I probably spend too many unproductive minutes in the year wondering how many mugs have “An Attitude of Gratitude” printed on them. I’m sure the figure is in the hundreds of thousands. While the idea is simple and the rhyming catchy, it’s hard to glean a clear-cut action plan and understanding from the words printed on your morning mug of joe.
Most likely, you get the general gist of the expression: we acquire stuff or do things that make us happy and we tend to feel appreciation for what we’ve got. Take a step further and you may realize that a lot of this centers around expectations. When things don’t go according to plan, we get frustrated and lean toward feeling ungrateful.
Let’s look at a very common, everyday situation. Say you’re used to taking off at four from work every Friday in the summer, a little fringe benefit at your company. At that time, it’s a skeleton crew anyway and the extra hour gives you a head start on some happy hour time. But one Friday, your boss needed you to finish up a report and leaving early doesn’t work out; you actually stay a bit later than five.
How would you feel in that situation? Maybe not pissed, maybe knowing there could be worse things that could happened, but also probably wishing for a different outcome.
Though we probably don’t look through our poop-colored glasses to this extreme, you could complain that your boss is taking you for granted, that you need the chill time, that you been at the company for so long and it’s your birthright to leave an hour early, or you work with a bunch of idiots and this job sucks. And on and on.
Gratitude can bring you back to your baseline, reframing the situation so you don’t get sucked into the spiraling vortex of doom and gloom. You reframe your situation so the bad about your experience doesn’t suck your soul and the good pops out—having a job, normally being able to take the time off, celebrating the end of the week with a happy hour anyway, spending the money you earn from that job on Mai Tai’s.
**A couple of caveats here: 1) practicing gratitude is not saying you shouldn’t be cognizant of the times when you do indeed need to make a change. Sometimes things really do suck and you can’t or shouldn’t maintain the status quo.
2) Nothing is inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’. We give situations their meaning through our interpretation of them. In choosing gratitude, you are taking a more positive view on your situation.**
If this sounds like an all right deal, here are a few things to try this month:
1) Gratitude call: call someone who you appreciate and actually tell them why you appreciate them. Watch how you feel inside when you do it.
2) Gratitude journal: Every other day, write down five things you are really grateful for and go into detail why you are grateful. The key is being specific.
3) Curbing Your Un-Enthusiasm: When you feel yourself complaining inside about whatever, see if you can reframe the situation so you can see the positives in the situation.
4) Deep diving: Take some aspect in your life you probably don’t think about—like never being hungry—and spend some time in a context where that’s not true for everyone and volunteer at a hunger center. Be creative with this one.
With the holidays and the season of gratitude right around the corner, here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving from the Thrive family.
This blog post brought to you by: Dan