The Difference Between Gratitude and Giving Up
Living a life of gratitude has many benefits – proven medical and emotional benefits. But many people continue to be doubtful, either because they have never made a conscious effort to truly embrace gratitude as more than just a vague concept but as a lifestyle and core philosophy, or because they have made an unfortunately common mistake of conflating the idea of gratitude with a hopeless resignation and acceptance of their situation.
In other words, some people find themselves in bad life situations, and they hear about gratitude and so they say to themselves: I should be grateful, because it should be worse, and then follow that up with a feeling that being grateful for what they do have means not striving for anything better.
The Truth about Gratitude
The truth is, gratitude isn’t about being passive and accepting your life as-is without making any attempt to change things for the better. Gratitude is about acknowledging the things in your life that are good, that make you happy, that give you strength – and then using those things to achieve your goals. The big mistake is assuming that when you’re told to be grateful, you’re being sternly admonished, as if you were engaging in a sin of pride for thinking you could have something better.
Gratitude – true gratitude – isn’t about sitting still and accepting whatever comes your way. It’s about achieving a state of mind where you can acknowledge both facts:
• There are aspects of your life that you should be grateful for – health, love, success – and reminding yourself of these aspects is a crucial part of your mental, physical, and emotional health.
• There are still – and always will be – goals you haven’t achieved, or situations in your life that could be better.
These are not mutually exclusive aspects of your life. They co-exist and inform each other, and finding gratitude for the former does not preclude working towards the latter.
Gratitude as Motivation
Ultimately, this stems from the overarching mistake of assuming gratitude is the point. In other words, assuming that pausing to be grateful on a daily basis is in and of itself a conclusion, a final goal. Assuming that once you have found gratitude and benefited from living a better life due to gratitude, you no longer need to work quite so hard to improve your life.
Instead, the opposite is true: Gratitude should be the inspiration to work harder for the things you want. The benefits of gratitude should push you to want more to be grateful for.
In this, the daily ritual of the Appreciation Station can be essential. Every day, as you pause to contemplate your sense of gratitude, you can also contemplate the things your life is lacking, or the unfinished business of your goals. This doesn’t undermine or negate your achievements or the things you’re grateful for – it celebrates them.
With Grace x