What Makes You Feel Grateful? - Issue #331
Practicing gratitude is good for the recipient AND the giver
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If you’re reading this newsletter, you definitely have some reasons to feel grateful. If nothing else, you have access to the internet and a computer or phone.
I’m sure you probably have many more reasons to feel grateful. But I don’t know you, so I can’t go much beyond those assumptions.
I do too, but I sometimes forget how lucky I am and the many wonderful things I have in my life. I should feel gratitude every minute of every day, but instead, I frequently feel like I’m lacking. I’m disappointed in myself, impatient for results, and always wanting something more.
I want my business to grow faster.
I want more subscribers to this newsletter.
I want more podcast listeners.
I want more people in my community.
I want to write more books.
I want everything to progress more quickly and smoothly.
If you’re ambitious and driven, you tend to focus most on what you don’t have and want to achieve. You get frustrated by the gap between reality and your expectations. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “Woe is me” and “Why can’t my life be like…?” thoughts.
It’s ok to be ambitious, push yourself to achieve more extraordinary things, and want more out of your life and career. But, it becomes a problem if you focus too much on your frustrations and end up whining and complaining (even internally). It’s not healthy to dwell on what you don’t have and lose sight of how much you do have and how lucky you really are.
Things could always be worse. Always. And, many, many people have it way worse than you or I do. We sometimes lose sight of that.
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The Power of Gratitude
“A good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moments that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments.”
— Brené Brown
There is power in the expression of gratitude. Research has shown that feeling grateful is associated with:
Greater happiness, joy, and optimism
Better coping skills to defer stress
Improved progress toward personal goals
Increased generosity and empathy
Building and maintaining stronger social relationships
Better physical health, fewer aches and pains, and deeper sleep
Higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, attentiveness, determination, and energy
There are plenty of articles and books (my Amazon affiliate link) on the topic of personal gratitude. For example, this article has several excellent suggestions for expressing gratitude, being more mindful, and even a gratitude challenge.
I don’t think I need to tell you how to show your friends and loved ones that you’re grateful. But, I think we sometimes forget to extend this to the people we work with every day and those we encounter in our professional lives.
How to express gratitude professionally
You might be thinking, “Gratitude is gratitude. I already see a lot of expressions of it in the workplace.” But is it really the type of genuine gratitude that leads to the many benefits I listed above? In my decades of professional experience, I haven’t seen that much of it.
Sure, people will give a cursory “Thank you” when you help them or complete a task. Leaders send an email blast to the entire company — right around this time of the year — to tell everyone they appreciate all of their hard work (but also remind y’all that there’s even more hard work ahead). Your boss might even say, “Well done!” when you complete a project ahead of schedule.
I'm not talking about the lazy leader approach or the knee-jerk “Thanks” from a coworker. I’m talking about a meaningful and personal expression of gratitude for someone that shows you really know them and how they’ve positively impacted your life.
You can begin by making a list of people you would like to acknowledge. For example, you can export your Linkedin connections to capture your professional contacts. Create a spreadsheet using that list as the starting point to have a simple relationship management tool.
Add more names (i.e., people you aren’t connected to on LinkedIn).
Add columns for other relevant info (e.g., who they are, how you met, what they do, what influence they had on your life, etc.).
Add columns to track when you last contacted them and the method of communication (e.g., an email to say, “Thanks”).
Below are the 9 types of people you may want to reconnect with to express your professional gratitude. Doing this will also boost the power of your network and professional relationships. But, more importantly, this act of appreciation is good for both of you!
1. Past educators
Do you have a teacher or professor who made a difference in your life? Have you told them how much they helped you or influenced your career path?
I’m sure they’d love to hear from you! I know it’s probably been quite a few years since you last saw them, but it’s never too late to express gratitude.
For example, I left a “Thank You” note on one professor’s office door a few years ago. He was a terrific educator and guided me in my decision to pursue graduate school. I hadn’t seen him in about 27 years! But, it felt good to acknowledge him and let him know how much it meant to me.
2. Past bosses
Think back to your bosses and managers who played a part in your achievements and professional growth. Take a moment to write down some thoughts about how they helped you and how much you appreciate that.
Then, let them know. You could tell them in person (e.g., if you still see them around), send an email, or mail a physical thank-you note.
I can count on one hand the leaders I’ve worked for who really made a positive difference in my life. I sent a message to one person to let them know how much I appreciated what they did for me, even though it had been ~20 years ago. Guess what? They were happy to hear from me, and it made their day.
3. Past colleagues
Similarly, I’m sure there are some fantastic colleagues and coworkers from your past too. You probably enjoyed working with a few people and remember them fondly. Well, it’s time to let them know.
I know we sometimes feel too shy to express gratitude in person. It becomes more comfortable with time and distance.
But, take the time to do it. People always appreciate the gesture.
4. Past employees
Even if someone no longer works for you, you can still tell them that you appreciate what they did for you and the team. Expressing gratitude to an employee doesn’t stop when their employment with you ends.
Most of us work in small industries, and our paths cross again. If you enjoyed working with someone, let them know. It’s even easier when they’re no longer on your team since you can be completely open about it (e.g., no worries about playing favorites with your current employees).
5. Current leaders
It is undoubtedly a bit more challenging to express genuine gratitude to your current manager or more senior leaders in your organization. You do not want to look like you’re “kissing up” and trying to curry favor.
You should only do this if you genuinely mean it and have specific examples of what you appreciate about them. In some ways, you can look at this as “coaching” your boss. You’re providing positive feedback and letting them know that something they’ve done is noticed and valued.
As a leader, I can tell you that it’s rare for an employee to sincerely thank you for the role you play. Insincere flattery happens all too often, and it gets old. Genuine gratitude is always appreciated when it comes with positive feedback that can help guide you in your leadership development. We already get enough negative feedback. 🤣
6. Current employees
Again, it’s more challenging to express genuine gratitude to your current employees. But, you can think of this almost like a performance review with only the positive feedback element.
Do not take this time to add “areas for improvement”! Save that for the official performance review.
Be very specific about why you are grateful for each employee in a 1-on-1 conversation or message. Don’t do the lazy email blast to the entire team (e.g., “Thank you all for your amazing effort this quarter!”). Share examples of things the employee has done that make you glad that they are on your team.
7. Current colleagues
It’s a little easier to express gratitude to your current colleagues than to your boss and employees. It’s not as tricky to navigate.
Think about the coworkers you enjoy working with and value. It can be people in your same organization, of course, but don’t forget people in other orgs who have supported you.
For example, I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing people in HR, recruiting, PR, marketing, legal, community, sales, etc. Work is stressful and demanding! People love hearing that they’ve made a difference and that you appreciate them.
8. Advisors, mentors, and coaches
It may seem obvious that you should also take time to thank any advisors, mentors, and coaches who have guided you during your career. But, you’d be surprised by the number of mentees that never bother to express gratitude.
Some people forget that advisors and mentors are often taking time out of their busy schedules to help others for free. They are doing you a huge favor!
So, if you’ve been fortunate enough to have someone play this role for you, it makes sense to let them know how much you appreciate them. Just send a quick message along the lines of, “Hi, I don’t know if I’ve ever fully expressed how grateful I am for your mentoring. Thank you for taking the time to give me feedback and help guide me in my career decisions. I appreciate your help!”
9. Friends in your professional community
Finally, I hope you have friends you appreciate in your professional life. I have what I would call my “inner circle” of trusted people who are my confidants. Everyone needs people they can turn to for advice, feedback, and even a little sympathy.
Work can be rough at times. So, it’s helpful to have friends in your profession and industry who “get it” and can commiserate from time to time.
Let them know that you are grateful for their friendship and appreciate them. Hopefully, they already kind of know this, but everyone enjoys being appreciated.
Expressing my gratitude
“I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
— Brené Brown
Writing this article allowed me to reflect on what I’m grateful for in my life. I needed this exercise just as much as anyone else.
I’ve been feeling down more than usual lately. More frustrated, irritated, and stressed. So, I took a few minutes and captured my thoughts on gratitude and the good things in my life.
Here is what came to mind:
I’m grateful to you. Thank you for making time in your schedule to read my newsletter and listen to my podcast. I know you have a busy life, so I want you to know that I appreciate you giving me some of your valuable attention.
I’m grateful to my premium subscribers and clients. You are why I created this business, and I hope to keep serving you for many more years to come. Your patronage makes it possible for me to write, record the podcast, and build my coaching practice.
I’m grateful to my loving wife.
I’m grateful for my amazing children.
I’m grateful for my health.
I’m grateful that I’m able to work and provide for my family.
I’m grateful that I created a business I love that allows me to work remotely.
I’m grateful to my loving parents, who raised me to be independent. They also showed me how to be a good father through their actions.
I’m grateful for the friends who have stuck by my side as my life and career have changed over the years.
Thank you, again, for reading my newsletter and articles. I appreciate you.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration and can take some time to relax with your friends and family. Enjoy!
⬆️ Scroll to the top if you want to listen to my more detailed discussion of this article. 🎧
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Larry Cornett is a leadership coach and business advisor who hosts a private mastermind community for ambitious professionals with weekly challenges, office hours, and 24x7 support. If you’re interested in starting your own business or side hustle someday (or accelerating an existing one), check out his “Employee to Solopreneur” course (launching in 2022).
Larry lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice to help others take complete control of their work and life. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.