2 Ways To Practice The One Thing Guaranteed To Improve Your Career

Every year around my birthday, I ask myself the big questions: Am I happy and fulfilled? Am I where I thought I’d be? What do I want to accomplish over the next year?

This practice forces me to slow down and take stock of all the good people and things in my life and appreciate future possibilities. In other words, it’s about being grateful.

And while this birthday tradition is wonderful, research suggests that for maximum benefit, practicing gratitude shouldn’t be limited to an annual event; we should incorporate it into our lives on a regular basis.

Science tells us that gratitude has many benefits:

  • A greater sense of well-being
  • Improved sleep, optimism, and physical health
  • Decreased aggression
  • Enhanced self-esteem, resilience, and empathy

Even better? Practicing gratitude has a positive umbrella effect on those around us.

Dr. David Hamilton, the author of Why Kindness is Good for You, says that when we use our awareness of others and all the good in our collective worlds, “we acknowledge the people and situations in our lives and express thanks for them.” Doing so improves our relationships and communication with others, helping them feel connected and appreciated. And then those initial recipients of our gratitude express and model their gratitude to another wave of people.

It’s a virtuous cycle worth repeating with your colleagues, partners, and clients and a fantastic way to improve your career.

So, how can you make practicing gratitude a daily habit? Here are two ways:

1. Be more self-compassionate.

Most of us speak and treat others far better than we do ourselves; we could use a little more self-compassion in our lives. One way to do that is to begin keeping a gratitude journal, writing down two to three “gifts” you receive daily. These might include your treasured cup of morning coffee, the kind person who allowed you to jump ahead of them in the grocery checkout line, or unexpected praise you received from a client on a job well done. Then, when it seems the world is against you, grab your journal and peruse the pages for a quick mindset reset.

Also, consider incorporating meditation into your morning or evening routine. This need not be complicated or lengthy; taking even just a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on a blessing in your life can be beneficial. Neurological research shows that being grateful floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter and feel-good drug that enables us not only to see and take pleasure in rewards but also to take action to move toward them.

We become more positive and tolerant when we begin appreciating the little things, helping us move away from forming grudges to become happier and more content.

2. Look for opportunities to spread gratitude in the workplace.

There are numerous ways to express gratitude to others. For example, try penning a handwritten note to thank a mentor who’s had a meaningful and positive impact in your life, giving verbal props at a team meeting to a colleague for the way she handled a tricky situation, or calling a client to check in and thank him for his business.

The key to helping make your gratitude meaningful to others, according to this article, is to ensure that your actions align with three criteria:

  1. Is it frequent? Being grateful once a year doesn’t cut it; gratitude is a daily effort.
  2. Is it genuine? People can smell fake gratitude and ego puffery a mile away. Being grateful isn’t about scoring points; it’s about strengthening relationships. Be sincere with your gratitude.
  3. Is it specific? Saying “thank you” to someone means so much more when accompanied by specificity. When you take an extra step and include exactly what you’re thankful for, the receiver better understands why their actions incited gratitude—and is more likely to replicate them in the future.

By making gratitude a daily practice, you’ll not only improve your career; you’ll enhance your life.