The Power of Gratitude
In this short, readable book the author John Kralik tells the story of how he turned his life around by focusing his attention on what he had of value in his life rather than on what was missing. In Kralik’s case that was no hypothetical shift—a middle-aged, overweight divorcé, estranged from his older children, on the point of loosing his current girlfriend and possibly his business too, he felt things had come to such a point that he needed to make major changes in his life. Inspired by a thank-you note that he received himself he decided to spend the year writing at least one thank you letter a day to cover all the things in his life he could feel grateful for. The book tells the story of how this process did in fact change his life.
My favourite story concerns Scott, the guy who serves the author in his local Starbucks. Not only does Scott remember how Kralik likes his coffee but he greets him everyday by name in a genuine and friendly way. When Kralik delivers his thank you note, Scott assumes it is a complaint letter and is momentarily dismayed only to be delighted on realizing his has received appreciation and gratitude instead.
It made me more aware of how I interact with the ‘routine’ people in my life—cab drivers, waitresses, shop assistants—all the people it can be so easy to glaze over while my attention is focused elsewhere. Just because we are paid to do a job, or offer a service it does not mean that we no longer need to feel appreciated for what we do. Like Kralik, I also quickly saw how much better I feel in taking the time to properly acknowledge the services I receive.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky details research her department of psychology in the University of California has carried out on the power of gratitude. Subjects are required to keep a ‘gratitude’ journal every Sunday for six weeks in which they record five things that they could feel grateful for during the previous week. Their levels of happiness and well-being were found to have increased as a result.
At work it is all too easy to take our colleagues for granted, or to feel unappreciated ourselves. Lyubomirsky points out that, among other things, gratitude helps us appreciate what we have rather than yearn for what we do not have and so increases our sense of self-worth and self-esteem. When we see how much we have to be grateful for it increases our confidence and helps us to unlearn the habit of over-focusing on our weaknesses and failures. So, a work team that is able to share appreciation for each other’s work and gratitude for each individual’s contribution has to be a healthier, stronger and more effective operating force. Take a look at Kralik’s book if you need convincing.