Regardless of your race, religion or personal credo, I believe it’s important to use the holiday season as an opportunity to be thankful for all the different blessings in our lives.
No matter how much we may struggle from time to time, we’re all blessed in one way or another – whether due to the skills and aptitudes we’re fortunate to have been granted, the support we receive from our loved ones or the simple fact that living in a country like the United States means that we’re free to pursue our hopes and dreams without the imminent threat of war, famine or extreme poverty.
But, as the saying goes, “silent gratitude helps nobody.” Letting the people in our lives know how thankful we are for their support doesn’t just help everybody to feel good – it’s also an important part of strengthening the relationships we’ll continue to rely on throughout our lives.
When we take the time to say thank you for something – no matter how small – we pull the people in our lives closer to us. As these bonds form, we’re more likely to remember those who have thanked us for our efforts and more likely to seek out future opportunities to connect, based on this mutual appreciation.
If that sounds a little selfish, know that that’s not my intention. I’m certainly not saying that you should practice gratitude with the sole intention of getting what you want or securing future favors from the people in your life.
That said, it’s impossible to deny the potential for financial benefit that exists when gratitude is freely expressed. Telling a boss that you appreciate the effort he’s put into mentoring you may put you in line for an earlier promotion than a colleague who’s perceived as being ungrateful. Similarly, treating the customer service workers you encounter throughout your daily errands with gratitude and appreciate can get you plenty of extra perks – simply because you’re a more pleasant customer than the jerks these workers frequently encounter.
But even though practicing gratitude is a “win-win” situation for most people, the hardest part is just getting started! If you aren’t accustomed to expressing your thanks on a regular basis, try any of the following different opportunities for practicing gratitude within your life:
- Recognize the business mentors who have helped you get where you are in your career. A handwritten thank you card, a personal email or even a small gift can help to express your gratitude for the people who have contributed to your professional success in some way, as well as ensure that these relationships continue to be strong in the future.
- Say thank you to your friends and family members for supporting you in both your personal and professional endeavors. Too often, we assume that these people understand how much we care about them – even as we recognize in our own lives that it’s nice to hear these sentiments expressed explicitly from time to time.
- Tell customer service workers who go above and beyond to help you resolve issues how much you appreciate their efforts. Working with the public is incredibly challenging, which makes “stand out” service all the more rare. When you see exceptional work happening, be sure to recognize it with an appropriate thank you.
- Send cards to former teachers or other educators who played a positive role in your formative years. Many successful people can point to a single teacher who inspired a life-long love of some specific topic, yet many of these same people express this gratitude to everyone but the teacher himself. Remember – these great mentors won’t be around forever, so take the time to recognize their impact on your life while they’re still around!
- Donate your time to organizations that have supported you or your family in the past. Anyone can send in a check, but what many charities actually need is support in the form of working hours. If you have the time and have a particular cause that’s near and dear to your heart for any reason, actively contributing to the organization’s success through the use of your time can be an incredibly rewarding way to practice more gratitude in your life.
Really, it doesn’t matter what you do – just that you recognize those who have helped you to become the person you are today in a way that’s meaningful for everyone involved. While the potential for personal benefit through the practice of gratitude exists, this shouldn’t be your primary purpose. Taking the time to say thank you to the people in your life who deserve it is often rewarding in and of itself!
With this in mind, how do you intend to practice gratitude as we roll into the New Year? Who in your life deserves a thank you for the impact he or she has had on your life? Share your thoughts in the comments section below: