Is Gratitude Overrated?
This morning one of the first things I did, even before I made coffee, was go into my laundry room and check on the Mallard ducklings in residence. Just two mornings ago there were no ducklings in my laundry room nor was there any plan percolating. And yet here we are.
It’s not just the ducklings that weren’t in my plans. All my life I’ve been sometimes dazed, sometimes struck dumb and alternately dazzled by life and its weird twists and turns. This is not what I had in mind, I’ve thought on more than one occasion.
These are strange times, to be sure, and I’m not just talking about the ducklings. As a world community we are gazing at an unknown horizon, often with masks on our faces and we’re wondering, “What’s next?”
If you’re like me, you’re tempted to get out what I call my “Feel Good Tool Kit,” a range of tools I use when life starts to feel weird and uncomfortable. This kit spans from my childhood go-to of Chick-O-Sticks and Diet Coke, perhaps some legal substances or, and this is the more likely choice, I will head straight to a gratitude practice.
It’s well known in the “feel good” industry that gratitude is scientifically proven to elevate one’s mood and can trigger a bit of dopamine. Spiritually speaking gratitude is a nod to God, The Universe or the Collective Consciousness that says, “Hey, I’m glad to be alive.” While gratitude is a powerful tool, its effects reach far beyond what the lowly Chick-O-Stick might provide, the result of misusing that tool can run the gamut from irritating to unfortunate. Let me explain.
It’s a wonderful life when one is open to the miracle of breath, beauty and connection. Standing in the presence of Life is humbling and delightful but doing so perpetually is neither sustainable nor desirable. We are created for more. Gratitude for the sake of generating “good feels” can turn into an unhealthy coping mechanism where we think nice thoughts and end up playing an elevated game of naval gazing.
In our pursuit to feel good, forcing gratitude may give us the false idea that goals, dreams and comforts are for those who are never satisfied. We throw the ducklings out with the duck-water when we judge our desires and goals as shallow or materialistic. I have been guilty on more than one occasion of goading myself with, “You should be grateful for what you have,” or the more cynical, “Stop whining, most people would be more than happy in your circumstances,” when what I simply meant was, “This is great, but we didn’t quite hit the mark.”
Human beings are created to grow. To reach the mountain top of our goals can be a lofty and intoxicating height. In addition, it’s key to note that when we meet that peak, our delight is temporary and will wain rather quickly. That’s just the way it works. When we judge what to some might seem like a lack of gratitude, we are tempted to imagine we’re a lone, insatiable traveler of the world. We are ungrateful and may never feel “complete.” But that is the illusion.
If you don’t like where you are, move. You’re not a tree.
To reach new heights is cause for joyous celebration. And knowing that each celebration is temporary and the natural order, is to soon ask, “What’s next?” in delicious anticipation. This is not the sign of an insatiable soul, but of a curious traveler, an explorer, a seeker of truths and a soul in gratitude.
Before the pandemic, well preceding quarantine, each of us encountered disappointments. Perhaps it was a divorce from the love of your life, an unexpected loss of something or someone precious to you. Betrayal is an inevitable part of life, using gratitude with our longing and hunger helps us mourn our losses even as we look ahead and hunger for the “more” for which we are created.
Knowing disappointments, losses and longings are important ingredients to be honored, mourned and used, we are then inspired to create more of what we love. In gratitude.
Feeling a little inconvenienced about the motherless ducklings in my laundry room is a reasonable feeling. This is not what I had in mind and honestly those cute little puff balls are keeping me from some of the things I did have planned. This is a truth. Another truth is that there are ducklings to keep alive in my laundry room. The Littles in our family will be delighted and I am truly in a state of excited curiosity. I’ve yet had the pleasure of giving time and attention to something wild and being a part of the growth. There is so much to be learned and cherished in the little things. Gratitude is a go-to, and that’s okay. But using it along with all the other emotions makes everything sweeter can inspire us to our next, new height.
Michelle Pierson Young has spent her life learning about people, personality styles and entrepreneurialism. Finally landing in the personal development arena, she is certified in multiple coaching programs and continues to study the leading authorities in the industry, placing herself in the position of being a cutting-edge presenter, teacher and coach.
Michelle’s 30-year career, running various organizations and working with diverse teams, has informed her teaching and coaching style extensively. Today her clients are women as well as men. Her communication style bridges the differences between sexes and brings groups and teams to common ground.
Most importantly, Michelle’s unique experience in a collaborative, 33+ year marriage informs her work at the core level. Together, she and her husband Aaron share 4 children, their children’s partners and 6 sassy grandchildren.
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