Many people enjoy ice cream and appreciate a cool treat on a hot, sunny day. What would you think of a free cone of liver and onion flavored ice cream? Would you think, “well, I deserve a better flavor of free ice cream”? (entitlement) Would you think, “well, I should appreciate it since not everyone has ice cream”? (forced gratitude) Maybe you would think, “okay, I am lucky to have free ice cream and I am going to enjoy it.” (avoidance) Entitlement, forced gratitude, and avoidance are the opposite of gratitude.
It is easy to see entitlement in others. He/she thinks the world revolves around them and they are entitled to all the good things in life. It can be difficult to see entitlement in ourselves and our own entitlement frequently leads us to frustration. If you work 40 hours at $10/hour you are entitled to $400 at the end of the week, right? Not exactly. After taxes your paycheck is about $330. Frustration over the $70 in taxes is entitlement. After all, paying taxes is not something you can get out of. Being thankful you are paid wages for work you enjoy is gratitude.
Forcing thankfulness does not motivate us to an attitude of gratitude. Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you to eat your liver and onions, because a starving child would be grateful to have it? Did you feel grateful for your food in that moment? Would you expect a child to be grateful for a food they dislike, just because someone else does not have food? Should you appreciate the liver and onion flavored ice cream just because not everyone has free ice cream?
Giving thanks to avoid how you feel isn’t gratitude. Let’s indulge in a brief drama llama moment. Sally volunteers with several organization and was very excited to receive an invitation to her town’s exclusive ladies luncheon club. She took care with her appearance and wore her best suit. When Sally arrived, her excitement was visible on her face. One of the ladies greeted her at the door, “Hello and welcome. Did you arrive in that Honda?” Sally replied, “Hello! I am so excited to join you. Yes, that is my Honda.” The lady scowled her disapproval and said, “Glad you are here. I drive a Mercedes.” Another lady greeted her, “Hi, I’m Helen. Are those Prada shoes?” Sally responded, “Hello! I am so excited to join you today. I’m Sally and no, my shoes aren’t Prada.” Helen turned away from her with, “hmm, my shoes are Prada.” All through lunch the ladies compared their labels to Sally’s. Sally told herself that she was thankful to be included in this exclusive group but was actually disappointed. The group was more interested in comparing labels than working together for the greater good. Sally told herself she was thankful to avoid how she really felt.
The experience of gratitude is an empowering, uplifting emotion. Dig deep and dare to know why you are grateful. Is it an honest emotion that lifts you up or is it an obligation that weighs you down? Is it chocolate, vanilla, or liver and onion flavored?
November is the month of Thanksgiving and DYG Coaching is hosting a free Gratitude Journaling class to celebrate. Sign up!