As women, we are often faced with situations that require courage, resilience and optimism. Over my career, I’ve come to realize that gratitude is one of the skills that has sustained me.
Defined as the quality or feeling of being grateful, research shows that gratitude has the potential to reduce stress, create stronger relationships, improve our health, and generally make us happier. By practicing gratitude, we can elevate our mindset simply by taking a moment to recognize and appreciate the good things, instead of dwelling on the bad.
When I decided to leave my leadership role two years ago, I was overwhelmed by the support of women. Women hired me to help them grow their businesses, supported me as I developed a new business and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I can say without a doubt that 2018 has been one of the best years of my life (and my career) – I started writing my dream book, took my daughter to Kenya with WE.org, and had amazing career opportunities to learn.
How I gave back
One of the incredible women I met was Vicki Saunders, CEO of SheEO, who awakened me to the challenges women are facing bringing new innovations to the market. Did you know that women are starting businesses at 1.5 times the pace of men but only 4% of venture capital goes to women-led Ventures? And the number is even lower if you are a woman of colour. For generations, over 50% of the population has been under-funded, under-resourced, and under-supported. It’s time to change that.
SheEO is a global community of radically generous women transforming how we fund, support, and celebrate female entrepreneurs. In our first three years, 3000 women across three countries have collectively loaned out $3M to support 32 women-led Ventures including The Alinker,21 Toys, LOLIWARE,Callisto and In This Together Media. Our collective story can be read about in Forbes, Inc, FastCo and more. And we’re just getting started. Our goal is to reach 1M women Activators and a $1B perpetual fund which will support 10,000 women-led Ventures each year for generations to come.
The Stages of Gratitude
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, author of “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier”, people aren’t hardwired to be grateful. He says there are three stages to gratitude: recognizing what we’re grateful for, acknowledging it, and appreciating it. Like any other leadership skill, gratitude requires practice and exercise. Emmons recommends a number of things you can do to cultivate gratitude, from keeping a gratitude journal, to volunteering, to exercise.
We need to find time to be grateful for our experiences – good or bad. These can range from learning something new, to being challenged to think differently or the simplicity of seeing a rainbow in the morning. Gratitude gives context to our otherwise busy lives and enables us to connect with others in ways we didn’t think possible.
Life is a series of problems that have to be solved — and a lot of times those problems cause stress,” says Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis. “Gratitude can be that stress buster.”
We have many opportunities to feel grateful in our lives, yet we often miss out on chances to express gratitude, especially at work. A survey of 2,000 Americans by the John Templeton Foundation found that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else. We are not even thankful for our jobs, which tend to rank dead last when asked to list the things we’re grateful for in our lives.
The Templeton study reveals that:
- Only 10 per cent of employees express gratitude to peers or colleagues; and only 7 per cent of employees express gratitude;
- 74% never or rarely express gratitude to their boss. But people are eager to have a boss who expresses gratitude to them. 70 percent would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful and 81 percent would work harder.
- 94% of women and 96% of men agree that a grateful boss is more likely to be successful. Only 18% feel a grateful boss could be seen as weak.
There’s no doubt that gratitude can bring about some very positive results in the workplace. What have you done to activate gratitude in your life, and how has it benefitted you as a leader, manager or colleague? What are you actively doing to give back?
Carolyn Ray is the Founder and CEO of her own consulting firm, AUTHENTICA. She previously led Interbrand’s Canadian office. Connect with her on @thecarolynray.