Gratitude Can Lead to Better Work-Life Satisfaction
There is no statute of limitations on gratitude and as we look back on our careers, we realize that we did not do it alone. Recognizing gratitude takes deep reflection because we must think about who we are grateful for, who helped us to get to where we are today, and if we are fortunate, who were the people that provided that in the moment advice, mentoring, training or that coaching that turned out to be a turning point. As I wrapped up a presentation, In French, to executives in Paris, I thought back to the days when I could not make a presentation without being totally nervous, dry mouth and flustered. It was my third boss who recognized that was an issue with me and relentlessly pushed me to make every presentation I could for 12 months. I must say, I wasn’t too happy with him at the time but 15 years later, I called him to say “thank you.” It was a terrific moment for both of us. Gratitude has no statute of limitations.
Here at Shields Meneley Partners, we work with the C-Suite and that means when we coach our clients they are typically reflecting upon at least 30 years of work. Considering the amount of time, we are looking at, there are always peaks and valleys for work and life happiness. As we look at our careers, one of the things we can do is to create a graph and to use that as a tool to measure key inflection points that have occurred during our careers. This is something we do with our clients and even if you are not at the leadership level yet, you can still use this to monitor your career. If you are in mid-career, or towards the beginning of your career, you can draw what you think you would like that trajectory to be. It is never too late to take stock of your career and make important changes. The Y axis, being happiness and success, and the X axis, being time. This is a wonderful exercise because it inspires that deep insight and self-reflection.
An important and exciting effect of this exercise is the executives we coach are able to make deep reflection that is more than a trip down memory lane, rather, their eyes are opened to all of the influential relationships in their lives and gratefulness emerges.
I think the most important part of the graphing exercise is to continually ask “why” there were dramatic ups and/or downs within the mapping. What patterns and parallels emerge? Be honest with yourself and be honest with your coach, even when it is difficult.
When I looked back at my career a few years ago, I found that the peaks related to something I had not really thought of. I would not have been able to make this important self-discovery if not for the training I received while earning my coaching certification from the Hudson Institute of Coaching in Santa Barbara. One of my trainers, who was also a pet minister, pushed me to answer why every three years I had ups and downs on my career chart. (Yes, “pet minister.” Only in California would you see anything like that.) When I really reflected on this question, it had nothing to do with the job I was doing. It had nothing to do with the location or the money I was earning. It had everything to do with the people I was working with. As so often happens with my clients, I reflected further about the people that had an impact on my life and I am so thankful to her for helping me to work through this exercise and for recognizing how fortunate I was to have so many influential people positively impact my career.
If you are mid-career, one of the things I suggest is that you make yourself open to feedback and input for things that are going to help you for the rest of your career. This includes, and perhaps is most important, to be accepting of constructive criticism. This is especially important for high-potential employees. Ask yourself: “Who are the people that can help me?” Once you have identified those people, start to network with them and make sure that you are talking to other people along the way. An exciting and fun exercise is to look up the people on LinkedIn that have the careers and are living the lives you would like to be living in 10 years and learn about them. Maybe even contact them and have a conversation. In this world of social media, that is a permissible thing to do. Just send them an email and have a conversation and learn what you can, as you look at your career ahead of you.
The last point I would like to make is to encourage readers to look at themselves and ask, “What am I doing in my career that is enabling others in their careers?” Part of gratitude is returning the favor and paying it forward. After all, studies have shown that one of the ways to be most happy in your life is to help other people. Take that knowledge that has been bestowed upon you and share it with other people who will benefit. Look for opportunities to share your gratitude with others and you will feel even happier.
Gratitude has no statute of limitations. Pause and take a moment to reflect on someone who helped you along the way . . . and, in today’s world of social media, find him or her, or their family, and thank them. Guaranteed worth the effort!