Gratitude in the Workplace

Gratitude. Thankfulness. Appreciation.

All of these words are trying to explain one truth that you are experiencing even as you read these words, even if you're stressed out of your mind: the acknowledgment that you are receiving wonderful things in this very moment and every moment that follows.

When I am stressed, this notion seems ridiculous. I can’t stand reading drivel like this when I am upset. I am angered by words like these, where the writer is clearly having a great day, a great life, with much, much more then the rest of us have---so, of course, they are grateful, but I am having a really crappy day, so I am allowed to be stressed and angry about my predicament.

Sound about right?

Think of your stressful situation now---maybe it’s a difficult co-worker, an unhappy home life, not enough money, or you have an illness. Any of these would create stress and it can be seemingly impossible to see anything worth appreciating much less that you are receiving abundance in every moment! But I’m about to do to you, what those writers in the past have done to me: I’m going to show you that you are receiving wonderful things in this very moment.

And your stress will be magically gone.

But How?

When I get so blocked that I don’t think I can take another let-down, I make myself shift for a couple of seconds to people I have only known through the power of TV: third-world residents. This particular image just happens to work for me. I get an immediate flash of a child with a distended abdomen looking lost, sad, sick and alone. I think it’s the very child from the old Christian Children’s Fund commercial, you know, the ones with Sally Struthers?

It doesn’t matter if this child exists, that’s not the point. And you can pick the worst-case-scenario of your choice. You don’t have to choose mine. I am conjuring up this image simply as a contrast to my current situation. You pick one that works for you.

So here's how it works: If I have had a difficult conversation with a co-worker and I’m pretty stressed, I probably handle it initially, just like you. First, I think about it, replay it, have imaginary put-downs and comebacks that escaped me in the moment---in short, I’m getting a nice head of steam and stress built up. I make myself very right, and the other person or situation very wrong. I may talk about it to a few people too. Just to get as many people as possible worked-up and on my side.

And just when I can’t imagine getting any more crazed…I think of the kid from CCF. And I am immediately able to say to myself, “Are things as bad as they are for that kid?”

The Shift

And, of course, the answer is no. I am well-fed. If anything, my issue is to stop feeding myself so well. I slept in a comfortable bed last night, for a full eight hours, alone, clean, safe, quiet. It was exquisite if I contrast it with where that kid slept (I assume on a straw mat on the ground in a crowded dwelling with no secure entrance; bugs aplenty; the elements doing their damage). My bedroom to that kid is probably the equivalent of my sleeping at the Ritz for the night. So, I could continue with this imagery, but I bet you’re getting the point.

I then start to list what is absolutely going great, despite my negativity. I’m healthy. I’m kind of attractive. I’m employed. My bills are getting paid. I’m treated well at work. I work inside. I work normal hours (8 per day; 40 a week; M-F 8-5). I have medical insurance. I have a healthy, normal son. I have a car that works. I have pretty things in my condo. I have a condo. I have a roof, walls, warmth, soft sitting places. A computer to type this. The ability to type this. The possibility of someone reading it, so that they will make a shift and feel better, and then do better, and then take this information to someone they meet who needs it, and then things may be better in this little part of the world.

Wow. What an incredible life I have. I have the option of touching people. Reaching them. All from this incredibly comfortable chair, in my pretty new dress, with music playing in the background. No storms are blowing. No fires are burning. No one is hurt. Everyone is safe.

And things are starting to shift, but I still know what I’m up to. So then I ask the magic question: Would I rather switch places with CCF kid or deal with my stressful predicament here in these circumstances, in this environment.

And then everything is perfect. I wouldn’t trade my irritating coworker for CCF’s world. Not for a million bucks. I have the luxury of getting worked-up over something so insignificant because I am so cared for. I am acknowledging with 100% certainty that I am receiving gifts, blessings, support, something that is well beyond my control in this very moment. And for that I am grateful.

And not stressed.

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