Searching For Gratitude
How many times in your life have you been asked this question?
“What are you grateful for?”
I bet the answer is plenty. And, be honest, during those moments, how often have you struggled to answer (you had to think and think about it) and how often has the answer flowed right out (you offered a list of people, places, and things without effort)?
If you’re anything like me, it’s an inconsistent split.
But why? Why would a sense of gratitude vary? And is it even okay for it to vary?
Well, first, it’s not only okay for gratitude to vary; it’s the way you and I are designed to work. In spite of today’s constant self-help advice about the importance of being more grateful, or the lessons about how to find gratitude that seem to fill my inbox each day, it’s simply impossible for human beings to conjure up gratitude at will. Gratitude, like all feelings, comes and goes as we live the human experience: When we look outside, thought jams and gratitude slips away; when we look inside, thought clears and gratitude returns. It’s human nature, or equal parts of the same nature, to flow between the physical (outside) and the spiritual (inside). And this flow intuitively determines whether or not we feel grateful.
In other words, feelings like gratitude aren’t connected to people, places, and things at all. They’re connected to thought. And, paradoxically, the more we strategically target “gratitude-causing” things, the more jammed up we get and the less grateful we feel. That’s why, to me, it makes no sense to ask others: “What are you grateful for?” And even less sense to search, and search, for the answers.
Keep in mind: There’s virtually nothing you can do that’s more unproductive, time consuming, or even dangerous than searching for external causes and cures for your feelings. They do not exist; thus searching takes you further away from the answers, and desirable feelings, that all people seek. For sure, gratitude is wonderful. But it’s not caused by circumstance. Human beings live in, and can only feel, the flow of their thinking. Gratitude comes and gratitude goes—and that’s okay—because you are a human being.