The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been noted in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness in creating the positive attitude required to achieve personal success in both life and career.  But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. Too many of us are programmed to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. For gratitude to meet its full potential, it needs to become more than just a word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, and make it a habit.

Practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we develop a positive image that projects to others.

Gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored.  It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention.  Pain and injustice exist in this world but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a sense of well-being.  Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.  Hope is essential to sustaining a successful career, gaining and achieving our overall goals.

As an example:  I have a friend who has cultivated the ability to find the good in everything.  While we were stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, I was choking with frustration.  Instead of ranting and raving (I was doing enough for both of us.) he thanked God that he had a car in which to get stuck.

That kind of gratitude requires practice every day.  The benefits however, far outweigh the effort.  Gratitude makes us stronger.  It reinforces the positive attitude we need when our career goals are frustrated.  It empowers us and creates a network of true supporters who recognize that we have the rare attribute of true appreciation.

Here are a few suggestions to help you harness the power of gratitude.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. List the things for which you are thankful and add to it every day. To establish a new attitude, you have to make it  a new habit.  Keeping a journal will remind you daily of all the things for which you are grateful. When you’re really discouraged by your career advancement, your gratitude list is a great tool for reframing your attitude of defeat to one of appreciation.
  • Make the time to express appreciation to others when they offer support, insight or connections that will open doors to your targeted career or industry.  Expressing appreciation for other’s contributions will deepen relationships with contacts and potential champions for your candidacy for jobs or promotions.
  • Practice gratitude with all you meet.  Remember the words of Blanche DuBois:  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Well, that’s all well and good, but the kindness of others will eventually evaporate if it’s not appreciated.  Remember, kindness is its own reward.  When it’s used for personal gain, its effectiveness is greatly reduced.
  • Make a practice of finding the hidden blessing in every challenging situation.  Even a penny is a blessing that many of us throw away.  Remember the phrase “pennies from heaven”?  Each time you find a penny, make note of the words “In God We Trust”.  However you define “God”, blessings abound when you learn to accept them gratefully.
  • Notice how gratitude improves your life. You may be out of a job, your mortgage may be foreclosed or you may encounter barriers to your progress.  None of these occurrences diminishes the essence of who you are.  Eliminate envy of others’ success from your life.  You’ll be rewarded with improved self-esteem and increased serenity.

The best thing about gratitude is that as you practice it, an inner shift occurs.  You begin to see your world from a new perspective and discover the richness of your life.  As you practice an attitude of gratitude everything just gets better.  Try it and let me know how it works.

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Copyright 2010 – Dumont Gerken Owen, Ph.D.  All Rights Reserved.

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