Gratitude

Last week Americans celebrated their Thanksgiving. Across the country, people were eating, drinking, watching American football, and hopefully, taking stock of everything they are grateful for. Gratitude however does not need to be restricted to one day in November (or October if you are Canadian!). The idea of being grateful can enhance your worklife and personal life every day.

The wife of a friend of mine suggested this summer that they keep a notebook of all the things they appreciate about each other on a daily basis. Every night before they go to bed, Joe and Mary take turns writing 3-5 things that they are grateful to their spouse for. The process only takes about 5 minutes and includes anything from “taking the dog for her nighttime walk” to “supporting me as I pursue my dreams”.

Joe had been initially resistant to the idea thinking that it was going to become boring and repetitive but last time I asked, they still write in the book almost every day and their relationship is stronger than it has ever been. By writing down the little things and big things that they do for each other every day, those things didn’t go unacknowledged.

When Mary spends her Sunday afternoon doing piles of laundry, Joe notes it in the book. When Joe puts gas in Mary’s car so she doesn’t have to stop on her way to work, she writes it in the book. Therefore, Joe and Mary never feel like their efforts are going unnoticed. In addition, these things are always at the forefront of Joe and Mary’s minds. Instead of being frustrated that Mary forgot to turn off the basement light (again), Joe is able to remember all of the good things Mary has done for him.

A few organizations have instituted similar ideas within the workplace. In one company I know of, a supervisor of a tight-knit 20 person team gave them each a small notebook and instructed them to write down any time another member of the team or anybody else they interacted with at work did something that they appreciated.

Unlike Joe and Mary’s notebook, these were not meant to be shared with anybody but were only for the writer. The effect was nonetheless similar. Everything from proof reading a document before it went to the boss to bringing in bagels for the meeting to giving a junior associate credit for a good idea in front of senior management was all recorded in the notebooks.

The team members started noticing the things, big and small, that they did for each other and while, they didn’t share their notebooks, they became much more aware of both acknowledging the good deeds of others and “paying it forward” by doing more good deeds themselves.

How do you acknowledge your gratitude for the people in your life? Could any of your relationships, workplace or otherwise, benefit from a notebook?

2 Comments

  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    As psychologist I practice and recommend to remember not only the inmediate actions, favors or details people has done for us, but also those tthings things that remain unsaid.

    It is sometimes surprising to say thanks to someone for things that had happen long ago, but is a good excersise that reminds people good things that they don’t do anymore because they think that such things passed unnoticed by others.

    I think it is a good system to recognize our good performance levels and a contribution to a healthy environment.

  2. Heriberto
    Good to hear from you.
    And thank you for your comments on the posts. I appreciate your perspective.

    Michael

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