How many times do you hear the phrase, “Have a nice day”? Probably hundreds of times each year. And how many times do you say it? Again, probably hundreds of times. In many if not most cases, the phrase is perfunctory but well-meaning. But what would be more meaningful?
Healthcare associates are, for the most part, very hard-working individuals—especially those in direct patient care. I remember working long, tiring shifts as a nurse with daily to-do lists as long as my arm. There were many times I’d leave work feeling frustrated with the one or two things I just couldn’t get finished on my shift. Rather than congratulating myself on the dozens of things I did get done, I’d often end my shift feeling bad about any loose ends left for the next shift. I’ll never forget the day I learned to turn those frustrations around.
As a consummate perfectionist, it’s often hard to shift focus and see past any unfinished business. But I worked for a wise manager who would stop us before we left work and say, “Tell me one thing you did today that made a difference.” She knew that when we were so busy, we’d have a tendency to see past the good we’d just done and focus instead on frustrations and unfinished tasks. That type of thinking can start a downward spiral of negative thinking, resulting in mental and physical exhaustion. But by stopping us at the time clock with that one simple question, she’d quickly remind us to focus on the positive. It didn’t matter if our examples were related to patient care or teamwork with co-workers, it was an exercise that helped us leave work on a positive note, knowing that we had made a difference. (I have to admit that sometimes I had to think about the tasks I missed on my list a little a bit, but that could just be the wicked perfectionism rearing its ugly head.)
This little exercise of positivity, when practiced regularly, started to remind me that I was part of a hard-working team and that the care I gave my patients made a difference to them, their families, and the organization. I could choose to leave work with my attention on the negative or shift my focus to the positive.
Each of us needs to feel that our work matters, and each of us wants to know that we make a difference, yet we don’t discuss this enough. And we can’t always count on words of thanks or praise to come to us from someone else. The best thing we can do for ourselves, our patients, and our organizations is to maintain a strong connection to purpose. By getting in the habit of reflecting on how you make a difference each day, you’ll be making that connection regularly.
Starting today, ask yourself how you made a difference. And when someone says, “Have a nice day,” replay it as a reminder to have a purpose-driven day. Then, before you leave work, ask yourself to recall one thing you did to make a difference.