This comprehensive guide on the attitude of gratitude seeks to achieve just one goal. By the time you read the last paragraph, living a life of gratitude will be a natural flow for you.
Let’s get started!
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation for a particular thing. Gratitude is first a feeling before the action. That is, even if someone says or does or tries to portray an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation, if it is not coming from the feeling first, it is not gratitude.
Feelings, however, arise from our thoughts. All the feelings we have are the function of the secretion of certain chemicals into our body system.
However, the release of those chemicals are triggered by the thoughts running in our minds both consciously and unconsciously. Gratitude is therefore a system of thought or a mindset that is thankful or appreciates a thing (the attitude of gratitude).
In this definitive guide, I am not just focusing on the attitude of gratitude for a particular thing or event but the attitude of gratitude for life in general. You can actually live life continually, daily with an attitude of gratitude. You can face every situation and circumstance with thankfulness and appreciation that they came your way or for the manner at which they came to you.
This might be difficult if you consider life honestly. Think about the bad times, think about the disappointments and heartbreak, think about the unfulfilled dreams and unanswered prayers, think about the failures, losses, and defeats that have come at one point or the other in your life and you would think gratitude is impossible.
Are you saying I should be grateful for losing my mum and job? Are you saying I should be grateful for the delay in my career? Are you saying I should be grateful for this terminal disease limiting my life?
Certainly not! I am not teaching you how to be grateful for those things but how to be grateful despite those things. The attitude of gratitude and living a life of gratitude is not being grateful for everything that comes your way in life only. Rather, it is being grateful for the good things and being grateful still, despite the things that don’t go the way you expect. It is being grateful all the way.
To be able to do this, you will need to change your perspective about life. As I stated earlier, the feeling of gratitude (whether you have it or not) is only a manifestation of your thoughts; both conscious and unconscious thoughts. Once you can have the gratitude-conditioned mindset, again, living a life of gratitude will be a natural flow for you.
But what makes up this gratitude-conditioned mindset?
Before we dive deep into that, let us consider some reasons why gratitude is important in the first place.
Is conditioning your mind for gratitude really worth it?
Benefits of the Attitude of Gratitude
1. Gratitude gives clear and positive vision
Living a life of gratitude will help you gain a clear and positive vision for your life and future. Complaining, dissatisfaction and loss of hope are the characteristics of a life of ingratitude, and once they are present, they prevent you from seeing positivity. A hopeless person doesn’t dream because dreams keep hope alive.
Ingratitude manifests, sometimes, as hopelessness and so, stuffs the dreamer in you to death. A complaining heart doesn’t see solutions and so can’t project a problem-free future. Instead, the complaining heart only focuses on the problems of the present and all the damages it has caused, and how things have gone beyond repairs.
Complaining and ingratitude clogs your mind with the present that you can’t see any future– at least, not a future without problems. With a feeling of gratitude for where you are, you can make plans for where you should be.
Although your experiences currently might not be your desire, gratitude clears your mind to see solutions and positivity for the future. And the mind that seeks a solution, will always find one.
2. Gratitude fosters peace and health
Living life without an attitude of gratitude frustrates the psychological and, ultimately, physical health of a person. As I stated earlier that ingratitude is caused by a heart that does not see positivity or solutions for life, this lack of positive foresight leaves you in worry and anxiety. It clogs your mind, dampens your emotions, and ultimately weakens your body.
According to Healthline, anxiety can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations and chest pain. It can also lead to headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, depression and social isolation.
Remember gratitude is being grateful despite everything that comes your way and the key to that is reconditioning your mind for gratitude. Once your mind has been conditioned to be grateful even in unpleasant situations, anxiety can’t have any toll on you.
The most common cause of anxiety is fear of uncertainties but the attitude of gratitude is trained for uncertainties so you don’t have to be anxious about them. It sees solutions for today and hope for tomorrow and so it is peaceful and free of the health hazards that lack of peace, and anxiety brings.
3. Gratitude brings favour and friends
The attitude of gratitude keeps you in the position that opens you up to favour and friends. There are a whole lot of hurting people out there with so many challenges they are tired of. Everyone in this category is looking for a way to ease themselves of the burden the mindfulness of their problems brings.
If you live a life of complaining and ingratitude, you can’t make a good friend who will help ease the disturbed minds of others. Rather, through your ingratitude, you will further dampen their heart. Nobody wants such a friend so they will avoid you.
Ingratitude also takes away your smile and the warmth your company would have given others. It therefore reduces the chances of people liking you and receiving favour from them.
Gratitude on the other hand, keeps you happy and enthusiastic as you go through life with optimism and positivity. People, hence, will like you and your company, will want to spend their time with you, and you will receive their favour.
4. Gratitude increases productivity
Consider what having a clear and positive vision for your life having peace and sound health and favor and friends will do to your life. It will give you the necessary conditions and environment for productivity in all you do.
Your advancement in career no longer becomes a lonely work because your attitude of gratitude is attracting the right people into your life, health challenges no longer become an impedance to your goals because the attitude of gratitude is keeping you peaceful.
Having a clear and positive vision will also help you to achieve more than you would have done if you were only trying to grope through whatever life brings at you without any direction.
All this being said, you have seen what living a life of gratitude could do to you. Now, how can you develop this attitude of gratitude?
How To Live A Life of Gratitude
1. See living as a privilege
Every challenge that comes your way and every situation you find yourself in that is taking away your sense of appreciation for life only came to you because you are alive. That doesn’t mean you should choose death; instead it means that you have a major reason to be grateful.
You have desires only because you first have a life. You deserve anything you think you deserve because you are alive. That means you are one step closer to your desire than a dead man. Wait.
Being alive gives you the opportunity to get what you want; it gives you room, it gives you hope. Yes, you aren’t giving your children the kind of life you would have wanted to give them but you are still alive.
There’s an opportunity to give them that life; there’s an opportunity for the advancement in your career that you seek for.
The first step to living a life of gratitude is just showing gratitude for that life because being alive means hope; it means a change could still happen; it means the chapters of your life are not close yet and that you should be grateful for.
2. Put away entitlement mentality
The second step to freedom from ingratitude is to stop being entitled. Many of the disappointments we have faced that have sapped the attitude of gratitude from us came because we felt we deserve something and couldn’t get it. But really, we don’t deserve anything. Wait, I will explain!
Every human is born by their parents and after that they become an individual. Being an individual means it is just you. The love, care, feeding, and shelter your parents gave you at birth didn’t come because that’s what you deserved— it was a privilege for you to have gotten it.
Think about those who didn’t enjoy having parents or shelter and you’d understand it was a privilege for you. You aren’t any better.
This realization goes beyond birth to your entire life. I am not saying you are not worth anything; I’m only saying that all that you are worth is not up to anyone or to life to give it to you (you will get the full picture in point 4).
You are absolutely responsible for everything in your life and if there’s anything you have received, it is a privilege you should be grateful for.
Think about it… your life is just you. If you stop being today, life continues. That means it is really just you. The system of support we receive from each other is there because we established it. If we decide today that we will stop supporting each other, our lives will be just us.
As much as you enjoy the provisions from the government and the environment around, you should be grateful they are there and stop seeing them as an entitlement. You are not more human than the starved children in the poorest villages.
No man is responsible for you. In fact, all the rights and blessings you receive from God came because He chose to be responsible for you, not because you deserve it.
This awareness should spur you to be grateful for every beautiful thing you see around you, even the smile of your neighbour because… what if they didn’t do it? And nobody did it.
3. See blessings in disappointments
Disappointments are great stiflers of the attitude of gratitude but if you look aside from unfulfilled desires, you will see some good that came with the disappointments.
Remember the attitude of gratitude is not being grateful for the disappointment but being grateful that despite the disappointment.
So your job here is to intentionally count the benefits that came with the disappointments. These benefits include the lessons learnt, the experience gathered, the ability to provide help to others who will go through similar situations, the skill to avoid such disappointments from occurring in the future, the empathy to understand the pains others are going through, and so on.
Scientists have found that our bodies house an estimated 100 trillion bacteria which are essential for our survival although we see bacteria as bad guys. These bacteria could give you another view of disappointments in your life. Although you see these disappointments as bad occurrences, they are actually essential for your survival on earth.
Joy and peace will not be fully appreciated until you have endured sadness and trouble. Also, the breakthrough wouldn’t be so fulfilling if that is all you have tasted.
Setting goals and failing to achieve them is what gives the refreshing excitement that comes with fulfilled goals. The attitude of gratitude will be developed if you recondition your mind to see beyond the disappointment and bad times into the blessings that follow. In the end, all things work together for your good.
4. Build a high self-esteem
It is important that you have a positive view of yourself and your life if you want to live a life of gratitude.
This is not countering what I said about you not deserving anything but it just proves that the reconditioning of your mind to see yourself as one who does not deserve anything doesn’t mean you should demean yourself or see yourself as worthless.
On the contrary, if you don’t see yourself as someone who is worthy, you cannot develop the attitude of gratitude.
Seeing yourself as undeserving doesn’t mean you are someone made for less. You are made for more, just that life is not obliged to give you more. It is absolutely up to you to get more out of life, and you should because that’s what you are worth.
High self-esteem comes into play in living a life of gratitude in that when you see yourself as someone who is worth more, you are able to look beyond the unpleasantness and lack of fulfillment of the moment and see what you are truly worth coming.
High self-esteem keeps your hope alive; it helps your eyes focus on solutions because you are sure that no matter what life brings, you are bigger than one who can be kept under. And for this reason, your gratitude will not cease.
It must be noted, however, that high self-esteem is not pride. You are not seeing yourself as one higher than who you truly are but someone who is just as he is and you are truly high.
With the right view of yourself as someone who is worthy of good (and so will get it), complaining and ingratitude will give way.
5. Reconnect to your source
One of the major reasons why many people have been finding living a life of gratitude very difficult is because they are looking at their lives just within the limits of everything that is around them.
What I mean is this: if you see your life as one that originated from your mother’s birth pangs, the town you came from and all the experiences you have had, you might have very little reason to be grateful.
You will see the government policies that stopped your parent’s career from reaching its peak; you will see the unfaithful friends that lured you into the mistakes you regret; you will see all you have got and the uncertainty that lies at the future. But that view of your life is incomplete. Not only that; it is also limiting and self-destructive.
Taking count of your life without putting into account your true source is both unwise and prideful. You won’t get the fullness of life away from your source.
Reconnecting to your source brings new timelines to the story of your life. You will begin to see how all the happenings and the supposed disappointments of your life are all aligning with the intention of your source.
When the rain understands that its purpose is to water the Earth, it won’t see falling as a demotion– it will see it as progress towards fulfilling its purpose.
In the same way, once you reconnect to God (your source), you won’t see the unpleasant situations as bad times but as necessary routes (for training and experience) to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for your life. Living a life to fulfill the purpose and intention God had when he created you automatically keeps you spurred for gratitude.
Since your sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life now comes from fulfilling that purpose, you won’t stop being grateful because you are daily moving towards the fulfillment of that purpose.
It is only when you are living to fulfill God’s purpose for your life that all things (even the ones that are taking the attitude of gratitude away from you) work for your good. And what can you be more grateful for in life than the assurance that everything is working to benefit you?
6. Avoid comparison
In the long run, comparison will frustrate the attitude of gratitude in you. At every point in your life, there is always someone who hasn’t gotten to where you are and someone who is ahead of you. Comparing yourself with those you are ahead of might trigger you to be grateful, but it is only momentarily.
Because you continually have to compare yourself with others to be grateful, you will have developed the habit of comparison. This habit, being formed, will not be limited to those you are ahead of only. It will tilt you, since that is its manifestation, to compare yourself with anyone you come across.
Then in trying to compare yourself to others to see those you are ahead of, you will find countless others who are ahead of you.
This will not only stop you from being grateful, it will also stifle the attitude of gratitude you have developed through past comparison because it was based on the wrong things.
As much as comparing yourself with those ahead of you will make you ungrateful, comparing yourself with those you are ahead of is also not beneficial.
So what’s the right thing? Compare yourself with yourself: compare your present with your past, compare your future with your now.
Dangers of Comparison
Comparing yourself with yourself will help you track your growth and measure your progress as against comparing yourself with another person. If you compare yourself with someone you are ahead of, you might think you are progressing when you really aren’t— you are only ahead of someone who isn’t progressing either.
Comparing yourself with someone ahead of you, on the other hand, might discourage you from making progress since no matter how hard you try, there will still be someone far ahead. It will seem like you aren’t making progress. This perceived lack of progress will further stifle the attitude of gratitude in you.
But if you compare yourself with yourself and measure your progress honestly, you can work on areas that need to be worked on without any pressure since you are not trying to outperform anyone. With this, you will be grateful for the step-by-step progress you are making since it is now visible to you.
So this is the lesson: the more you compare yourself to others, the less grateful you will become. The more you compare yourself with yourself, the more grateful you will become and the more progress you will make, which will in turn lead to more gratitude.
7. Live your life step-by-step
This is the only choice you will have after you have put away the comparison. Although you will have long-term goals for your life, the key to achieving them is by taking short steps towards them. You are going to work yourself out and stifle the attitude of gratitude if you are trying to live 5 years at a time or even a month at a time.
What I mean by living a year at a time is when you picture what you could become in a year or what it took someone else a year to become and try to get it right now. If you truly want to become whatever you have dreamt of, you have to take steps to become it and from the word ‘step’ you can see it is progressive: it takes a process.
Mike Murdock said, you cannot be who you are not but you can become who you are not. What this statement means is that change will not happen overnight. Change is a process of becoming and ‘process’ means it will take time.
What are you to do, then? Instead of trying to be what you can only become through a one-year process all at once, break down the process into monthly, weekly and daily steps because the secret to your future is hidden in your daily routine.
Rather than trying to track and tilt your future (which is impossible), you should track and tilt your daily routines and your future automatically follows the pattern.
Now, this is how living a step-by-step life will help you develop the attitude of gratitude: when you break your long-term goals into short steps, you are more likely to achieve them and in that way you can measure your progress and ultimately, fulfil the long-term goals or reach your desired future.
This then spurs you to gratitude: you become grateful for the things you have achieved and grateful for the assurance that you will get all you are planning to get.
If you noticed, I have only talked about becoming something throughout the article, and not having something. This is because everything you will ever have will come in response to who you already are. So you must become rich as a person, for instance, before money comes to you.
All this being said, living a life of gratitude is very possible. You don’t have to go through life with complaints and dissatisfaction! You will develop the attitude of gratitude when you see life as a privilege, put aside entitlement mentality, see your negatives as a blessing and build your self-esteem.
Reconnecting to your source, avoiding comparison and living step by step will also ensure you don’t have reasons to be ungrateful.
Which steps are you going to take from all you have learnt to begin to live a life of gratitude? Share with me in the comments or on Instagram.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.