Did you know that research shows that practicing gratitude can make you happier? It’s true. Over the past 15 years, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. Research has also found that gratitude changes the brain.
When we practice gratitude we connect with positive, happy thoughts. These positive happy thoughts decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in our body and increase the level of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in our brain. Serotonin stimulates brain growth and the development of new synapses in our prefrontal cortex. This is the part of our brain that controls our executive functions like planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, and acting with long-term goals in mind. All of this works together to contribute to an increased sense of well being, productivity and even improved relationships.
It stands to reason then, that practicing gratitude can help you be more successful as a consultant. Here's how:
1. Build a growth mindset.
Consultants move from project to project and company to company, so every engagement presents a fresh challenge. Handling these with confidence requires a growth mindset. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Psychologist Carol Dweck describes a "growth mindset" as a tendency to believe that you can grow. A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure "not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities."
Alternatively a "fixed mindset" assumes that our character, intelligence, and ability are givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. In a fixed mindset, failure is seen as evidence that we have reached the natural limits of our ability. There’s not much point in trying harder.
Building a growth mindset can help to fuel the cycle of gratitude > positivity > growth > opportunity > gratitude. Here are a few ways you can start building a growth mindset:
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfections
- View challenges as opportunities.
- Use the word "yet," as in "I'm not able to run five miles, yet"
- Learn from other people's mistakes
- Think realistically about time and effort in order to avoid frustration
2. Cultivate better work relationships.
Most successful consultants cite building strong relationships as one of the keys to success. That means bringing gratitude to work. Workplaces where people express gratitude tend to have fewer complaints, less exploitation, entitlement, gossip, and general negativity. Not surprisingly, research shows that lack of gratitude is one of the contributing factors leading to toxic work culture. Interestingly enough, gratitude does not just make the recipient feel better, it improves the relationship for both parties. Here are a few practical ways consultants can start using gratitude to build better relationships:
- Listen attentively
- Give specific, actionable feedback, including positive feedback
- Be respectful of each other's time
- Recognize efforts even when things go wrong
- Say 'thank you' often
3. Harness creative problem solving ability.
Consultants are typically brought in to solve problems. Practicing gratitude stimulates our prefrontal cortex, which is our brain's center for higher level thinking. It also shuts down our limbic system, which is what controls that "fight or flight" response when we are stressed.
If you are feeling stuck or stressed by a problem, take a gratitude time out and come back to your project or challenge with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. Here are a few ways you can take a gratitude time out to get your creative problem solving juices flowing:
- Take a walk in nature and focus on gratitude for natural beauty
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground and reflect on gratitude for your body
- Make a list of all of your good qualities and how they have helped you
- Choose one of your favorite people and write them a letter about how you appreciate them
I hope these insights and tips are helpful to you in your daily life and work. Interested in building a gratitude practice? Here are 30 days of gratitude quotes and reflections to get you started. Please reach out with any comments or questions.