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Improve Your Life in One Step
I am one of the lucky ones. I actually had a career with one company for 32 years. During that time, I put money in my 401K plan each and every year without fail. So, when I turned 55, I was able to retire somewhat comfortably. But 55 is still young. Well, perhaps not truly young, but certainly not old. With continued luck I will have many healthy years (hopefully decades) ahead of me.
Now in “retirement” from my full-time job, I have found focus and purpose again in a freelance job. Since I am somewhat “seasoned,” I am using all of the “life hacks” that I accumulated over the course of my three decades in the corporate world to be focused and productive. Still, I needed an answer to the question: What do you do every morning when you wake up and don’t have the sense of urgency that a full-time, regular job instills? My answer, and the habit that I wish to share, is to start every day with a shot of gratitude, right along with your morning cup of coffee.
Make It A Habit
Even after retirement, I still maintain a Day Planner. While this is helpful, it’s not enough to “light my fire.” Each morning I write the phrase, “Every day is a gift! I am grateful for . . .” on the Daily Notes page. Sometimes immediately, but typically after some reflection later in the day, I add my thoughts on why I am grateful to be where I am, living the life that I have, right now in the present moment. It can be about your current work or hobbies, such as “got asked to start a new project. They must like me!” It can be something simpler, like “having lunch with a dear friend” or something more meaningful, such as “being healthy enough and mobile enough to take a long walk in the park.”
This process sometimes helps me to “reframe” what might have seemed like a problem in the moment (the Wi-Fi was down), into a positive after reflection (no internet access allowed me to stay on track, do what I was supposed to do, and leave for my appointment on time). This habit has also caused me to be mindful of things that I would otherwise have taken for granted or simply overlooked (traffic flowed well, and I got a great parking spot in the shade).
What Should You Write About?
You can write about virtually anything. Here are some ideas:
- Things – finding that cap to your favorite pen and reuniting them
- People – making friends with a co-worker
- Feelings – a sense pride when your work is done
- Opportunities – being offered a new assignment
- Finding the Positive in a Negative – you were diverted by construction, only to find a better route than originally planned
- Being Saved from Misfortune – leaving your purse in your shopping cart, only to have a good Samaritan stop you and bring it to you (yes, this actually happened)
- Beginnings – you started a new class and are loving it
- Endings – you finished cleaning out your files and are proud of yourself
- Discoveries – finding a better way to remember your passwords
I could go on, but I think you see my point. Opportunities for gratitude abound. You just need to adjust your viewpoint so that you see them more readily. And it gets easier and easier as time goes by and you get more practice.
Gratitude At Work
Perhaps you’ve never thought about gratitude in the workplace. I mean, isn’t that just something we do at the dinner table at Thanksgiving? Isn’t it a little “touchy-feely” for on-the-job situations? Absolutely not! Feeling gratitude is a two-way street. If you expect to be appreciated for your hard work, shouldn’t you also appreciate those around you who contribute to your success?
Expressing appreciation isn’t just for managers, either. Even as a member of a team, your ability to perform your job at high levels is dependent upon those around you doing their jobs at high levels, too. Just make sure they know that you know. Be as specific as possible, and make sure you are sincere.
Improvements You Might Expect
- Greater happiness
- Better sleep
- Improved exercise habits
- Increased optimism
- Reduced blood pressure
- Positive feelings
It Adds Up
After months of this habit, you can look back and read your daily entries, and use that positive energy to move forward with your hopes and dreams. It especially helps when you’re feeling down, but you can do it anytime. This simple but powerful habit has added to my happiness in ways that money and possessions simply can’t touch.