14 ways to change your life with a gratitude practice

gratitude note

I often describe gratitude as the well-being wonderdrug. It has a positive impact in multiple ways, from greater happiness, to better health, to reduced stress.

As part of my series on learning to love your life at work, I was initially going to dive deeper into the benefits of gratitude. Then I remembered the mother of all gratitude posts, 31 benefits of gratitude. So I decided to link to that and focus on ideas for developing a gratitude practice.

Most of the ideas here can be applied during your work day. I’m including a wider range of ideas because you don’t live in a work silo. The gratitude habit you develop in your whole life is the gratitude habit you will bring to work.

1. Take stock of the obvious

The first step is just to sit down and take stock of what you’re grateful for. Look around at your life in 360 degrees. What jumps out at you as obvious things you feel grateful for? Start making a list.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

At its simplest, a gratitude journal can entail sitting down before bed each night and writing down three to five things you can feel grateful about that day. Try to really feel the gratitude, as opposed to making it just an intellectual exercise.

If you want to go deeper, you might try something like keeping a Positive Journal.

3. Keep an ongoing gratitude list

Start with the initial list you made in your initial taking stock. Over time, keep adding new things to the list. You could even try doing a one (or more) a day challenge, adding at least one new thing to be grateful about every day.

These two posts on my Ripple Revolution blog have some good questions to ask as gratitude prompts:

17 gratitude-prompting questions for your gratitude journal

17 more gratitude-prompting questions

Pull the ever-growing list out on a regular basis and review the entire list, pausing to let yourself feel the gratitude.

4. Create gratitude reminders

Put up gratitude reminders to help you remember to look for things to be grateful for. Maybe you put up sticky notes where you will regularly see them. Maybe you print out the words “Thank You” and put it in a frame. Play with whatever will help keep gratitude awareness top of mind.

5. Take a gratitude walk

Go out for a walk with the intention of noticing things to feel grateful for. That might be a beautiful sunny day, or the way the rainy day is making the grass so vividly green, or the feeling of your legs moving, or the fact that your body works as well as it does. Once you start looking, you might be amazed at how much there is to feel grateful for.

6. Take a gratitude drive

This is similar to a gratitude walk, except you do it in the car. You can use any ol’ time behind the wheel – your commute, running errands, taking the kids to soccer practice – to practice finding things to be grateful for.

7. Have a gratitude meal

If you sit down with family for a meal on a regular basis, try making one of those meals a gratitude meal on a regular basis. Each person in turn can share something they’re grateful about, maybe even why they’re grateful, and what it means to them.

I love the idea of making this a frequent occurrence, especially with kids. The more our minds know they’re going to be called on with a “gratitude quiz,” the more they start to take note throughout the day. Imagine planting those seeds with your kids!

8. Find a gratitude partner

Just like having a workout partner helps you stay committed to going to the gym, having a gratitude partner can help you stay engaged in your gratitude practice. That might look like, for example, a weekly meeting over coffee where each of you share the main gratitude themes you’re noticing in your lives.

9. Use complaints as gratitude triggers

Want to feel more gratitude, but really feel more like an old crankypants? Fear not! You can use your crankitude as a starting point. When you notice yourself kvetching, use that as a signal to shift your focus. “OK, yeah, that’s irritating. Now, what am I grateful for?”

10. Pick a daily gratitude theme

Try giving each day a daily theme. Maybe one day is “people.” Maybe another day is “visual.” Another day might be “learning.” Brainstorm a list of possible themes, pick one, and look for gratitude opportunities in that theme.

11. Keep a gratitude jar

Find a jar or some other container, and cut up some small slips of paper. Every time you notice yourself feeling grateful about something (even small things), write it down on one of those slips and put it in the jar.

Besides giving you a focus for your gratitude (and the kinesthetic reinforcement of writing it down and physically putting it in the jar), as the contents of the jar grows it gives your a gratitude grab bag of sorts. You can reach in and grab a slip at random for a little gratitude reminder.

12. Practice gratitude in bed

I love this one. When you wake up in the morning, before getting out of bed, lie there and do a gratitude check. Then, when you go to bed at the end of the day, do the same thing. It doesn’t need to take long, but it catches your mind at some of the times when it is most receptive.

13. Do a gratitude meditation

If you’re a meditator, explore making gratitude a central focus on a regular basis. That might focusing on one thing you’re grateful for, or on the feeling of gratitude, or even letting your mind go from gratitude point to gratitude point.

14. Download a gratitude app

Do a search for gratitude apps for your smartphone. There are a lot of them out there.

Make it an experiment

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. I encourage you to take these ideas (as well as any others you might come up with), pick something that resonates most, and experiment with it. See how it works. See how you like it, and what effect it has.

From there, you can either continue with it, integrating it more deeply into your habitual mode, or launch another experiment.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
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19 questions to find more meaning in your work

find meaning at work

In this series on making work meaningful, I have explored many facets of how to create a greater sense of meaning in your work. I wrote a lot of words in the process, but in a way it all boils down to three simple words you can use as your guide:

Find the meaning.

Yep. That’s it. Any given workday is packed with opportunities to find the meaning. Sometimes it will be glaringly obvious, like the positive impact your work is having. Other times you’ll need to do a little excavating, finding the diamonds in the midst of the muck.

Meaning excavation questions

The mighty question mark is an excellent excavation tool. Below, you’ll find a number of questions you can ask on a regular basis to help you uncover those gems. You might pick a few and make that the foundation for a daily quick-scan. Or you might choose one a week and focus on noticing as much as you can every day.

For those who are feeling particularly cynical, it can be tempting to meet some questions, like “why does this matter,” with a roll of eyes and say, “it doesn’t.” For the sake of finding the meaning, I encourage you to notice any response like that, let it go, and focus on finding the positive.

And now, on to the excavation! You can ask any of these questions before your day starts to help set the stage for noticing, during the day, or at the end of the day as a way to look back and review.

What feels meaningful about this?

Why does this matter?

What difference does what I’m doing make?

What am I learning here? What could I learn here?

How is this work giving me an opportunity to grow?

How is this problem/difficulty giving me an opportunity to grow?

How can I approach my work with mastery and excellence in mind?

How can I come from a space of love today?

How can I bring my heart to work today?

Where are the opportunities to serve?

How can what I’m experiencing lead me towards my long-term vision?

What aspects of my work do I value?

Where do I feel connection in my work (with other people, with my work, with the outcome, with something greater than myself, etc.)?

How does my work align with who I am? Where are the opportunities to make it align more closely?

How can I have a positive impact on the people around me?

How can my work be an expression of my spirituality? How can it help me grow spiritually?

How can my interactions be an expression of my spirituality? How can they help me grow spiritually?

How can the way I engage problems be an expression of my spirituality? How can it help me grow spiritually?

What in my life is this work enabling? (e.g., supporting your family, giving you the money to contribute financially to causes you care about, etc.)

Explore why it matters

If you go back to the definition of meaningful work we’re using here – “Work that matters (and you decide what matters!)” – a follow-up question to the answers of each of these might be, “And why does that matter?”

The goal of that question is to help you build a deeper picture of what matters to you, and why.

The more you understand that, the more you can both recognize opportunities to incorporate more of it into your work and be aware of it when it’s there. The more you are aware of what matters, the more of what matters you consciously experience.

And the more of what matters you experience, the more meaningful work becomes.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Make work more meaningful: 11 ways to bring your heart to work

love ripples

If you want a simple way to experience more meaning in your work, there’s one super-simple way to do it without changing a thing about the job itself.

Love.

Yep. That’s it. Easy, right?

If putting those two words together caused your brain to wobble and bobble a bit, you’re not alone. Working and loving are two concepts that don’t automatically seem to go together in most people’s minds. You may even actively hold back from the idea of showing love at work. Love?? How unprofessional!

If that’s you, I can tell you that you’re missing a key piece of the meaningful work puzzle.

I would even go so far as to say that if you could do only one thing to bring a greater sense of meaning into your work, it would be this.

Bring your heart to work

At the center of the Wild About Work model is the idea of bringing your heart to work. That’s about showing up with love and compassion, both for yourself and for others.

In this post, I’m going to focus on love and compassion for others.

Bringing your heart to work is about opening the door to connection, to service, and to vulnerability. It’s about showing up in a way that lifts and supports the people around you. It’s about being willing to be real and authentic, and holding space for others to do the same.

Bringing your heart to work creates the potential for a deeper, richer experience that benefits both you and the people around you. Coming out from behind the armor and facade creates an opportunity for a depth of connection with both people and your experience that can never be had hiding behind a “professional” mask.

11 ways to love at work

There are a bazillion ways that love can show up in your work life. Here are a few examples.

1. Look for opportunities to help and support

Make it a habit to look for opportunities to help the people around you. Maybe it’s an official part of your job, leveraging your knowledge and skills in a way that has a positive impact on someone else’s job. Maybe it’s an unofficial role, like mentoring new hires. Or it could even be sharing knowledge and ideas with a co-worker around something in their life that has nothing to do with work.

2. Communicate healthily

How you communicate is one of the biggest ways to bring your heart to work. Does it open the door to connection and understanding, or does it feed conflict and divisiveness. Does it acknowledge the shared humanity of the other person, or does it make them an “other” to be dealt with? Does it encourage people to open up and fly, or shut down and protect themselves? Does it enable a healthy resolution of challenges, or does it pour fuel on them?

3. Express gratitude

Make it a point to sincerely thank people whenever the opportunity arises. This is a two-way street. The recipient gets the good feeling of being appreciated, and you get to bask in gratitude – a heart-based activity if ever there was one.

4. Acknowledge others

Along similar lines, sincerely acknowledging others’ efforts and achievements can be a way to work from the heart. It’s a validating and encouraging practice that requires little investment on your part, but has the potential to make a significant impact for the receiving party. And in the go-go, results-driven environment of today’s workplace, that kind of reinforcement is often all too infrequent.

5. Pay sincere compliments

Make it a habit to pay sincere compliments. That could be about something work-related, or something completely tangential to work, like their sweater, or a piece of art on their wall.

6. Be attentive

When was the last time someone was truly, 100% attentive to what you were saying? How did it feel? Good, I’m guessing.

Unfortunately, there is a chronic shortage of attentiveness in our culture. We’re incessantly listening in order to talk, rather than listening to understand. Conversations become self-absorbed tennis matches rather than opportunities to connect and comprehend.

Being 100% attentive when someone is talking is a way to love at work because it communicates, “You’re important. What you say matters. I’m listening.”

7. Be interested

This one is related to attentiveness. Here the opportunity is to get beyond the surface level volleys of conversation and listen at a deeper level. Stop and be fully present with the person you’re talking to. Ask them questions. Reflect what you hear and show that you get what they’re saying.

The idea here, again, is to send a message that, “Yes, you matter. You merit attention and interest.” In today’s short attention span culture, that message is often in short supply.

As an added bonus, asking questions and paying attention often shines a light on ways you can help people.

8. Be a source of positivity

How you show up adds to the collective experience in your workplace. You can either be one of the Gang o’ Grinches hanging out around the water cooler and bitching, or you can add a positive perspective to the mix.

You don’t have to be a naive Pollyana. Simply refraining from unnecessary negativity and focusing on what’s good can have a big impact, especially over time.

9. Show patience

We live in an impatient culture. Showing patience is a gift of love. Not only does it create more space for your interactions to unfold positively, it also reduces the negative impact of impatience-driven conflict.

10. Connect

You don’t work with co-workers. You work with people. Opening  yourself to connection with the people you work with takes you out of cogs-in-a-machine mode and creates the possibility of more meaningful experiences.

11. Facilitate connection

Just as connecting with other people is one way to bring your heart to work, facilitating connection between others is another. This might be as simple as instigating a regular lunch with the people you work with, or an after-work social hour. The more people see each other as people rather than roles and titles, the more potential love has to show up.

Putting it to work

That’s all nice and lovely, but unless you actually put some of those ideas into play, it will remain meaningless.

Try this: For the next week, do a bring-your-heart-to-work experiment. Look for opportunities to come from that heart space and do it.

Before you start, use the list of ideas above as a starting point to brainstorm specific ways you could bring your heart to work. The idea is to make it easier by creating a mental grab bag you can reach into and pull out heart-actions.

You might draw a heart on a sticky note and stick it by your desk as a reminder. Or set a timer to go off at intervals throughout the day as a reminder to stop and ask, “Where are the opportunities to come from the heart right now? What opportunities have I encountered today?”

Give it a shot and see how it feels. If you like it, try extending the experiment to 30 days.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The benefits of gratitude

thank you

In a recent post on Gratitude Breathing, I mentioned the wide-ranging benefits of gratitude. This post, The 31 benefits of gratitude you didn’t know about, is the best examination of “what’s in it for you” that I have come across.

If you only do a deep dive into one post this week make it this one. You’ll be amazed at gratitude’s research-backed superpowers.

Here are the top five benefits:

  1. Gratitude makes us happier.
  2. Gratitude makes people like us.
  3. Gratitude makes us healthier.
  4. Gratitude boosts our career.
  5. Gratitude strengthens our (positive) emotions.

Gratitude can literally change your life – without a thing changing externally. It touches all aspects of your life – mental, physical, even spiritual. It creates a positive lens through which to see the world, and shifts your focus to what’s good.

I won’t waste too many words talking about it here (a first!) because the post in the above link does such a fantastic job.

Enjoy!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

Improve your life with Gratitude Breathing

heart breath

Of all the things you can do to shift your perception in life, gratitude is one of the most powerful. Developing your sense of gratitude has been shown to have a wide range of benefits, both mental (like a greater sense of well-being, and more emotional resilience) and physical (like a stronger immune system).

This morning I added a post to my Job Search Stress Busters blog (a blog I created as a public service because it’s sorely needed) about something I have explored over the last few months I call Gratitude Breathing. It has had such a positive impact on me, I feel compelled to share it here as well.

As I have often mentioned, getting Wild About Work isn’t just about finding work you love. It’s also about expanding your capacity to experience the positive. Gratitude Breathing is an excellent practice to develop that capacity.

Here’s the post in its entirety:

A while back I wrote a post about Attitude Breathing, a technique that builds on “heart breathing,” as described in HeartMath’s Quick Coherence Technique.

In Attitude breathing, you imagine you’re breathing in and out of your heart. As you do, you focus on a positive feeling or attitude.

A few months ago, riffing off of the Attitude Breathing idea, I started playing with what I describe as Gratitude Breathing. Built around heart breathing, it incorporates an interactive focus on what you’re thankful for.

Interactive?

Here’s what I mean. Instead of just feeling grateful, I also incorporate an active receptiveness to the gift of what I’m grateful for.

So let’s say I’m grateful for this cup of coffee I’m drinking. (which I am!). Here’s how I would approach Gratitude Breathing.

  1. I start focusing on my heart as I breathe. I imagine the breath is coming into and out of my heart.
  2. I focus on the object of my gratitude (in this case, my coffee).
  3. As I breathe in, I think, “Breathing in the gift.” This is a way to open myself to actively, intentionally open myself to taking in the experience of what I’m grateful for being a gift in my life.
  4. As I breathe out, I think, “Breathing out my gratitude.” I imagine myself surrounding the object of my appreciation in a cloud/bubble/field of gratitude.
  5. Breathing in, it starts all over.

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I find this has the effect of both grounding me and deepening my feeling of gratitude.

The objects of your gratitude can be small (like my coffee) or big (like a deeply loving family). The beauty of this is that it really doesn’t matter. The more you actively engage in gratitude, the more it filters into your overall outlook on life (which has a big picture stress reduction effect as well).

Give it a try. Experiment with it for a week. See how it feels.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

7 reasons you should bring your spirituality to work

candles

When I talk about getting Wild About Work, what I’m really talking about is creating an energized, impactful, heart-based career.

One thing you can do that touches all three of those is bring your spirituality to work.

Before I go any farther with this idea, let me be clear about two things.

First, I don’t mean going to work and proselytizing. In fact, in all likelihood nobody will even know that you’re bringing your spirituality to work. This is all an inside job.

Bringing your spirituality to work means using your spiritual perspective as a lens through which you look at everything. It means using it as a guidance system, “If I were in perfect alignment with how I see the world spiritually, what would I do here? How would I behave? What decision would I make?” It means using the events of your workday as a spiritual practice.

Second, I have no idea what spirituality means to you. It might be intimately tied to religion. It could be “spiritual but not religious.” It could even be completely secular, for example, blending your values and a focus on the interconnectedness of life.

When I say bring your spirituality to work, the meaning is inherently broad. Before you read the ideas below, ask yourself, “What does spirituality mean to me? How do I define it? What role does it play in my life?” Then interpret everything accordingly.

The idea of how to bring your spirituality to work merits a post of its own (which I’ll write sometime soon). But for now, to take it out of the abstract, I’ll give a couple examples.

Bringing your spirituality to work might entail cultivating a service mindset, looking for both opportunities to serve and ways you already are. It might involve practicing mindfulness. It might include saying a silent prayer at various times throughout your day. It might be continuously asking the question, “How do I lead with love and compassion” or, “How can I come from love and compassion in this interaction?” Or any one of a bazillion other ways it could show up.

And now, without further ado, here are seven benefits of bringing your spirituality to work.

#1 – It has a grounding effect

One of the big ways we get ourselves out of the Wild About Work zone is jumping on the hamster wheel and running full tilt. We get spun up in our stories and create unnecessary stress for ourselves. Coming back to a spiritual perspective can have a grounding effect, creating more space for the juice to flow.

#2 – You feel more alignment

One of the ways I think of being Wild About Work is like being a pipe, a channel through which the energy of work that lights you up can flow. When we’re out of alignment with what’s fundamentally important to us, the inside of the pipe gets gunked up and the flow of that energy gets blocked.

Bringing your spirituality to work helps you de-gunkify your internal pipeline so you can experience as much of the rich fullness of your work as possible.

#3 – It puts things in perspective

Related to the grounding effect, bringing your spirituality to work puts things in a less constricted context. One of the ways we jump on that hamster wheel is obsessing on me, Me, ME! A spiritual perspective can help you get out of your me story and see things in the context of a greater whole.

#4 – It helps you make better decisions

Jumping out of the spin-cycle that me Me ME creates gives you a broader, more objective perspective. That in turn can help you make better decisions, because you’re in less of a reactive space and more holistic in your outlook.

#5 – You actually get to live it

One of the most fascinating questions I sometimes explore with clients is, “How do you live your faith? (or, your spirituality, or your values)?” There’s a big difference between “what do I believe?” and “how do I live that?”

Most of us spend a big chunk of our waking ours at work. Bringing your spirituality along with you means you actually get to live it, rather than relegating it to the odd pocket of time here are there. Rather than an add-on, your spirituality becomes a framework within which everything else unfolds.

#6 – It provides a vehicle for growth

Let’s face it, no matter how capable you are, things are going to go sideways. You’re going to fail. You’re going to experience conflict. You’re going to show up in ways that aren’t in alignment with the person you want to be.

Bringing your spirituality to work gives you a vehicle to use any experience for growth. One simple question, “How does this help me grow on my path?” can change the meaning you assign any situation.

#7 – It gives you a sense of meaning

Last, but not remotely least, bringing your spirituality to work weaves a sense of meaning into the fabric of your day. It gives you a way to experience your day to day work in the context of something greater than yourself. It uses your day-to-day work as a means of connection with something greater than yourself (however you perceive that). It creates a way for you to feel like an instrument of something greater, rather than just a random cog.

Bringing your spirituality to work can help you take a more grounded and expansive view. It creates more space to fully experience what energizes you. And it carries with it an inherent sense of meaning.

If your goal is to create an energized, impactful, heart-based career, that sounds like a pretty valuable addition to the mix!

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

One simple way to make a difference at work (or anywhere else)

bullseye

A big piece of the Wild About Work puzzle is Energized Work, feeling energized by what you do for a living. As I talked about a few days ago on a post about energy management, feeling energized at work comes from both maximizing the energy gains and minimizing the energy drains.

One powerful source of energy in your work is feeling a sense of meaning.

There are numerous things that contribute to a sense of meaning. One of the most common is feeling like you’re making a difference.

Usually when people talk about making a difference at work, they’re referring to the outcome of the job itself – something like a teacher, or an environmental activist, or a doctor. But that’s not the only way to make an impact.

There are a bazillion ways to make a difference at work. This article on Psychology Today takes a look at one of them: strengths-spotting.

Strengths-spotting, as you may already have surmised, is simply noticing people’s strengths, and letting them know what you see.

Think about it. Imagine a co-worker came up to you out of the blue and said, “You know, I just want to let you know that I have been noticing how good you are at ________. That’s a real gift. I can see why you’re good at what you do.” And let’s say it’s an authentic, accurate reflection.

How would you feel? Think it might give your mood a bit of a positive bump? Think you might come away feeling a little more self-confident?

The article offers some ideas for getting better at strengths-spotting.

    • Practice observing people. At your next social event, emphasize listening and looking over speaking.
    • Put on “strengths goggles” by listening/looking for strengths in the people around you. It might be helpful to have this list of character strengths in front of you.
    • Label the positive in a precise way (e.g., “I see bravery in you”)
    • Offer an example or rationale for the strength you see (e.g., “I see fairness in you because you always seem to stick up for other people”).
    • Make your feedback to people genuine and honest.
    • Keep your feedback relevant to the situation you are in.

Try this: For the next week, just start paying attention to your co-workers and see what strengths you see. Practice developing a strengths-spotting mindset. If you feel so inclined, pick a co-worker to share your observations with. How does that seem to make them feel? Just as important how does it make you feel?

We each have an amazing amount of potential to make a difference, just by the way we show up day in and day out. Strengths-spotting is a simple, yet potentially profound, way to do that.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]

–-

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The Wild About Work ecosystem

I’ve been thinking about how to visually convey the Wild About Work ecosystem that’s at the heart of what I’ll be talking about in this blog. I went to the whiteboard and this is the model that popped out of my brain.

[Note: There’s a refined version of this model at the Wild About Work Basics link.]

Wild About Work pyramid med

There are four main components to the model. Getting Wild About Work entails:

  • Doing work that energizes you.
  • Bringing your heart to work.
  • Creating a stable foundation of well-being to stand on
  • Recognizing that work and life are interconnected

All of the areas outlined in yesterday’s post about where this blog is headed are encompassed in these four things.

Doing work that energizes you: This is about doing work that lights you up. It includes finding a sense of meaning. It encompasses energy management – maximizing the gains and minimizing the drains. It contains the success factors that help you create it, and the work you do to navigate around the obstacles in your way.

Bringing your heart to work: This is as much attitude as it is action. It’s about love and compassion, both for yourself and for others. It’s openness and a willingness to connect. It’s what brings your full humanity into the picture.

Creating a stable foundation of well-being: There are some things that are woven into the fabric of your well-being. When your life incorporates them, it helps create a solid foundation to stand on. When they’re missing, things start to get a bit wobbly. These are a healthy diet, staying well-hydrated, grounding practice of some sort, exercise, and sleep.

Life/Work interconnection: Your work life doesn’t exist in a silo. What happens in each part of your life has an impact on how you experience the others.  The more energized you are in 360 degrees, the more space you will have to experience all the juice your job has to offer.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Get started today with my FREE Audio Course!]

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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide