The Gratitude Attitude – Rubbish or Revolutionary?


Much has been written about gratitude, law of attraction, and such things, in all sorts of contexts.

But, is it relevant to your career? Does it work? Or is it really just a load of woo-woo rubbish peddled by people with too much time on their hands?

An interesting article on the subject was printed in the Guardian a while ago and brought to my attention recently on LinkedIn. It’s useful to see different perspectives and I certainly don’t agree with all of the points made, but it’s prompted me to write this piece. 

Once you have read this blog, you can check out the other article and let me have your thoughts on the questions I’ve posed at the end.

One of the psychologists quoted in that article, Alex Wood, suggests that people in bad situations might feel “a sense of misplaced gratitude”.  I think it unlikely, but he makes a good point that it must be “gratitude with discernment”.

I believe that gratitude does have a positive benefit as long as it is done with that discernment. It is not some airy-fairy fad that’s just the latest thing in the world of personal development. The ideas and wisdom behind it are not new. There are genuine benefits and reasons why we get those benefits and it’s useful to start with basic understanding of how our minds work.

In the human brain most of the processing takes place in the unconscious mind.

It processes things very literally, doesn’t deal with negatives well, and learns fast to do what our conscious minds instruct. That’s why once you’ve learnt something (for example, how to drive, play a sport or musical instrument, open a door, or drink from a cup), you don’t have to consciously think through the process of doing it every time to you it.

If you’ve been driving for a while, you probably just jump in the car and drive. You don’t have to think about when or how to change gear. Your unconscious mind does it for you. I learnt to touch type many years ago. I don’t have to think where each letter is on the keyboard as I type this article, my fingers just press the right key, thanks to my unconscious mind.

At the same time, by the way, my unconscious mind is processing many thousands (some say millions) of other instructions that regulate my temperature, keep me breathing, etc, etc.

Our unconscious minds will also notice what we are consciously and consistently spend time thinking about; in other words, what we instruct is important to us. 

For example, if you’re thinking about buying a particular item, let’s say a mobile phone, you’ll tend to notice what phones other people are carrying and spot the shops and outlets as you walk down the high street. Someone with you who isn’t looking for a phone now might not notice at all. It’s because your unconscious mind is highlighting them to you and your friend’s is not.

Another example. My kids developed this game when they were young where every time they spotted a yellow car they would say “yellow car no returns”. Eventually, of course, I ended up playing with them. Even now, when I’m out on my own, I notice yellow cars and find myself saying those words under my breath.

This is where that mindset for success comes from: “What you focus on consistently you tend to create in your life”. It is not magic. It’s just that when you consistently focus on things, your unconscious mind points them out to you, so you tend to get more of them.

Be careful what you spend time focusing on!

That is how gratitude works. If you notice things you are grateful for, or pleased about, it focusses you on things that make you feel good and balances our human neurological tendency to look for the danger (the negative things).

Two exercises I use with my clients are as follows:

The first is one you will have possibly heard about, maybe many times: Keeping a gratitude journal

The idea is that very night before you go to bed, you write down three things, or more, that you are grateful for that happened that day. I usually suggest to include things you are grateful for and things you are pleased about. It can be big things or little things.

For example: I’m grateful that I signed up a new client today. I’m pleased that I had a nice cup of tea with my friend today. I’m grateful for the sound of the birds and the sunshine.

The second, which you may not have heard of, I call the teeth brushing exercise

It works on the premise that you brush your teeth each evening before bed for a couple of minutes. While you’re doing that, you’ve got nothing else to do, so you start to list in your head all the things you are please about or grateful for, in a similar way to what you’d write in a journal: “Today I’m pleased that I signed up a new client, etc”. 

By actively training yourself to focus on the good things in your life, the things you are pleased about and grateful for, you start to notice them in the moment which improves your general wellbeing and happiness levels and helps you get better results: When we are happy, we tend to interact in a better and more productive way with those around us and we tend to perform better in the tasks we are doing.

Action is where the differences are, so rather than read about it, why not try it for a few weeks and notice the differences.

The worst-case scenario is that you have super-clean teeth. (By the way, when you brush your teeth in the morning, that’s a great time to set your intentions for the day.)

So now it’s over to you.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the questions below, both now and in a few weeks when you’ve tried it out. If you want to share your thoughts as you go, put them in The Career Café Facebook group. If you’re not a member, come on in, it’s free to join.  

  •   Have you ever, or do you have a gratitude practice?
  •   What is yours and how has it helped you?
  •   What are you grateful about in your career or your organisation? …and outside?

 If you are interested, here is the article that prompted me to write this piece: Read here

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