What my grandfather taught me about gratitude
To commemorate World Gratitude Day this Saturday, I decided to look back on the many role models in my life and career to understand who embraced a sense of gratitude. The answer came to me within seconds – my grandfather.
My grandfather was a real estate agent and leader who eventually owned his own business. He loved what he did and faced each day with an innate sense of joy. He lived near me when I was a teenager, so I was able to watch him in action at work.
My grandfather always had a calm and positive presence when he interacted with his real estate clients; nothing could rattle him. He lived each moment with a sincere gratitude for the life and career he had been given. Even when my aunt (his daughter) became very sick, he approached the situation with acceptance and gratitude for the time we had with her.
When real estate deals went south, I never saw him get stressed. Instead, he would express appreciation to his staff for all of their work. On Fridays, he would bring out his liquor cart and laugh and enjoy the presence of his entire team after the office closed. He considered his colleagues to be part of his family. He led his real estate office with inspiration and positivity. The relationships he formed there lasted until he passed away.
According to Psychology Today, “gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation: for all we’ve received, all that we have (however little it may be), and for all that has not befallen us.”
Someone who expresses gratitude can always see the positive even in the most adverse situations. As I write this, I remember my grandfather sitting with his partner at work when they were struggling with the finances of the business, expressing positivity and hope.
Gratitude changes your focus from the stress of day-to-day challenges to a heightened awareness of the bigger picture. My grandfather showed appreciation for each win, always tying his appreciation to the ultimate goal of helping clients find their dream home.
Studies link gratitude at work to positive emotions, reduced stress, and higher job satisfaction.
While expressing gratitude to colleagues might feel awkward, the research shows that building cultures of gratitude and appreciation can lead to deeper connections at work. An NIH study found that gratitude propels the brain into a continuous cycle of positive thoughts and actions. The more we do it, the more we want to do it.
When gratitude has a social component – where others can see recognition and add their congratulations – it can accelerate these benefits. We call this the “witness effect.” For example, at one of his Friday afternoon staff meetings, my grandfather recognized one of the administrators in his office. He shared a detailed story with everyone as part of the recognition moment and everyone celebrated her that afternoon.
I now appreciate the power gratitude had over my grandfather’s life and career. It gave him a sense of contentment, presence, and satisfaction. It also enabled him to build relationships with everyone he met – I remember him bringing food to the home of a staff member who was ill.
When you live with a sense of gratitude, it can transform your life to one of happiness and joy. When you work with a sense of gratitude, it can change cultures, productivity, engagement, and organizations.
Gratitude is not a moment. Instead, it is a lens by which we can work and live.
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