I don’t know many people who would argue against the value of giving thanks, so on the surface it would appear that I am simply preaching to the choir here. It is easy to be grateful for all the blessings we have in our lives as family, friends, health, food, shelter, etc. Expressing gratitude has also been linked to a host of benefits ranging from better mental and physical health to better relationships and productivity.
I recently entered gratitude into a Google search and it returned 109,000,000 results, and I noticed a disturbing trend. Based on the top links that came back, it appears that many people are using gratitude for selfish ends. Among the top links that appeared on page one of my search were: “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About”, “Can Gratitude Make Millennials More Successful?” and “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude.”
In my experience, the only genuine practice of gratitude is when it is done to enrich others. In fact, in my regular gratitude practice, I specifically ask the recipient not to acknowledge it, but if they feel compelled to respond, send a similar message of gratitude to someone in their life other than me.
I think expressing gratitude for selfish reasons will eventually backfire, in the same way that I see general selfishness and greed eventually coming back to bite people. It’s not always easy to do, but in the long run, helping others will fill you up much faster than just taking care of yourself.
Our society has become obsessed with results, to their detriment, in my humble opinion. I have found that the need for results makes those same results much less likely. That is why my approach is primarily based on process and purpose. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to get into the process and purpose (but I will have that in a future blog post) as I want to address another issue with how people practice giving thanks.
The other problem I have with the way people express gratitude is that they often focus on the easy stuff. If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ve probably seen me utter the phrase: “Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you react” (although now I think it’s more like 3% and 97 %). that once I learned to embrace the bad things that have happened to me and be grateful for them, it accelerated my growth exponentially.
When I was a kid, I used to curse the fact that life wasn’t fair and I often felt sorry for myself. I think a big reason I felt this way was because my mother passed away two days before my fourth birthday. Regardless of the cause, feeling sorry for myself made a bad situation even worse.
I finally realized that there was a silver lining to losing my mother at a young age. It made me a more sensitive and empathetic person and those traits serve me to this day. I am even grateful for all the people who bullied me or took advantage of me when I was depressed, because otherwise I would not have acquired the valuable skills or knowledge that I have. These experiences forced me to learn to solve problems at an early age and to think quickly. All of these traits and abilities are vital to the work I do today.
Furthermore, I also suffered from deep depression and anxiety after my mother passed away, but fighting those battles made me a better person. Although it took a lot longer than I would have liked, I do like the person I am today.
Having said all that, if I had a choice, I would give up all these benefits in a second to have my mother back even for a few days. But I cannot choose, so I have finally learned to play the cards that have been dealt to me with an eye to the future.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking about what would have been or could have been. In my case it would be if my mother had lived. But those fantasies are full of inaccuracies, as they visualize an idealized version of the person I am now, and the reality is that I may have ended up being a completely different person. Maybe even the son of a spoiled mom with very little compassion, as far as I know.
If you want to accelerate your growth, learn to have gratitude for the things that you missed or that went wrong, as well as for the things that went well, and when you choose to express it outwardly, do it to enrich others so that they do not. receive any benefits for you.