It can be hard to stay positive when you feel lost, uncertain and unfulfilled in your job — or with your life. The mind can play malicious tricks on you, easily goading you down a rabbit hole that leads to a place we instinctively wish to avoid: a rut.

First, know this: You’re not alone. We’ve all experienced a “rut” at some point in our lives. The magnitude of it may vary from person to person, but tango-ing with the darker corners of the mind is part of the human experience. How you dance this dance needn’t be entirely depressing, however.

I’ve learned one thing that helps to temper the psyche in times of self-doubt, self-criticism and self-pity. Perhaps it could serve you.

It’s called the gratitude jar, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a jar filled (literally) with gratitude.

My gratitude jar.

How a simple jar served me

I started my first gratitude jar on New Year’s Day in 2014, at a time when I was haunted by a lot of uncertainty, after leaving a “dream” job and the financial security that came with it. My mind began focusing on the have-nots and worries, which clouded everything else that was positive in my life, even as I was traveling the world on a career sabbatical and having incredible experiences each day. Mentally-emotionally, I was slipping into a rut. I recognized this (thank goodness), and knew that I needed to shift the internal dialogue, somehow.

So one night before bed, I scribbled down something amazing that happened to me that day — something that filled me with gratitude — and dated it. I did it the next day. And the next. And the next. I eventually purchased a small jar with a lid to save my little scribbles and continued with this nightly tradition, dropping each gem of gratitude into this jar before falling asleep. The jar even traveled with me, whether I was on the road for pleasure or work. It became a constant reminder of everything that was positive in my life, no matter where I was in the world.

After one year, this jar had accumulated 365 little scribbles of positive memories and things for which I was grateful. But even more important than this tangible souvenir: The jar prevented my mind from venturing too far down the rabbit hole of negativity.

An overwhelming pile of gratitude once held in a colorful jar.

A scribble of gratitude from Jan. 25, 2014.

Something that inspired gratitude on Feb. 17, 2014.

By having a tether to focus on the things that made my life great, and the things that I was grateful for, I transformed into a much happier person — the kind of person who recognized that a “rut” was simply a state of mind.

My first gratitude jar happened organically. I’ve since gone on to proactively start others, including one when I began a new job that initially caused me anxiety. I kept that jar at my desk and before leaving each night, I’d drop in a scribble detailing something new I learned that day that helped me become a better employee and person, no matter how small the victory. That jar became a symbol of my progress at work. Gratitude helped me recognize that I was actually excelling, not suffering.

How a simple jar can serve you

You’ll be surprised at how profoundly this small ritual can turn things around. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. Like anything else, its effects grow over time. Compiling consistent gratitude, however, helps to diffuse negative mental chatter.

I highly recommend gifting a jar to yourself and witnessing how it can transform your perspective from “rut” to “really great life.”

And don’t wait until the New Year. There’s no time like the present.

I’ll even break it down for you:

Buy a jar with a lid. It can be plain or opulent, whatever speaks to you and inspires excitement.

Keep the jar somewhere meaningful, where you can see it, such as your bedside nightstand or office desk. It should serve as a daily visual reminder and not be hidden.

Commit to a time each day when you will write something about your day for which you’re grateful, then drop it into the jar.

Stay disciplined. Don’t skip days.

Seriously, no skipping days.

When in need of a confidence boost, open the jar and randomly pick out a few scribbles to read. Close your eyes, and reflect on this gratitude.

Pick a special “milestone” day to open the jar to read all your entries, such as after a full 365 days. This date will become something that you can look forward to, hopefully motivating you to keep up the daily ritual.

Good luck, have fun … and stay grateful.


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