They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to keep a family together, too.
I recently celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with my wife, AnaPaula, but instead of celebrating just the two of us, we gathered family, our family priest, and a couple of friends who were with us from the beginning. This gathering was our way of saying “thank you” to those who’ve stood by us, shared in our journey, and played a part in keeping our relationship strong –– we’re incredibly grateful for this support system that has sustained us in all aspects of our life.
The power of gratitude and appreciation are not just fleeting sentiments, but integral to our fulfillment and success, both personal and professional.
The impact of Gratitude
It can be easy to overlook gratitude amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, especially in the business world. But for leaders and entrepreneurs, embracing gratitude isn’t just a nice-to-have –– it’s a powerful element that can enrich both personal and professional lives.
Acknowledging and valuing the efforts of those around us — our team, customers, or broader community — creates a supportive and collaborative culture. This isn’t about corporate strategies, it’s about human connections and the impact we have on each other. In an organization, embracing gratitude can transform the way we interact with our teams and peers, which leads to much better outcomes for the organization and for its customers.
I’ve always believed, even if it hasn’t been obvious, that we get more satisfaction out of being grateful for others’ acts or contributions, as opposed to focusing on ourselves. This is even more true as we gather to share laughter and stories this holiday season, where we realize that our true strength lies in our togetherness.
The Art of Appreciation
When I was in the first year of revitalizing Aquila, I made it a point to contact those who had been pivotal in my journey for the past 20 years. Calls, texts, emails, handwritten notes — I used them all to express how appreciative I was for their friendship, for the work that we did together, for inspiring me, and for their support during the tougher times. Every time I reached out, it was about giving thanks, not getting something in return. I’ve now made it a part of my weekly routine to thank or acknowledge those people who have helped me along the way.
For leaders, recognizing the power behind appreciation means recognizing the contributions of others, understanding our interdependence, and building a culture of mutual respect and support. The simple act of reaching out to express appreciation, particularly during pivotal moments like a career change or company reboot, is invaluable.
Furthermore, such acts of appreciation have a ripple effect. They don’t just enhance existing relationships, but often lead to personal growth and a renewed sense of purpose. They may even inspire others to find more appreciation in their own lives. I know this has certainly been true for me, which is why I decided to write this at year-end.
In short, embracing the habit of showing your appreciation is a game changer, especially in an environment that often obsesses about personal achievement over collaborative success.
Ask Not What They Can Do for You
Shifting our focus to what we can do for others marks a significant, meaningful change, putting more focus on community and collective well-being. This is called servant leadership, but that’s a post for another time.
This became particularly poignant to me during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many of us initially focused inward, concerned primarily with our own safety and that of our families. But as the pandemic progressed, a remarkable shift happened. We began to look outward, caring more for others and rekindling a sense of community, something I realized had been missing between myself and my friends. We spent more time together than we had in years, and we’re very grateful for that opportunity to reconnect.
But this shift in focus isn’t just about being altruistic, it’s about recognizing the power of community and how our well-being is interconnected. By considering what we can do for others, we foster a supportive network that benefits everyone involved. A common example during the pandemic was the surge in neighborhood support networks, where people offered to shop for groceries for those who couldn’t leave their homes, or simply checked in on elderly neighbors to ensure they were safe and had company.
This mindset can also be transformative for those in leadership roles as well, encouraging us to think beyond our personal gains and consider the broader impact of our actions, much like the principles outlined in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” This doesn’t diminish our ambitions but enriches them, adding a layer of empathy and connection to our pursuits.
In short, if we simply conducted ourselves the same way we were taught as children (respect your elders, respect each other), the world would be a much better place.
Goals and Gratitude
Year-end is always a time to take stock and be grateful for everyone and everything around you. It’s a time to acknowledge the good, the challenges, and the growth we’ve experienced. But it’s absolutely possible to acknowledge the good in our lives while still yearning for something more, or to achieve personal goals without feeling gratitude.
Indeed, achieving everything we want without feeling gratitude can lead to a hollow sense of success. Even worse, a lack of gratitude can create a negative effect in our surroundings, diminishing the morale and enthusiasm of those around us, as they feel undervalued and unrecognized.
When we achieve our greatest goals but don’t share these successes and the journey with those who helped us along the way, it can leave us feeling empty. This really shows how important it is to value our journey and the people who have supported us through it.
Reflecting on the past year, I’m reminded of the joy we gained from showing our appreciation to family and loved ones, celebrating not just our anniversary, but also the invaluable community that has supported and enriched our journey.
True fulfillment comes not only from our achievements, but also from the appreciation of the roles others play in our lives. As we look ahead to 2024, let’s carry on this spirit of gratitude, recognizing that our successes are as much about the contributions of those around us as they are about our individual efforts.
Image by Mohamed Nohassi from Unsplash.