Last week, I had a meeting with a very high level executive in New York. It was an informational interview to help me learn more about her industry and honestly as a way to expand my network to the C Suite. I fully expected to get a cancellation notice the evening before, given her busy schedule and that she really didn't know me at all.
Instead, she kept the appointment, bought me breakfast and we spent almost two hours together talking about her company and ways she could help me.
When I got home, I started to write the perfunctory thank you note and then changed my mind and sent flowers. Two hours out of her day for a meeting with a relative stranger and a willingness to make more introductions meant a lot to me and I wanted her to know that.
She called me the next day to thank me and told me how it just made her day. She also shared that she gets about 15-20 emails a week from friends, colleagues and strangers asking for introductions, job opportunities etc. and does her best to help who she can. Sometimes she gets thank you emails, sometimes not. It reminded both of us how the simple courtesy of showing gratitude has begun to disappear.
It's so easy to "like" a post on Facebook or "favorite" a tweet on Twitter, but when it comes to pausing long enough to say thank you offline, we too often let the moment pass us by. The results can be damaging to us in our careers and in fostering good relationships at work and in our personal life.
There is a field of study called Positive Psychology. Some of the latest developments in that field are moving towards finding a path to "well being" as opposed to being on a quest for "happiness."
Part of the behavior change that is recommended is to keep a Gratitude Journal. At the end of each day, stop and write three things that went well that day. It doesn't have to be monumental, i.e. I got a raise or my boss told me my I was doing a great job. Instead, it can be simple things such as the weather was beautiful, there was a baby on the train this morning and it made me smile. The thinking is that when you make the conscious act of being grateful it begins to change how your brain functions. This growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
In a landmark study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2003, Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davisand University of Miami and psychologist Michael McCullough showed that counting blessings can actually make people feel better.
The researchers randomly divided more than 100 undergraduates into three groups.
- One group was asked to list five things they were grateful for during the past week for 10 consecutive weeks.
- The second group listed five things that annoyed them each week.
- The third group simply listed five events that had occurred.
- They also completed detailed questionnaires about their physical and mental health before, during and after
Those who listed blessings each week had fewer health complaints, exercised more regularly and felt better about their lives in general than the other two groups.
Some Days Are Tough
We recognize that there are days when it is difficult to just keep your head above water much less show gratitude for something or someone. The workplace can be demanding and everyone is running as fast as they can, so it's easy to lose sight of expressing appreciation.
You don't have to wait for the perfect moment and most of the times simple is best. An appreciative email, a handwritten note or just a simple "thank you so much" can go a long way in fostering great relationships but also in making you a happier person as well.
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