Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Gabby Bill 0 Comments

It's not uncommon for conversations to drift toward the subject of gratitude this time of year. In fact, many of us may be conditioned to search for things in our life that we're grateful for, in anticipation of the (dreaded? loved?) around-the-table question that often gets asked at Thanksgiving. It's wonderful that we take the time, any time, to focus on what we're thankful for in our lives, but it can make you wonder why this behavior isn't something we cultivate more routinely.

I became interested in writing about how to recognize gratitude within yourself and your career thanks to a coffee chat I attended this morning with the ICF (International Coaching Federation) Philly chapter. Once a month, a group of us meet at a coffee shop and spend a wonderful 90 minutes discussing a topic: how that topic resonates with us personally, how we use it in our coaching practice and any challenges it presents. Today, the topic was gratitude.

How does this relate back to careers, you might ask?

First and foremost, I've found that "gratitude" isn't typically a descriptor or emotion that we tap into when we're discussing our jobs. When meeting someone for the first time, one of the most common conversation starters tends to be, "So, what do you do?" and if the answer is interesting, perhaps we follow that up with, "Do you like your job?" or "What do you like most about your job?" But there's a distinction I think we often miss between highlighting the things we like about our jobs and cultivating a sense of gratitude for those same things.

I "like" that my job offers me flexibility. But simply stating that I like something is passive. It shows preference for that scenario, but the statement begins and ends there.

If I state that I'm "grateful" to have a job that offers me flexibility, suddenly I've turned that statement into an active practice. I'm very consciously establishing appreciation for that aspect of my job, and I notice that when I pause and turn inward to my emotions, I feel a dramatic difference in my body. (This sounds cheesy, but go with it!)

When I say I like dogs, I don't really feel anything because it's just a statement. But when I say I'm so grateful to have two loving, fluffy chihuahuas, I'm overcome with this intense desire to go over and smother them with kisses they don't want. When I say that I like to cook, maybe I feel a little inspired to think about what I'm making for dinner, but when I say I'm so grateful to have a refrigerator stocked with delicious, healthful foods, I'm suddenly inspired to not only create a gourmet meal, but to savor every bite of it with a much deeper level of appreciation. Am I crazy, or do other people experience this same physical change when they switch up their language?

Now, this doesn't just work when I change positive, "liking" language to frame it with gratitude; in fact, it's even more powerful when I can use it as a foil to reframe a negative thought. For example, I've been feeling some anxiety lately over being an entrepreneur and not always "knowing" the right next step to take in my business. In my past life, although there was always an element of experimentation, I'd had many years of experience to draw from, which guided me and created assurance. But when you're building your own business from scratch, you're writing the story day by day, and that means there aren't many past chapters to draw upon.

So what happens when I flip this anxiety and instead of saying that I'm so nervous that I don't know what I'm doing, I look at it as a tremendous opportunity to "own" my lack of knowledge and seek out the counsel of others who have walked this path before me? I am so grateful to have a reason to reach out to people, establish relationships and learn things I wouldn't discover on my own. If we go back to emotions for a second, it's amazing to see just how different I feel inside when I flip my statement and feel grateful for the opportunities in front of me. Instead of feeding the negative emotion (and feeling worse, as a result), all of a sudden I feel like I want to jump up and take action.

One of the biggest mindset shifts that one of the coaches at our chat talked about today is the progression from "I have to" to "I choose to" to "I get to," with that last phrase most embodying gratitude. I think a lot of people start at a place of "I have to go to work today," and over time as they build the career that best suits their passions, find that they can shift to the much more pleasurable, "I choose to go to work today." But how awesome would it feel to take that one step further and say, "I get to go to work today. I have the privilege of doing X, and I'm so thankful for it."

I encourage you to take some time in the next few days, weeks and months to think about your career in terms of gratitude. What are the things you're grateful for at your job? Are you grateful to have a supportive boss, a friendly team, a fun work environment, daily tasks that challenge your mind or something else entirely? Are there any negative spaces or weaknesses that you can flip and view as opportunities you're grateful to have? If you're already experienced with cultivating gratitude in your life, what are the ways in which you express or record it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

On that note, I want to take the time to thank YOU. Thank you for visiting Career & The City, for reading this post and for giving me a few moments of your highly precious time. I hope that you'll be inspired to think about gratitude even more this time of year, and year-round.

Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting