According to a recent New York Times story, dissatisfaction is rampant among working Americans today.
Maybe you can relate.
When we are restless and unhappy at work, we actually don’t do our jobs as well, researchers have found.
Here’s the hope, though. Although dissatisfaction breeds a lack of focus and productivity, the opposite is also true. Happiness — and far more importantly, gratitude — breed productivity and fruit in our work.
As in other spheres of life, gratitude does not always come naturally or easily.
When circumstances are frustrating, our bodies are tired, or wading through conflict feels defeating, practicing gratitude helps us focus on God’s truth and remember his presence with us in the mundane.
When happiness isn’t natural, joy is our choice. And work gives us this choice on a daily basis.
What is one thing you can do to start noticing and recording the parts of your daily work that you’re grateful for?
Whatever your method, I believe incorporating a gratitude practice into your daily work will produce something new in you.
Productivity, maybe. Joy, definitely.
Gratitude Through Story
As followers of Christ, we believe that our words have weight (Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 15:4). They have the power to build up, to influence and to alter perspective. You have an opportunity to express gratitude for your job, your network, your coworkers, your daily tasks, and your sphere of influence through your words.
Craft your elevator pitch. In business classes and networking events, you have probably been asked to give an “elevator speech” — a summary of your job that’s short enough that it could be shared with a stranger in the time it takes you to ride the elevator. Use these short conversations to express gratitude for your work.
When someone asks you, “what do you do?”, lead with the good. Describe the opportunities you have, the people you work with, how your work helps others, or whatever else has been a blessing to you in this season. Speaking this gratitude aloud will take root in your attitude and serve as a reminder to focus on the good things God is up to.
Celebrate wins for yourself. When good things happen in your day, share them with your spouse, friends, coworker or even your pet. Voice your celebrations, no matter how small.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Celebrate wins for others. I have a friend who is a brilliant architect and engineer, and he is in a leadership role with a team of fellow architects. After reflection, he realized that celebrating success was not a regular part of their company rhythm. They would conclude a project and quickly move on to the next thing. Out of his belief that God was calling him to rest and celebrate, he lead his team in instituting small celebrations at the end of projects.
I believe that celebrations like these remind us of the satisfaction of hard work and tune us in to the work God is doing through us. In celebrating, we can see the way that God is using people to bring life, foster creativity, help systems and smooth conflicts.
Track when people give you praise and feedback. If you have regular reviews with your manager, or even staff retreats or evaluations, use these work milestones as opportunities to record benchmarks of God at work. As you reflect on your own accomplishments and learnings, write down the ways that God has been faithful and helped you grow.
Several managers I’ve had in my career have spoken into my life in critical ways, and invited me into a posture of gratitude. As they have called out my gifts and weaknesses, I come away challenged to see both healthy and unhealthy patterns, and adjust my course for the better. Having affirmation and encouragement from team members helps me feel appreciated and grateful for the chance to be in a learning environment
Even if your day-to-day work feels mundane, trust that God is using each moment to shape you and show you who he is. Gratitude can take you to that space.
Gratitude Through Liturgy
In my church family, we are liturgy people — in other words, we are people who believe in and practice ancient rhythms of faith to help our hearts and souls remember what’s true about God and what’s true about us. In church tradition, liturgy can be defined as ritual, sacrament or practice. It’s the rhythm by which we live, work and worship.
As a church, we pray and say some of the same things every week during worship, believing that what we say with our mouths will take root in our hearts and affect our actions.
I think this is true of gratitude. There are some natural work rhythms — or liturgies — that may be natural opportunities to incorporate gratitude.
Use your commute. I have a friend who says something she’s grateful for each time she passes a stop sign. I love that. When you’re in the car or on public transit, write or say aloud the things you’re grateful for. Pray for areas of conflict and pray for the people you will encounter during your work day. Thank God for the ways he has provided and protected you.
Set reminders. Whether it’s a calendar reminder on your phone, a desktop wallpaper, or framed sign beside your computer, give yourself visual reminders of what you are grateful for, or to remember to pray and thank God for what he’s doing.
Write it down. Although my boss and coworkers poke fun at the fact that I still use a paper planner every day, I like the tangible feel of old school pen and paper, and it helps me in my gratitude practice. My planner ends up being a splash page of not only appointments, to-dos, projects and coffee dates, but also quotes, verses and reminders.
I go to those pages to remember not only what’s necessary, but also what’s true.
In the far corner of each weekday in my planner is a box titled “daily gratitude,” where I scribble things I am grateful for each day. It’s a practice that has helped me to remember God’s provision in my life, and to refresh my attitude when I am frustrated or overwhelmed.
Gratitude Through Opportunity
Seek mentors. In one of my previous jobs at a large company, I often felt like a small fish in a huge pond, caught in the system of projects with few personal connections. I quickly learned that I could reach out to senior staff in my office and other offices to do informational interviews and ask for their advice. I set up conference calls and coffee dates to pick their brains, and I asked each of them what they loved about our work and industry. Hearing what they were grateful for after so many years of service made me grateful to be a part of a bigger system and legacy of work. This helped me articulate my own passions even more clearly, and set goals around the work I wanted to do.
Seek perspective. Last year, I was part of a fellowship of young professionals that met weekly to share stories about our work and encourage each other in our faith and giftings. Sharing and hearing the daily tasks, struggles and celebrations of people outside my profession helped me gain perspective. I realized how much we were alike, and how we could learn from our differences.
Seek play. Make time for rest and play outside of work so you’re able to come to your tasks with appreciation and a rested mind and body.
“In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
As people following the way of Jesus, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us see our life and work through a lens of hope and gratitude. We have the choice to see God in places that are ordinary and unexpected.
In our daily work, may we choose rhythms of recording where we see God working, even and especially in the difficult and the mundane.
When it isn’t natural, may joy be our choice.