’s the secret sauce to choosing gratitude? And how can it impact our day-to-day routine in the office? Here are a few tips from the article to let Thanksgiving sentiments spill over into the rest of your days:
- Work from the inside out. Privately giving thanks (“interior gratitude”) prompts sincere outward expressions. Make a mental note before activities as ordinary as staff meetings to run through the things you’re grateful for to alter the way you approach routine activities.
- Write lists of thanksgiving. Writing down reasons to be grateful throughout the year can make a big impact on general satisfaction, according to this 2003 study Brooks cited. The act of regularly writing things down can do a great deal in making you conscious and sparking positivity, regardless of whether the object of gratitude is big or small.
- Regularly express gratitude. Citing Martin Seligman, Brooks notes that “exterior gratitude” requires discipline. “Make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.” Sounds simple, right? But in the midst of the constant grind, make a commitment this holiday to doing it, even if a reminder in Outlook is needed, at first.
- Say “thanks for the critique” – and mean it. Brooks references a moment where he received mail from a reader that stated, “You are a fraud,” among other arguments against his writing. Despite the critique, he honored the fact that the correspondent cared enough to share input, giving of a very limited resource: time. Thinking of feedback this way can help expand your perspective on growth areas and change the way you view critique, constructive or otherwise.
- Make use of the useless. The big things – career, relationships, health – are first pointed to when listing thanks. “But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little insignificant trifles,” says Brooks. Can you be grateful for “spots on a trout?” – that, I can’t say for certain. But collecting “small wins” as the famous Harvard Business Review article shares, can do a great deal for positive perceptions of self-efficacy and productivity in the workplace while building true gratitude in your personal life, as well. Collect those as you would awards or top tier media coverage. They’ll add up to job satisfaction and a great deal of thankfulness.
Practicing gratitude is an important component of work as a PR professional. Valuing the time of colleagues and clients while balancing a personal life can seem like a full-on Barnum & Bailey juggling act at times. Putting client stewardship at the center means a commitment to gratitude daily – for the ideas of others, joint partnerships in strategy, lessons learned and time devoted to making things happen.
My challenge to you is to give thanks this week with the intent to continue long after the holiday festivities wear off, incorporating a few new tricks to your workday now as habits for the rest of the year ahead and beyond.