Gratitude is ‘in’.
It is very firmly ‘in’.
Articles in popular magazines tout this as a must have skill. Journals laud it as an antidote to stress. Resting in the eunoia after my talk at the Conscious Entrepreneur Summit, audience members asked me about the value of gratitude.
Appreciation and Gratitude is one of the important exercises in my program “Creativity and Personal Mastery.”
But, if you scratch a little harder, if you dig a little deeper, you will find many who admit that it does not work for them.
An attendee at one of my talks said, “Professor Rao, this whole gratitude thing does not work for me. I am grateful. I practice gratitude. It feels good. But I don’t find that it makes my life better in any significant way. What am I missing?”
Do you feel the same way?
Experts advocate different ways to bring gratitude into your life and this lady had tried many of them. She kept a journal in which she noted three things every day for which she ‘should’ have felt grateful. She thought, consciously and hard, about the many ways in which she was fortunate and blessed. She had good health, a great job that she enjoyed, a supportive partner, financial security and much more.
Nevertheless, gratitude left her cold. She did not see the benefits the writers extolled. Many of my students feel the same way till I point out what they are doing wrong. And how to fix this.
And then, they reap such bounteous rewards that many swear everlasting gratitude.
I will wager that you make the same mistake.
The overwhelming majority of individuals who are drawn to my work are Type A people who live in their heads.
They make lists.
They think about everything.
When they are told that gratitude is a good thing and they should cultivate it, they agree readily and start doing it.
They make lists of the ‘good things’ in their life and contemplate them.
And therein lies the problem.
You cannot think gratitude.
You have to feel it.
You can’t go:
Good health – check.
Food to eat – check.
Bed to sleep in – check.
And so on.
Doing this has minimal benefit.
So how do you go from thinking gratitude to feeling it?
This is simple. And easy. But it requires conscious, deliberate effort on your part. And patience, because you have to keep at it ’til you get the hang of it.
Don’t just make lists. Take any item on your list and reflect deeply on it. See clearly how that item is embedded in your life and the stories associated with it and how it links up with other things in your life.
You have food to eat. So, you are not kept awake by pangs of hunger. You have a bed to sleep in, so you have restful slumber. Because you are not hungry and are well rested, you can devote your energy to a client who calls with a problem. Doing such tasks provides you a good salary and that lets you maintain your high standard of living.
As I said, it requires effort on your part. And time.
If you persist, gratitude changes from a ‘must feel’ thought to a felt experience. The ‘thinking’ morphs into ‘feeling.’
And that is when all the benefits pour down on you.
When you are feeling gratitude, you are not angry. You are not fearful. You are not anxious. You are not nervous. You are not worried.
These feelings cannot co-exist with gratitude.
That is how you cultivate gratitude.
As you deepen your practice, let go of gratitude for anything.
Whatever you are grateful for can be stripped from you.
Grateful for good health? You can be hit by a truck and become a quadriplegic.
Learn to be grateful. Just grateful. Not grateful for anything.