I’m not sure how to make anyone feel grateful. My parents told me that I should be grateful a number of times, but telling me to be grateful didn’t make me feel grateful. Honestly, there were times that I felt guilty because I didn’t feel gratitude. I actually thought something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I feel grateful when I should feel grateful? Then at some point I grew up and made a simple discovery. “The emotion of feeling grateful doesn’t happen naturally. It is a result of the deliberate choice of demonstrating gratitude.” In other words, you don’t show gratitude because you feel grateful, you feel grateful because you show gratitude.
I know it may surprise you if I say I have a selfish nature. Are you shocked? For those of you who are pure in all of your motives and never struggle with your egos, I am sure you are disappointed in me. But I have struggled with the issue of selfishness for a while, ever since I was born. So for me, gratefulness is basically the result of overcoming some attitudes that can get buried deep in my human nature. These are attitudes that are the opposite of gratitude. If they go unchecked, they can result in a self-centered and frustrating lifestyle.
The “Never Enough” Attitude
This attitude is about our love affair with stuff, and our habit of being consumed with a materialistic mindset. It’s the trap of thinking that our happiness is connected to what we have, not who we are. We may tend to put more value on our things than we do our relationships. It is the reason why your children can get mad because they didn’t get popcorn when you just took them to the movie. We live in a culture that fuels this attitude, and it has the potential to crowd out living simple and grateful lives.
The “I Deserve It”Attitude
It’s easy to start believing that we automatically deserve things. It can happen to an individual, or a nation. It’s just the natural progression of a society that raises children who get whatever they want. Over time, there is a tendency to start believing that you deserve everything that you have. Think about it. Why should you be grateful for something that you are entitled to have? Why should you be grateful for a job that doesn’t pay you what you think you are worth? Why should you be grateful for your car when so many people you know are driving one better? We are programmed to believe that we deserve the best.
The “It’s All About Me” Attitude
Maybe you were raised in the kind of “child-centered” home that convinced you everything exists for you. It’s easy to grow up and embrace the notion that the entire planet somehow revolves around you and your issues. It rarely occurs to you that you should consistently sacrifice and put other people’s needs before your own needs. It is also difficult to comprehend that you have probably benefitted in numerous ways, because others have invested or sacrificed to help you.
The point is all of these attitudes can sabotage your potential to be grateful. And more than likely you can’t “feel” your way out of them. You have to take specific action. You have to become intentional about showing gratitude if you hope to become a grateful person.
If you want to battle the “never enough” attitude, you have to become a person who buys less and gives more.
If you want to get over the “I deserve it” attitude you should do your job diligently, celebrate the small things, keep your expectations in check.
What about the “it’s all about me” attitude? Well you can start by making a list this Thanksgiving of all the people that have made small and big differences in your life. Then write one person a note, or make a call every week to say, “Thank you” for what they have done in your life. You could also schedule some time to help someone else. Make sure it’s someone who can’t do anything for you in return.
Remember, you will never be grateful until you do something about showing gratitude.
Reggie is founder and CEO of Orange. He has co-written two parenting books, Playing for Keeps and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity as well as other leadership books including Lead Small and Think Orange. Reggie lives in Georgia with his wife, Debbie, and has four grown children, Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.