The Expert’s Guide To Gratitude
At some point growing up, most of us were faced with the following scenario:
We wrong our sister, brother, young neighbor or a classmate. Having been scolded by our parents for being rude or perhaps pulling their hair, the adult authorities gave us the following instructions. “Now you go over and apologize to your brother.” You walk over say the requisite “I’m sorry” then move on with your day. But here’s the thing. You are not sorry. There was no change or softening of the heart on your way over to him. You didn’t have a choice to say those words, but the choice to be truly remorseful was always in your hands.
Gratitude is no different. The words “thank you” often come out of our mouths on an obligatory basis, but true gratitude is always a choice. Yet simply making the choice is not enough.
Gratitude is never forced on us – it’s something we choose.
Now let’s fast forward to adulthood, and that emergency caesarean you just had. You know, the surgery on vacation that saved your baby’s life and possibly yours, leaving a scar in its wake. You can choose to be grateful for your next breath. And a healthy baby. Or, you can say “thank you” to the doctor and then rage to your friends about the cost of the surgery and how the doctor’s inexperience must have left a scar bigger than it ought to have been. After all, you are entitled to a medical emergency that fits your budget, timeline and that leaves a scar exactly to your liking. Or no scar, right? Just like your girlfriend Jenny. She has no scar.
Oh, and the doctor didn’t even say “you’re welcome”. You are entitled to a nice doctor as well.
That might sound absurd, but we all know it plays out everyday in our lives and the lives of those around us. Gratefulness is a choice and one we far too often abdicate. Marketers have spent trillions of dollars persuading us that we can have it all, that we deserve it all, and that right around the corner is something even better. Politicians have told us that they’ll handle everything; a better world is our rightful inheritance. And we believe it. We buy into our privilege as well as the expectation that our privilege entitles us to even more. It’s not based on status or reality.
Entitlement is a cultural choice and you’re entitled to your entitlement if you want it. But why would you?
Entitlement gets us nothing but heartache.
Entitlement’s bright shining light blinds us to what’s possible. Entitlement insulates us from the magic of gratitude that is ours for the taking if (if!) we simply make a different choice. Worse, entitlement lets us off the hook by pushing us away from taking responsibility and action for our current reality by apportioning blame and anger instead. Sounds oh-so-modern, doesn’t it?
Gratitude, on the other hand, is just as valid a choice. Except that gratitude makes us open to possibility. It brings us closer to others, and it makes us happier if we let it. Let’s face it: everything could be better and a lack of gratitude can drive you mad in an imperfect world. Not because we deserve better, but because if we work at it, invest in it and connect with others around it, we can make it better.
It all rides on us, and it always has. It always will. So let’s put the ball in your court shall we?
Gratitude is an action.
Taking action to show gratitude is difficult, counter-instinctual work that never ends. A safe flight home from a business trip is reason to show gratitude. But that gratitude doesn’t give you a safe Uber ride home from the airport. Gratitude is a choice that best works when relentlessly practiced. You know what relentlessly means, right?
But here is the jackpot. If you’re looking for perfection in gratitude, take note: true gratitude is more an action toward another, than a thought or feeling. It may be conceived internally but it needs to be externalized. It must be expressed – demonstrated, shown, proven. To express, deliver and connect with another person in a moment of gratitude amplifies the experience and the effect.
Some find it difficult to reach out and touch, or speak words of gratitude. That is until they truly practice it and see the remarkable effects it has both on you and those who cross your path. To be truly appreciated or listened to is such a striking experience in life only because it so rare. When you make the choice to gift that gratitude to others you change their lives as well as yours. It is a choice and one we can become better at everyday. More than a thought, it is a life changing action that rests in your hands this very moment.
Want to hone your gratitude skills? Let’s talk.
I’ll bring enough gratitude for both of us.
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Photo Credit: Rolanda Costa