On Thanksgiving (and during other holiday meals), many families follow the lovely tradition of expressing thanks for the good things that have occurred and all the ways they feel blessed.
When we return to the office, however, we're more likely to complain than affirm. After all, it's easier to whine about annoyances and obstacles than it is to celebrate what's great about work.
But let's take a few moments to be thankful about the positive aspects of our jobs. I'm inspired by a new book by A.J. Jacobs, Thanks a Thousand, in which Jacobs made it a point to thank everyone (including farmers in Columbia and food safety inspectors) responsible for his morning cup of coffee.
"I have been an admirer of gratitude for years," writes Jacobs, because "gratitude is one of the keys to a life well lived. Perhaps, even, as Cicero says, it is the chief of virtues."
Jacob cites research that demonstrates that "gratitude's psychological benefits are legion: It can lift depression, help you sleep, improve your diet, and make you more likely to exercise. A recent study showed gratitude causes people to be more generous and kinder to strangers."
Sounds good, doesn't it? So let's start with my list of 18 and then you can add your own things to be thankful for at work:
- Hot coffee. Whether your workplace has its own Starbucks or just a kitchen with a single serve pod system or an old-fashioned coffee pot, you can get the caffeine you need to get through the day.
- Water coolers. Stay hydrated--and catch up on all the important gossip.
- Technology. I can whine about Microsoft Office as much as the next person (PowerPoint, why are you so difficult?), but think about what work was like 50 years ago. Tech consisted of typewriters and telephones--and you made presentations on plastic sheets that you then displayed on an overhead projector. Nostalgia is nice, but who wants to go back there?
- Email. Yes, you get too many messages, but email also allows you to communicate with anyone anywhere quickly, efficiently and (usually) effectively.
- The workplace. There's a reason most of us still go to a central location to get our work done--the workplace provides an environment in which people can collaborate to get stuff done.
- Work from home. But, if you can arrange to work from home--occasionally, on a regular basis or routinely--that arrangement has advantages, too. Like no commute. And the ability to wear your sweatpants all day. And a little distance from all the distractions of the office.
- Time to think. As Mary-Chapin Carpenter sings, we need "pens that won't run out of ink and cool quiet and time to think." In this world of back-to-back-to-back meetings, I learned long ago to block my time so I can work on projects requiring concentration.
- Big, gnarly, seemingly impossible challenges. I love it when someone calls me with an enormous problem that seems to have no conceivable solution. Or when the challenge would be a piece of cake if we had three weeks, but we only have three days (or hours!). Challenges like these bring out the best in us.
- 10,000 hours of practice. Early in my career, I had the invaluable experience of writing tons of content--from newspaper articles to press releases to speeches. As a result, today I write pretty good. : ) As you progress in your career, experience makes you stronger, so you can take on even difficult challenges.
- Small wins. Thank goodness, not every elevation is Mt. Everest. We need little hills to climb, too--and the opportunity to lift our feet off the pedals and coast down the other side. Otherwise, work would be too burdensome.
- Confidence. As my fellow Inc. columnist Christina Desmarais writes, "It takes confidence to achieve great things. It's a state of mind which can transform desires and dreams into reality." But the truth is, when it comes to being confident, sometimes you need to fake it 'til you make it.
- The competition. Sure, it would make life incredibly easy if your organization didn't have competition. But the good news is that competitors kick you out of bed in the morning by and push you to do even better next time. That ensures you never grow complacent.
- Limited resources. There are never enough hours in the day to conquer even half of the to-do list. But limited resources sharpen the mind, causing us to set priorities nearly every day. So we're forced to focus on the most important things--and let other stuff go.
- Quirky colleagues. Imagine how boring work would be if everyone were just like you. (Some companies hire that way, which is very scary.) I give thanks for my coworkers' peculiarities. Their unusual perspectives. Even their silly jokes. All our eccentricities make every day more interesting.
- Teamwork. And it's great to know that by combining our strange brains, we can work together to come up with ideas that none of us could ever conceive separately.
- Laughter. When you're under pressure, it's easy to lose your sense of humor. But when someone makes a joke, everything snaps back into perspective.
- Time off. Hey, you've got to recharge and take care of the other part of your life.
- Slipper sox. Sometimes my office gets cold. And everyone knows you can't concentrate when your feet are freezing.
That's my list. What are you thankful for?