“Be grateful.” It’s what every trending blog-post, business book, and bystander are telling us we need to do to get where we want to go.
Want to make more money? Be grateful.
Improve a relationship? Be grateful.
Get noticed at work? Be grateful.
What’s that you’re thinking? You don’t always feel grateful.
Of course, you don’t.
Were you hoping this would be a pithy post where I too would tell you to be grateful?
I promise, I won’t tell you how to feel.
I respect you too much for that.
Gratitude is a feeling. And feelings change. Constantly.
The trick is to recognize it when you do feel grateful, put it into words, and take action. Becoming more comfortable with exploring your feelings and impressions can go a long way toward mastery in this area.
Saturday morning, I was looking out the window at the rising morning light.
Tired, I watched thick rolling clouds give way to sunshine that flooded the room with big, broad, bands of gorgeous light.
The sun, suddenly on my face, lifted my mood.
“There’s the sun.” I said out loud. Acknowledging it, my mind moved into lighter, brighter, subjects…just like the sky-scape.
I didn’t orchestrate. I observed. I experienced. I put words out into the world.
My feelings don’t do command performances. Not well, anyway.
“Experts” will tell you to fake gratitude until you make gratitude, develop a habit of gratitude, and practice gratitude if you want it to stick.
When that doesn’t work, they’ll tell you to be authentic. Be your brand. Be likeable.
As if any one of these were easy or self-evident.
Don’t tell me how to feel. It’s my refrain.
I’ve got an inalienable right to my feelings. Please, don’t tell me what to do with them.
Ever share how you’re feeling with someone and they respond by telling you that you “should” be grateful? It’s the worst! Kicks the knees out from under whatever effective communication you might have experienced.
It’s not my style to tell you who to be or how to feel. I’m too curious about who you actually are, how you actually feel, and how I can help you express that to the world to take that role.
I’m grateful for many amazing experiences, people and opportunities in my life but without my capacity to feel deeply, and my commitment to doing the work that comes with exploring those feelings, I’m not able to bring awareness or acknowledgement to people in my life who really need it to keep supporting me.
Without real, deep, self-reflective, expressed feeling, the blessings in my life lack luster. Only when I bring my awareness to my experience of gratitude, and work to express it appropriately to the people who’ve earned it, do I reap the benefits of gratitude’s good fortune.
Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, also sees gratitude “as a relationship strengthening emotion” requiring “us to see how others support us.” This is worth thinking about, and acting on, because the success of one person always involves the commitment, sacrifice, and generosity of others.
So as this holiday season starts, a time of year when it’s notoriously hard to drop in with our selves and figure out what, exactly, we are feeling and why…let’s commit to the relentless pursuit of our true feelings. No matter how difficult, slippery, sad or irrelevant they may feel. You may be surprised to find that you’ve got more joy and gratitude than you knew. Believe me, it’s worth it. You can trust your feelings—even the unpleasant ones–to guide you to good places and good people.
The brilliant Gertrude Stein once wrote, “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” And, she’s right but before you say it, you need to see it, before you see it, you need to feel it and when you feel it–really feel it—you’ll want to communicate it.
Enjoy the process, a deep sense of gratitude feels great for you. Sharing it with a person worthy of it feels good for them. It’s a win-win that’s good for you and your relationships.
The very perceptive and thoughtful William James wrote; “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” If you feed people’s cravings, they’ll come back for more deepening your relationships over time. It’s these relationships, and your commitment to them as a valuable player, that help you get where you want to go.
Think about it: How do you feel when someone is grateful for you?
Monday, I was brushing my teeth when I got a text from a client that said, “Today is the day I start the next chapter of my life. I can’t wait to tell you about it! Thank you.”
Elated, my day started with an amazing sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and love all because someone I work with took 30 seconds to send me a text when she was feeling grateful. You know how I responded?
“I can’t wait to hear the details.”
Later that day, a contact sent me six valuable introductions. Floored by his generosity, I wrote him and said, “You really know how to create abundance. And where there is abundance, there is gratitude. Thank you.” He wrote me back and shared some favorable impressions he’s had of me recently and I did the same for him.
Guess what? We deepened our relationship.
Let’s do the same. Right now, I’m grateful for you, your thoughts, and your feelings. Please, share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Big thanks to Anthony Fasano who asked me to write on this topic so he might share it with his readers. The post originally appeared at http://engineeringcareercoach.com