The Power of Gratitude
Written by Allie Pheiff
Imagine this: it’s 6 a.m. on Monday morning, and a small glimpse of light shines through your bedroom window; a specific segment in time we as humans seem to know all too well. Just like the back of our hand, favorite T-shirt, or our mother’s laugh, it’s familiar. Although many of us associate this moment with the beginning of another routine work week, the universe challenges us to look at this small part of our day as something much bigger. Each day we wake up, we’re granted opportunity—the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to grow and, most importantly, the opportunity to give. We learn through lessons, we grow in grace and, above all, we give (and receive) by practicing gratitude.
How do we put gratitude into action, and how do we do so intentionally? Melody Beattie once said, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” In a world where we are surrounded by so much noise, gratitude is the remedy to attain our personal peace. It connects our pasts to our futures, generates answers to our questions and turns what we have into enough—and more.
As a twenty- or thirty-something in today’s world, it often seems we have a million and one things going on at all times. Whether it’s a coffee stain on a crisp white blouse before a big meeting, running late to work and getting stuck behind a car going 20 in a 60, or convincing yourself to get up out of bed to wash your face at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, things are happening. And if we’re being honest, the timing is never totally perfect.
Gratitude brings balance to the timing of our lives. The balance can be divided among five areas: career, emotional, health, personality and social. Although this sense of equilibrium is something we've heard, it is not always something we believe we can easily accomplish. Gratitude allows us to cross this bridge with intention, even on the days when our to-do list is two pages long.
It’s no secret there are a myriad events throughout the work day that challenge us to keep our cool. Remaining calm in the midst of daily challenges is the key to habitual gratitude. Why should anyone thank you for merely doing your job? (And why should you ever thank your coworkers for doing what they are paid to do?) The answer is simple: Gratitude, in its rawest form, is a non-monetary way to encourage our non-monetary goals. Whether it’s a “thank you” from your boss or a “thank you” to a janitor, expressing gratitude is something that can and should be done at all levels. This practice establishes a deeper meaning beyond the surface of a workplace culture, improving overall morale, allowing individuals to better handle stress and generating a cycle of positivity to which we can all contribute.
When life gets tough, the comfortable thing to do is let our emotions get the best of us. It’s not until we take a step back that we are able to put things in perspective. Handling situations with grace is a key attribute of those who practice gratitude. Imagine this: It’s Monday, your coffee order is incorrectly made at Starbucks and you’re already running 20 minutes late for work. For each unfortunate circumstance life throws our way, we’re simultaneously given two choices: react with anger or step back with patience. Walking away from this situation having lost our temper can leave us feeling empty, isolated and guilty for our actions. While it may have been a temporary internal fix in the heat of the moment, it’s this human desire for instant gratification that can lead us to make volatile impulse decisions. Gratitude makes patience the more comfortable option, bringing about resilience, relaxation and lasting good feelings to carry with ourselves (and the barista) for the rest of the day.
There are two times in the day we’re given the unique opportunity to silently reflect: first thing in the morning and the moments before we go to bed. During these periods, we can choose to stress about what we didn’t get done at work, the errands we didn’t have time to run last weekend or why we can’t lose those last five pounds. The alternative is using this time to give gratitude for all the silver linings of our past, our present and our future days. When we focus our minds on the few things we have to be grateful for that day—a compliment from a coworker, a smile from a stranger or simply having our health and our family—the result is extraordinary. We lessen stress levels, induce relaxation and train our minds to be centered on fostering only the good in life.
It’s always interesting when friends or family are asked to describe you. “Upbeat, hard-working, laughter-loving” are some of the ones I’ve gotten before; all characteristics I see in myself. But when we live life blinded by certain negative personality traits, we may be surprised by how those around us may perceive us. For example, one of my vices growing up was impatience. While this is a direct result of my inherent detail-oriented, Type-A personality, I know this can only be kept in check through gratitude. As I’ve grown and matured in my career, myself and my relationships over the years, I have come to understand how vital patience is to a daily routine. Utilizing gratitude to remain patient with both oneself and others is achieved through a “more and less” strategy—more optimistic, more spiritual; less self-centered, less materialistic.
Gratitude requires us to have a sense of humility—a trait defined as being “respectful and modest.” In order to be gracious, one must also be selfless. Living in a world driven by social media and the quest for the next best thing, attaining this mindset is not always simple. In a time where instant gratification is the norm, we scroll through limitless channels and apps, gaining insight into what others are doing, what they have and where they are going. As a result, our natural human instinct is to compare our current state to that of those around us. Rather than reflect on what we don’t have, gratitude allows us to be thankful for what we do have. Social gains are not made possible by material or superficial characteristics, but rather by how we cultivate our inner being on a daily basis. When we base our intentions on gratitude, we are able to radiate from “within” rather than from “without.”
Ultimately, gratitude is a choice. A choice to be a kind, a choice to be patient—and most importantly, a choice to be happy. As we live out our personal “hustle” each day—at work, at home and with ourselves—we are not defined by what we receive, but rather by what we give. As Denis Waitley once said: “Happiness cannot be traveled to, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” And at the end of the day, if happiness is our destination, gratitude is our journey.
Allie works in the fashion retail industry as an Assistant Buyer at Stein Mart Corporate Headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. She's an avid coffee-lover, to-do list maker, and believer in laughter as the best medicine. Keep up with her on instagram @alliepheiff.