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Four Tips to Keep Gratitude Top of Mind

Categories: Culture, Blog

I recently spoke with a friend who lives in Texas. The catastrophic snow storm left his family without power or running water for several days. Oddly, he did not complain about how miserable his situation was. Instead, he told me all of the new and fun things he was doing with his kids to make the most out of his situation. He was so filled with gratitude that it made me pause.

Later that night I was scrolling through social media and I saw a post that said: “Being able to work from home is a blessing because it means you have a job and you have a home.” Admittedly, my initial response was whoever wrote this post must not be trying to work with two small children at home. After a moment of self-reflection, I realized that although I had faced a lot of challenges this past year, at times, I overlook the basic things for which I am grateful. I have not focused on the gift of a loving home or that my husband and I both kept our jobs. I did not see how blessed I was to be present as my two-year-old learned to talk and my six-year-old learned to read. And I overlooked how fun it has been to spend so much time with my husband …and, yes, we still like each other.

It turns out that once in a while it helps to get out of your own head and take inventory of your blessings. And, I recognize it is not easy. I see moments where I clearly lived full of gratitude. And then I slowly get distracted and I find myself trying to “Keep up with the Joneses” or do it all because somehow everyone else’s problems seem to have become my problems. This causes me to get so tied up in how things are not working or what we do not have that I fail to see the wonderful things in my life. I know I am not alone in this cycle of gratitude - or lack of gratitude - so I wanted to share four ideas that may help you get, hold onto, and relish the simple joys of life:

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No.

That’s right… you are allowed to say no. No to your boss. No to your friends. No to your kids. Sometimes when you try to do too much, you end up doing nothing well. There is no prize for doing it all.

2. Someone Else’s Problem Is Not Always Your Problem.

Several years ago, I got a new legal assistant. She had never been a legal assistant before, she was nervous, and she wanted to do everything right. Every time opposing counsel would suggest something needed to be done right away or request an immediate response, she would stop everything to respond. This caused a host of other problems because the true emergencies would not get addressed and by dropping everything to respond to opposing counsel’s request she lost control of her day and mine. This example is not specific to the legal world or work generally. If you do not take control of your day, your actions, or what you consider emergencies, then someone else’s problems will become yours.

3. Take a Step Back and Look Around.

As a parent, I find myself having those moments that you see in movies. You know – the ones where the main character gently smiles and stares in admiration of something happening in the distance while enlightening music plays in the background. I experience these moments when my kids are doing something I enjoyed when I was a kid or when they accomplish something they have worked very hard to do. These are the moments I love the most. They calm me and remind me that I am doing right by my kids. Find these moments and savor them. Taking a step back in your professional life is as important as it is in your personal life. When you gain perspective at work, you become more efficient and logical.

4. Write It Down.

Write down what you are grateful for. Make a list on your mirror so you see it first thing in the morning. Hang pictures around your office that remind you of what matters most to you. Write in your journal. No matter how you do it, put your reminders in a place you will see often and when you need them the most.

It is easy to get wrapped up into the world’s problems. There are a lot of them. But if you can appreciate the things, moments, and people in your life, you will gain perspective and enjoy every day just that much more.


About the Author: Michelle Ronan is a partner in the Insurance Law department at Jaburg Wilk. She advises and represents clients in insurance coverage, bad faith, contribution, and liability matters.