Gratitude is the fifth precept of what I refer to as the Six Pillars of Civility. Introduced over the past month, these principles are what I consider to be the fundamental building blocks of any healthy community.
'Thank you' is one of the first phrases we teach our children. This indicates that culturally, showing gratitude is important to us, in fact this acknowledgement plays an important role in every civil society. If we become numb to gratitude, a domino effect takes place, and civility unravels, leaving awareness, compassion, and humility in its wake.
Gratitude is an emotional state of mind. It is a feeling that requires action. Such action can take the form of thanking someone for an act of kindness. Or it can also be as simple as sitting quietly and experiencing the feeling of appreciation.
Gratitude is not a one-way street to be fully realized. In a previous column, I discussed the importance of “you’re welcome”. This simple phrase completes the exchange with validation and respect.
Unfortunately, entitlement and avarice invade too many of our encounters, and we forget not only our manners, but what it means to take a moment to give thanks, and not to just take whatever we want. We take too much for granted - our health, our access to food and shelter, good friends, a comfortable life style, and the list goes on. I wonder what the world would be like if we took some time every day to be grateful for our many blessings - including life itself.
A local entrepreneur, Adrian Nadeau, feels strongly enough about the importance of expressing gratitude that he offers a daily opportunity (begr8ful.com) to express in writing what we are grateful for. I receive an email every morning reminding me to express my gratitude. Admittedly I start the New Year off diligently writing a short phrase or sentence stating what I am grateful for. It may be something as simple as a good friend, the warmth of sunshine on my face, or a delicious meal. I doubt I am alone in feeling that what I should acknowledge as something to be grateful for needs to be something more significant. This is not the case. In fact it is the very opposite. The very point of this column and this principle is that we need to be grateful for everything – large and small alike.
Although it is difficult, if not impossible at times, even life’s most difficult challenges deserve our gratitude. Without these moments in our lives, we would not grow or develop into responsible community members.
Gratitude is also a critical component in any healthy, sustainable work environment. It is an action that must come from the top down, and it must flow freely, and be encouraged enthusiastically. Gratitude is contagious. When it is expressed with sincerity, it has the amazing power to transform an uninspired business and work place into a productive, profitable one. Gratitude serves as a vital nutrient to everything it touches.
In the highly competitive business environment in which most of us work, praise is often in short supply, but the need is actually tremendous. Employees work far more effectively when they are encouraged through signs of gratitude that the work they are doing is appreciated. Not only does the work need to be acknowledged as ‘a job well done’, the message needs to be delivered every day. Any “boss” who does not take the time to praise his or her workers, colleagues, or even clients is not using the most powerful tool he possesses.
The positive results of gratitude happen every day in our lives. It is up to us to take the moments to express and to receive the benefits of being grateful. Stop and notice what is around you, and see the goodness in the people you meet each day. What you come away with is a feeling of peace, and perhaps the discovery of something new for which to be grateful.