At the risk of violating the unwritten rule, “Never complain, never explain,” I thought it would be useful to take a minute and share some thoughts about the role gratitude can play in helping people overcome difficult times. This may seem like unusual content for the Engagement Multiplier website, however, the fact is, the last two years have taught me some enormously valuable lessons that have real applicability in both personal life and at work.

Without going into too much detail, in late September of 2019, I lost my 25-year-old son, Oliver. His death was unexpected, and as you might imagine, it hit me and my family like a freight train. The ensuing year was one of profound recovery, and that’s when I started to learn the practical power of gratitude, and its unique abilities to pause grief, enable positive thoughts to occur, and even allow one to imagine the future.

Several weeks ago, I sat for an interview on the topic of gratitude, and how we can use its power to improve our wellbeing. The article, titled “How We Can Leverage the Power of Gratitude to Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” was just published this week, and the process allowed me to again reflect upon and marvel at the benefits one can gain with a simple daily practice of gratitude.

The struggles are real, and your people are likely affected

This idea is especially important now, as so many people within our spheres – whether at home or at work – are struggling. An article I wrote earlier this week included statistics outlining the dire circumstances in which so many people are mired: depression, isolation, addiction, and self-harm.

Leaders of people cannot be blind to these facts, nor should they believe their employees are exempt from the pressures and worries of the day. Even HR leaders are underestimating the impact of Covid-19 upon employees, according to recent research. The widening gulf of understanding between leaders and employees is, in fact, one of the risks highlighted in a white paper we published earlier this year, entitled “Hidden Threats to Company Culture.”

As one leader to another, I implore you to pause and take seriously the struggles so many of our employees are facing today.

Whilst it’s impossible for us to solve the world’s problems, we can take action right now to help our teams. One easy way to start is by incorporating a simple gratitude practice into the workday.

Here’s how my team has been doing it.

Start each day with gratitude

At the outset of the pandemic, as we all retreated to our homes, I realised quickly that starting the day alone, with no interaction, was hardly going to be a winning approach.

So my team began starting our days together, with a short meeting at the beginning of each day, and we built gratitude into those moments from the very start.

Each team member simply shares what they’re feeling great about at that moment. It might be something as simple as the sun shining through the window, or something wonderful they cooked the night before. We’ve shared all manner of things over these last 11 months, and the effects are truly remarkable, including:

  • The act of sharing what they’re feeling good about gets everyone talking,
  • Even those who may not be having the best morning still find something to be happy about,
  • As a result, everyone ends up smiling, too,
  • And we know each other better too, a fantastic bonus which has helped the team stay connected.

Harnessing the power of gratitude

Upon realising how well-received the morning energiser meetings were, I shared another idea with the team – something I call the “3x3x3,” which, though still very simple, unlocks the power of gratitude in a significant way.

Here’s how it works.

  • Start each day by identifying three things for which you are feeling grateful for that day. These can be the simplest things. This morning, for example, I was grateful for the hyacinths my wife had brought in, which were filling the house with their fragrance, it’s one of my favorites. I was also grateful for the items a colleague had shared via Slack. Reflecting on those three things each day gives you a little reboot, and also, brings you into a more positive frame of mind. Simply put, negativity and gratitude can’t exist at the same moment.
  • The next step, while you’re still in that more positive mindset, is to identify three things you plan to accomplish that day — big or small. Simply pick three things, that if you get them all done, will mean that it was a successful day. Then go about your business.
  • Finally, at the end of the day, identify your three wins for the day. You may simply be ticking off the three things you planned to accomplish that morning. Or the day may have presented you with other wins. Either way, you’ve progressed. And you probably have something new to be grateful for.

A few minutes spent on gratitude each day is a great way to kickstart your day and create a perfect foundation for the right mindset, focusing with clarity on what you need to get done (and how you’ll do it) even on the darkest day.

It’s easy to overlook the small things. However, incremental improvements, taken together, create big change. An important element of identifying those things for which you are grateful is the fact that doing so allows you to appreciate and recognise those increments. String that together day after day, and you’ll find you make steady progress against your goals, effectively building yourself a ladder out of the pit.