By now, you’ve probably hear about the career-boosting power of gratitude. There’s just one problem: perhaps you are not, by nature, a person who looks on the bright side of life.
That’s OK. The grumpasauruses among us have value, too. In fact, research has shown that pessimists offer a useful perspective that helps teams and businesses succeed.
But if you want to be successful, you can’t let your inner Eeyore run your career. While pessimism can help you make better decisions, gratitude will enable you to appreciate the results and replicate them later.
The good news for you is that you can learn to take stock of the good things in your professional life without ever cracking the spine on that gratitude journal your cheeriest friend insisted on giving you. Instead, try these gratitude hacks:
1. Don’t Call It Gratitude
“Sometimes appreciation is easier to feel than gratitude,” wrote Victoria Maxwell at Psychology Today. “For some of us (read: me) the word gratitude is a charged word and comes with ‘baggage.’ So I prefer to use the word appreciation. It offers me an easier access into the experience I’m looking for.”
Appreciation is about awareness, not a laundry list of things to be thankful for. If you can let yourself feel appreciation for the good things — a promotion, a raise, a fun new project at work — when they happen, you might have an easier time feeling positive about your larger situation.
2. Give Something to Someone Who Needs It
The best way to get help is to give help. That’s true when you’re networking professionally or just building relationships in your personal life. So, whether you’re giving your time to volunteering or a reference for a job-searching contact, make an effort to give. Sometimes, it’s easier to take an action than to cultivate a feeling.
3. Find the Version That Works for You
Gratitude is an effective practice, but it’s been turned into a sort of spiritual product. If you’re not someone who’s motivated by inspirational posters, you might not feel connected to some of the popular methods of counting blessings.
But that’s OK. You don’t need to throw yourself into something that’s not for you. If a gratitude journal feels wrong, maybe an app will feel right. (Or vice versa.) If both make you roll your eyes, maybe you’ll be inspired by sending gratitude letters … or setting a reminder in your daily calendar to look around and recognize the good in your day.
The details don’t matter. What matters is finding the thing that works.
4. Be Present
“To be truly grateful, you must be truly present,” wrote Marc Chernoff at Marc and Angel Hack Life.
Mindfulness practices can help you focus on the here and now, which makes it easier to see the good that’s happening right in front of you. (Or at least, not to get bogged down in what might be coming down the road.)
5. Say Thank You
Studies have shown that people tend to underrate the value of a simple thank you. Letting someone know that you appreciate their hard work, for example, can make a big difference. So, don’t wait for the big occasions — job interviews, annual reviews, etc. — to express your thanks.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you harnessed the power of gratitude, without engaging in some of its cheesier manifestations? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.