During the holiday season everyone is talking about what they are grateful for. You see daily gratitude posts on social media leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Articles scatter the internet teaching you how having a gratitude list will make you more happy.
Gratitude is great…up to a point.
There is an element about gratitude that has been grossly overlooked by self-development gurus everywhere.
In this article, you will learn how to experience more meaningful gratitude in your life and ….BONUS!… it will actually make you a more influential person as well!
First, let’s start with how you can instantly improve your current gratitude practice and highlight what is missing in almost everyone’s gratitude list.
WHY Are You Grateful?
You can thank Mamma Alexander for this one.
The other day Mom told me that she and dad had joined a book club. (Can we all just say a collective “Awwwww” for the cuteness here!)
The first book that they are reading in the book club is Be Happy by Robert Holden. One of the big lessons in this book is to write WHY you are grateful for something. There is a big difference between having a running list of things you appreciate – your home, your friends, your dog – and saying why you appreciate those things.
I’m grateful for my home because there was a time when I could barely pay rent. Now, I live in this gorgeous house that is a testament to my determination, persistence, and accomplishments.
I am grateful for my best friend because every time we talk I feel like I’m a better person because of her advice and understanding.
I’m grateful for my dog because…well, he’s a dog and dogs are the best. Period.
Make your gratitude list more than a role call for what is good right now. Don’t just jot one item down and move on to the next.
In fact, I argue that gratitude doesn’t exist without knowing WHY you’re grateful. Without the why, a gratitude list is more like a “nice things I noticed today” list.
Bonus Level of Gratitude
James Altucher is one of my favorite writers and speakers. It is very rare to find someone who is so authentic on the stage and on the page. (Yeah, that might be a little cheesy, but I’m keeping it 🙂 ) Then, when you add the fact that he is brilliant and funny, you’ve got the perfect blend for today’s thought leader.I’ve been fortunate enough to see James speak at a few events.
You know how people say, “don’t meet your heroes”? Well, that doesn’t apply to James. He was kind enough to talk about my book with me one day over coffee at an event. I am happy to say that he is just as kind, straightforward, and intelligent as you think he is.
When I last saw James speak, he made a great point about gratitude that I started incorporating in my life.
James encouraged the audience to find ways to be grateful for the difficult times or the not-so-obvious things in your life.
It’s easy to be grateful for your dog and your kids, but what about being grateful for the client that you just lost? Or finding gratitude in that difficult conversation you had to have with your spouse?
This isn’t about looking at the world through rose colored glasses or gritting your teeth into a forced smile. This is about training your brain to actively CHOOSE the meaning you give to circumstances rather than being a victim to negative, depression-inducing thoughts.
I’m grateful for the difficult conversation with my spouse because I practiced honest communication. It felt good to openly speak about my needs and I’m proud that I also listened to his/her needs as well.
Finding gratitude in the lessons learned in difficult times is a beautiful practice and possibly more meaningful than being happy that flowers are pretty.
Why Your Gratitude List Is Selfish
And now we have come to the meat of the matter. This is the lesson that inspired this article.
Feeling grateful is nice. Wonderful even. You get all those ushy-gooshy happy feelings when you sit in your cozy bed in your cozy clothes as you write your list. And then you put the list down and feel good about yourself and your life. That’s lovely. Truly.
Next time you look at your list, I’d like you to notice the names of the people that you wrote down- the you’re grateful for. Mom. Dad. Boyfriend. Friend. Mentor. Coworker. … all those people who have added something to your life. They made enough of an imprint that they have a honored spot on your gratitude list.
So my question is…
Do they even know that?
Do those people even know that you are grateful for them? More importantly, do they even know WHY you’re grateful for them?
Have you expressed your gratitude OUTSIDE of your gratitude list?
I’m going to tell you a sad truth that will hopefully convince you to share your appreciation more often.
Do you know why con-artists are so successful in victimizing people?
For the con-artist who plays the long con – developing a relationship with their victim for a higher “take” than a quick con – they know that the quickest way to earn the favor of their victims is to show them appreciation and recognition. The con-artist can easily and quickly endear him/herself to the victim by making them feel seen, feel heard, and feel special.
Do you know the first person that an intelligence officer will try to turn into a spy?
It’s the person who feels under-appreciated and undervalued by their company or government. It’s the person who has been unseen and unnoticed. An intelligence officer is happy to approach this person and get them to share classified information, because the officer knows that the crave to feel seen, feel heard, and feel special…and the officer can provide.
People are so starved for appreciation that they will accept it from the most toxic sources.
So, how great is that gratitude list now?
By cloistering your gratitude between the covers of your journal, you are still starving your loved ones from something that they desperately desire.
We Can Do Better
Here is your challenge, if you choose to accept it. And, no, this message will not self-destruct in 5 seconds. In fact, this message will stay up here and if you know someone who loves self-development and is into gratitude journaling, I encourage you to share this with them. This will take their (and your) gratitude to a higher level, making the world just a little bit better.
Here we go…
Every day find 1 way to express your gratitude to someone.
Tell ONE person what you appreciate about them. Tell ONE person why you appreciate them.
One person. Each day.
Tell someone why you appreciate them:
- To their face
- On the phone
- On a video call
- In an email
- In a handwritten letter
- On a facebook post you tag them in
- With a gift (with a card)
- In skywriting
- Whatever works for you
Start easy and share your appreciation with the people that you love. Just remember, it’s more meaningful to say WHY you appreciate them not just, “I appreciate you.”
After some time, I urge you to stretch yourself and tell someone you’re not close to (or even someone you don’t get along with) why you appreciate them. Who knows, it could shift the dynamic of the relationship.
PLEASE REMEMBER THIS!
You are not giving that person your appreciation SO THAT they will respond in a certain way.
You are not sharing your appreciation in hopes of getting appreciation in return.
You are not expressing your gratitude in order to trigger any comment or behavior from them.
You ARE expressing your gratitude and appreciation to express your gratitude and appreciation. That’s it.
You may get a lovely response from people. You may not.
You may improve a relationship. You may not.
Their response is not a part of the equation in this exercise. The point of this exercise is to take your gratitude out into the world and not leave it in your journal.
Who knows. Maybe if more of us expressed gratitude and appreciation to others then maybe it will feed their souls with just enough sustenance that they won’t seek to be fed false appreciation from dysfunctional places.
I look forward to hearing how you take your gratitude to the next level! Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences here: