The power of gratitude is determined and driven by perspective. We would all agree that any attitude of gratitude, contentment, and thankfulness is beneficial, but there is an opportunity to increase the power of gratitude in our lives. Increasing its power is as simple as merely shifting our perspective.
One of the most common ways we experience gratitude is through our circumstances, and this is encouraged. Circumstantial gratitude is acknowledging the positive or “bright” side of our experiences. Here is a real-life example: A worldwide pandemic forced me to have to work from home in isolation, BUT I am grateful I got to spend more time with my family and for how much money I saved on gas.
Naturally, we are almost always going to be grateful when good things happen to us, but the purpose of this article is not to convince you to be more grateful. The purpose is to communicate how we can increase the power of gratitude.
Author and social psychiatrist, Heidi Grant, shared that the power of gratitude increases the moment we shift the focus of our gratitude from ourselves to others.
Attach Your Gratitude to People
I recently had the bizarre opportunity to attend one of the 2021 World Series games in Atlanta with my daughter. This was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, and I am truly grateful I was able to go (Go Braves, by the way!). There is nothing wrong with this gratitude, but you can see that the focus of the gratitude is on me and what I received.
My gratitude increases in power, however, when I shift the focus from what I received to the person who offered it. More than being grateful for my experience, I am grateful for my friend who had the foresight to buy extra tickets. I am grateful he chose to offer the tickets for a reasonable price when he could have made a huge profit. I am grateful he is the type of friend whose joy is found in serving others more than self-gain.
I am also grateful for my wife, who supported the idea of taking my daughter with me, and how truly happy she was that we got to go. So, yes, I am grateful I got World Series tickets, but I am more grateful to have such servant-hearted, selfless friends and an incredibly loving and supportive teammate in my wife. Lastly, I am grateful that my daughter actually wanted to go with me.
Gratitude becomes more powerful when focused on people because it becomes more sustainable and meaningful. All it takes is a shift of perspective from yourself to others.
The next time you are in the office, leading your team meeting, or working through a project, take two moments of reflection. Allow yourself in the first moment to think about the valuable things you are grateful for, but do not stop there. Take the next moment to truly think about WHO added the value. This is where the more powerful gratitude is found.
More than being grateful for efficient meetings, be grateful for teammates who value your time enough to show up prepared and prompt. More than being grateful for a pay-raise, be grateful for leaders who have a desire to enrich your life. More than being grateful for you, be grateful for them.
Three Steps to Increasing the Power of Your Gratitude
Here are three steps to start increasing the power of your gratitude:
Step 1: Keep a Gratitude Journal
This idea comes from Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude. He encourages others to simply write five things they are grateful for each week. This can help us to start training our brain to notice the things in our lives we are grateful for but typically take for granted. This exercise can be great for replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Step 2: Dig Deeper
As encouraged by Heidi Grant, go deeper with your gratitude by attaching the five things you are grateful for with people. If you are grateful for your morning coffee, think about the farmers who worked so hard to harvest it or maybe the barista showing up at 5:00 A.M. to ensure your first cup is everything you need. This step is where your gratitude starts increasing in power.
Step 3: Express Gratitude
Your gratitude starts increasing in power when you place the focus on others, but it reaches its fullest potential when it is expressed. If you are grateful for the hard-working, early-rising barista that serves you your morning coffee, tell them! I used to have this bad habit of secretly appreciating people; this is similar to my habit of replying to text messages in my head but never actually sending a response.
Gratitude begins by enjoying the valuable things in our lives, it increases in power when we shift the focus from ourselves to others, and gratitude is made whole when we express it to those we are grateful for.