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Make Time for Gratitude

Christine Sullivan, CSP, ARM, 2022-2023 ASSP President
Dec 01, 2022

As this year nears an end and a new year approaches, I find myself reflecting on all that has transpired over the past few years. We have dealt with many unforeseen challenges and disruptions. The resulting upheaval has generated unsettling anxiety and troubling uncertainty for each of us, our loved ones, and our workers, organizations and communities.

During times like these, we are vulnerable to developing a negative outlook and feelings of hopelessness. But as I think about my interactions throughout the past several years, what stands out is the depth of our human spirit. It has shined brightly as we have provided support, practiced kindness and offered compassion to one another. For that, I am truly grateful.

As I prepared to write this message, I searched the internet for quotes on gratitude (and trust me when I say this returned many pages of results). Several quotes caught my attention for different reasons. I would like to share three and the thoughts they prompted for me.

“This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.”
Maya Angelou

Sometimes we feel stuck in a repetitive daily routine that can seem like drudgery. But as this quote captures, each day truly is a unique experience. One characteristic of the OSH profession is the wide range of daily challenges it presents. I am grateful for the variety this brings to my work and for the opportunities it provides me to interact with so many people across my organization and with my clients.

“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”
Vietnamese proverb

I have a deep appreciation for mentoring. I am so grateful to my mentors for the role they have played in my career and in my professional and personal development. I would not have pursued my role as ASSP president without their encouragement and nurturing. I also am thankful for the many pioneers and leaders, such as Alice Hamilton, Frances Perkins, Dan Petersen and Fred Manuele to name only a few, who paved the way in improving workplace safety and advancing our profession. And, of course, I appreciate all you do each day to protect workers, support the Society and elevate our profession.

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.”
Germany Kent

On many fronts, society pushes us to always want more, have more, expect more. This can make us believe we never have enough. Such constant dissatisfaction can prevent us from appreciating what we do have. I know when I purposefully remind myself to focus time and attention on what I appreciate about my life, I always feel more satisfied, thankful and happy.

The Center for Creative Leadership says taking these four steps can help us better express our gratitude:

1. Focus on people, not performance. Think about what you appreciate beyond bottom-line impact.

2. Customize how you express gratitude. Some people like public acknowledgment, while others prefer more low-key recognition. This is why it is so important to get to know our teams and understand their needs.

3. Be specific in your gratitude. Much like we strive to define goals for our work projects, be sure to acknowledge explicitly what you appreciate.

4. Be authentic. People know when our comments are heartfelt and when they are not.

As you reflect on 2022 and look ahead to 2023, please take some time to think about how you can cultivate gratitude in all aspects of your life.

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